Friday, August 1, 2008

Blue Dress (Annie Gallup)

I've intimated here that my mom is in ill health - when I went up to Atlanta for my aunt's funeral, it was even more painfully obvious. Her troubles with pulmonary fibrosis, in addition to kidney disease, have caused her to slow down substantially (severe shortness of breath), as well as having to watch her diet, being ever-vigilant of protein, potassium, sodium and phosphorus - she just segued to Stage 4, with Stage 5 requiring dialysis.

So... a recent wish of mom's has us experiencing a beach vacation together (my family of 5; my sister, her husband and daughter; my brother; and mom) - my sister and I decided to make this happen before the summer got away from us, and spent the better part of a week e-mailing and phoning realty companies and rental properties to find the perfect location.

Despite the last-minuteness, we did come up with something on St. George Island, Florida that fit all our criteria: a house directly on the beach, with a pool, sleeps 10 - in addition, this one also has a jacuzzi, two family/living areas, an outdoor grill and, believe it or not, an elevator (since mom has trouble walking great distances). It's a bit pricy but, synchronistically, my aunt's passing saw that each of us received a few thousand dollars, which we'll just roll over toward the rental fees - found money, right?... :-)

The kids and I did B.J.'s bulk shopping night before last for most of our non-perishables (since there's only one grocery store on the island, small and expensive) - we bought enough to sink a battleship (snacks, sodas, alcoholic beverages, etc.) and will get milk, eggs, bread when we get there. Very sweetly, and secretively, my three children co-conspired to split the cost of groceries - I of course cried in the wholesale store...

The plan is to have very low-key breakfasts and lunches... and take turns cooking dinner, with a few evenings designated as restaurant nights and the last being Leftover Night (my self-admitted anal-retentive... um... attention-to-detail... sister compared it to the scene in About Last Night, that classic 80's movie with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe) - love you, Mari... <3

We're also bringing lots of games (Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, cards) as well as Wii - guess I'll finally see what all this Guitar Hero fuss is about. Of course, it wouldn't be vacation without a totebag full of books - those are already stacked on the dining room table. I understand the shelling is good there - can't wait for relaxing strolls along the shore, and I'll be bringing my New Balances for exercise walking too!

We will do a Cocktail/Happy Hour each evening, which could very well coincide with the sunset - I am a strong believer in coming to a standstill to reverently honor the peaceful and colorful beauty of day's end... and I also encourage applause when the glowing orb sinks below the horizon line... :-)

One of the special moments will be a pasta-making lesson - my mom has made her own noodles for years, and gave each of us a pasta machine for our wedding (you should see the family of spiders that resides in mine!). So, it was decided we will all bring our machines and mom will refresh our skills (the males as well as the females) - my Aunt Julia years ago established the first rule: take off your rings... :-)

Despite my sense of overwhelmedness these last few days with having just returned from Falcon Ridge... and advance planning for the first event of my concert series the Saturday we return (ack!), I am so ready to go on this vacation - we plan to make lots of memories and I will of course bittersweetly share them upon our arrival home...

We leave first thing tomorrow (Saturday, August 2) morning, and come back August 9 (about an 8-hour drive each way) - have a great week... as will I, returning tanned, well-rested and well-read... as well as a year older (we'll celebrate my 54th birthday at the beach... :-)

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

QUOTE: "The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart." ~ Nikolai Lenin


  1. Another beautiful post, Susan.
    Love the Sexton poem (actually, I've taught this one several times ...).
    Enjoy your vacation with your family. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady. I mean, who doesn't like homemade noodles, right?
    Is your father still living?
    My beloved dad died July 2, 2007, and not a day disappears that I don't think of him.
    Safe travels!

  2. Hey, Kate ~

    Thanks for the kind words - I am definitely a fan of Anne Sexton's work, finding such beauty in her darkness. So cool you teach this to middle-schoolers - we need to expose our kids to more poetry...

    My mom *is* amazing... so strong and generous and brave - I've just linked to a previous post so you can read a bit more about her... :-)

    My dad passed away over almost 13 years ago - there are stories on this blog about him, bittersweet as well...

    We will vacation leisurely and travel safely - I look forward to reconnecting when we return... <3

  3. Dear Susan--safe travels and wonderful memory-making times, my friend...hope to see you soon.
    Love, the other Kate

  4. Hey, my dear friend ~

    One can never have too many Kates in one's life - I promise to share memories, and let's get together to make some of our own, when we get back... :-)

  5. Thinking of you, Susan, hope your trip was fabulous and your birthday even more so! xoxoxo

  6. Hey, M ~

    Welcome back to you as well - I've been wanting to comment on what sounds to be a fabulous trip... but am attempting some major catch-up in my life first!

    What a lovely birthday present from C - looking forward to our combined Leo celebration as well (in the next few weeks?... :-)