Fifty years ago I said yes.

On July 29, 1967, I said yes to marriage at 19 hoping it would change my life, not realizing the immediate change from Miss to Mrs. was only the beginning. Fifteen months after that wedding day Laura was born. 

By then I could predict the future of my marriage but hoped fatherhood would bring him around. Four years later I put Laura in the back seat of my Dodge Dart and headed down Route 23 from Detroit back to Huntington, WV. I had my child, our clothes, the sewing machine, my sanity, and her future. We sang “Take Me Home Country Roads” with John Denver while I drove.

Laura was beside me as I searched to find a way in the world.

Many times I’ve been a good example.

Other times I’ve been a dire warning. 

In her current situation Laura is leading the way. It’s the way of a single woman with a good job in a good company with good insurance. Even with all this goodness, her upcoming surgeries require a level of planning and organization that rivals a mid-sized home improvement project. Advanced paperwork, filing with specific providers, getting on the schedule with doctors and facilities. She is building her list of resources, learning what to expect, and working to make the process easier, mentally and physically. I have become her research assistant.

Today is my day to do research on reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy.  I’ve watched a UCLA webinar led by Laura’s surgeon, and learned about implants, “flaps” and what determines whether an immediate or delayed reconstruction is the best route. The webinar was led by one of the doctors referred to handle her case. Access to this information helps me be a better support person, and eases my motherly mind. I’m miles away but can connect with her caregivers through the UCLA site. Comfort.

I feel fortunate that she has included me as she searches to find a way through the cancer treatment maze. I’m finding my place and am glad to be seen as an asset and not a liability.  As a single, working mom, Laura fell into the latchkey category during many of her school years. Now I have the chance to do the things a “stay-at-home” mom could do. Feels good.

Daughter beside me

then

Mother beside her

now

The Gift of Defining Moments

When Melvin and I moved from Atlanta to Alleghany County, my plan was to retire from work and spend my time writing. Melvin had shifted into retirement mode the day he said goodbye to Kirk-Rudy in 2007. He ditched the suits, stocked up on Carhartts, and started car-building and ham radio projects. By the time we moved to Alleghany, he was a full time retiree. I was a harder sell on the idea of “just writing” in my retirement. I kept seeing things to do, ways I could contribute to the community.

I had decided that after one last project, (the Working Writers Workshops in May) I would put aside the organized, multi-tasking event organizer side of life and opt for days nestled on the porch reading, writing, and getting lost in thought. Fortunately I was poised in that direction when March and April turned life upside down, and May brought a tsunami that would change the future.

In the last four months I’ve had some serious stomach issues, (ulcers) which brought about a personal reality check and refocus, which brought about my retirement from active involvement in community service projects, followed by a renewed dedication to my writing  and the support of our growing literary community. After nudges from my writer friends and mentors, there it was…a revival…a coming home to the things that bring joy into my life.

April, 1969. Detroit. Ages: 6-months, 21 years.

1972 Camden Park, Huntington, WV. Ages: 4 years, 25 years.

The new plan was just getting underway when I picked up the phone on a Wednesday night in mid-May and heard my daughter say, “The test came back. I have cancer.” It was one of those life-as-you-know-it will-never-be-the-same moments, right up there with the day she was born…a defining moment in the mother/daughter relationship.

Life now revolves around trips to Los Angeles for support, writing about the experience, and supporting local writers and community projects of the Alleghany Writers creative writing group.

In the spirit of mother/daughter relationships, here’s a memoir, Snoop. I will  be reading it at the upcoming Voices of Alleghany open mic night. Our usual meeting place is the Alleghany Library, but Miles Realty has offered to host our event in July due to a scheduling conflict at the Library space. Voices of Alleghany is open to the public and all are invited to  hear the writers and poets of our county read their work. Thursday, July 20, 7pm, Miles Realty, 555 S. Main St., Sparta.     Come to read, come to listen, come to support!

Snoop

The minute I pulled opened the dresser drawer I knew someone had been snooping. Sweaters that were folded with the precision I learned from three high school summers of retail had been jostled from their right angle positions in an attempt to reach the blue pocket folder holding all my money and personal papers. There were only two other people in the house, one of them a four year old with neither the strength to pull the heavy drawer, nor the shrewdness to cover her tracks. The other person was my mother.

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