Archive for the ‘spring’ Category

Today is my mother’s birthday. Day after the first day of spring.

I never forget it. Or Daddy’s. I never forget their anniversary, it’s as much a part of me as my children’s birth dates (and I was there for that!). It’s programmed into my psyche. My heart, body and spirit remembers before my mind does.

Our body clocks, muscle memories, childhood remembrances collide on special days. Both sweet and painful, we remember our loved ones and the days we celebrated with cakes, presents, balloons and hugs. Celebrations are important. It’s our way of honoring the passage of time and impact someone has on our life. Seasons revitalize us. Renew us.

My adoptive parents are no longer here, on this earth. But they are here–with me.

It’s important to keep on remembering, celebrating. We can’t just let that void sit there. Nature abhors a vacumn. It’s still “their” day.

 I interviewed a young mother for an article this week who had lost her two-year old son in an accident four years ago.

Her remembering is finally turning sweet. Her son’s pictures of him playing at a park line their living room walls along with a Picasso of line drawing of mother and child. She has to celebrate his life. She has to remember, to declare he was here, he is still here–that his life had a purpose.  

I have another friend who lost her husband suddenly a few years back. The first few holidays were spent doing what they had always done–and it was excruciating. Not until she smothered the old memory with a new memory did it become bearable. Since then, she’s taken cruises, worked at shelters and now she has a new grandchild. She still remembers, but she needed something to accompany it during the transitional period when it was still more than she could bear.

When spring comes and the wisteria drips from trellises and weeping willow branches bud green, I remember and the whole world turns pastel Easter colors, I remember my mother’s birthday.

Like others, the first few years of grieving were twinged with loss. Now, the sweet comes before the bitter. 

I told my daughters it was Nanny’s birthday. They said, “It is, isn’t it?”

And then we said nothing, just an extra gaze into each other’s eyes.

That’s all it takes to connect with those we love–a few extra seconds. 

Caregivers feel birthdays, special days, holidays with a heightened sense of awareness. If their loved one is still here, it’s not the same kind of celebration they used to have, and it becomes toward the end, a day of grieving in some respect. If their loved one is gone, then it makes you feel particularly vulnerable on those days. You see-saw between tender, funny, celebratory times and the void now left in its place.

To commemorate my mother’s birthday I bought myself a present.

Mother was always buying herself presents, so I think I should keep up the tradition.

She knew Daddy wouldn’t get it right. They adored one another, but she always made sure to take care of herself and the older I get the more I admire that. She’d buy herself presents, (books, perfume, a new pair of shoes, and always–chocolate), she’d wrap them and open them and act all surprised even though we all knew. Daddy didn’t mind.

I bought myself some of those fancy new walking shoes, the kind where everything that can be is cut out. It’s like a sandal but it has the buoyancy of a running shoe. I bought my middle daughter a matching pair in paprika red, and when we got home we went for a walk. 

Walking with your daughter is like walking next to your former self.

Trim, taut, life straining out of every pore, spunky, ready to tackle the world.

None of this, I’m-tired,-I-think-I’ll-sit-down crap I catch myself saying. When did I start whining about a vigorous walk? I huff it to keep up, match her pace and feel me beside me in that out-of-body way, listening to her worries and complaints, the same ones I had in my twenties. I hear myself console her, tell her it’s normal and that it’ll pass.

Mother walks beside me (metaphorically speaking) listening to my heart, to my worries and complaints.

She compliments me on my shoes and tells me that all the stuff that bothers me, all my worries–will pass.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com



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Know that old country song, “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes….?”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve been buying flowers. Flats of flowers, tubs of flowers, roots and bulbs and vines.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is to me, this year especially.

I didn’t garden much when I was a full-time caregiver.

I had enough of anything that needed constant weeding, feeding, and watering , thank you very much.

But I missed it. What do you miss?

I’ve been a gardener for as long as I can remember.

My adoptive Daddy and I practically lived outside. I helped him with our 25 rose bushes, stepped on dozens of yellow jackets feasting on fallen pears. My toes looked like little red sausages. I’d swing for a good hour, climb the top of my swing set (mother’s nightmare) while gorging myself from a plum bush I could actually reach if I pumped my legs hard enough. Then, I’d jump off and grab a warm fig and then shimmy up the dogwood tree and nestle my bottom in a comfy crook and make up some story in my head about me being a spy or a princess hidden in a tower. Ah, childhood!

No wonder I love being outside. I equate it to freedom, peace, and make believe.

So, when I stop gardening, I stop being me–in part, anyway. That’s one way I can tell I’ve lost my joy.

Joy is crucial. Not constant, but crucial.

It’s not that I blame caregiving.

I see now that my garden, my constant pruning was my writing.

I planted the seeds of Mothering Mother every day.

I think caregivers simply have to choose which “seeds” to nurture. Reep and ye shall sow. Law of attraction. Same-same.

Last spring, my book came out and I was too busy for digging in the dirt. Booksignings every weekend, talks, radio, television–it was great fun! I still get to do a lot of it and it’s still fun, and more than that, I do know that I’m reaching other caregivers. I receive emails and cards every week, heartfelt notes that let me know I did what I set out to do–to help other caregivers laugh, release a sigh of relief that they’re not the only one thinking those less-than-nice (okay, quasi-dangerous) thoughts–to know they’re not alone.

But buying my latest flat of impatiens made me realize I’ve come back ’round my mountain.

We all have treks to take. Frodo-like treks that take us up steep mountains and into dark caves.

Caregiving tested every ounce of me–my  integrity, my marriage, my capacity to give and accept forgiveness.

I had to open the door and allow death to take up residence in my home.

I had to learn to stand up for myself, for my mother, to demand proper care, demand to be heard.

Caregiving tested my body, my spirit, my beliefs, and I’d say maybe, I got a B+, and I’m being generous.

I say throw out your highs, the moments where you’re so sweet and so good you’re sappy–and throw out your lows, when you’re downright rabid and squirrely–and average the rest.

That’s your caregiving score. Your life score.

You’re not your very, very best, and you’re certainly not your momentary, dispicable worst.

You can’t do it all, not while caregiving. Make peace with that.

I took another dip in the last few months. Lost my way a bit.

Guess that’s life.

See? It’s not just caregiving that sends you on a wild goose chase.

Don’t think you won’t have headaches, problems, lows, moments of panic, moments of dire frustration after caregiving ceases. You will. (You can’t blame everything on caregiving:) I used to. I used to have thoughts like, “After mother…” I hated to say the words, but part of me longed to look over the fence. It’s not so different, if that makes sense.

I think of my recent posts and know I’m giving myself away–losing myself and finding me again, what do you think you deserve, and what are you attracting? You see where my head has been.

Where’s your head been?

Think of your words, your ruminating thoughts, look at the items you’ve bought recently–you’ll begin to see a pattern.

You might find out where you are. I used to have a pastor that said if you want to know what you love, look at your checkbook, it’ll tell you.

I watched Oprah’s Big Give the other night, and I realized that this one team wasn’t dreaming big enough.

She thought she had done a phenomenal job, but even I could see that she could do so much more–but her basket wasn’t big enough.

I recently read that life  gives you only enough to fill up your basket.

I thought, “I’d better get a bigger basket.” (Reminds me of Jaws, “We better get a bigger boat!”

As I type this blog, my nails are caked with dirt. I’ve got a smudge on one of my calves. My nose is pink and it’s still March.

Bulbs are nestled below ground and pink geraniums sit under my office window.

I’m a sun-hoochie in the spring. I can’t get enough. I don’t come in until the sun goes down.

It feels good to be back.

I hope you find your way around your mountain.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon



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