Lifetime vs Hallmark

When I’m feeling blue, I watch a Hallmark movie. They are satisfying and predictable. You know there will be a chance meeting, or a combative meeting, (verbal wit and cleverness) or an arranged meeting by some well-meaning friend or family member. There are always some misunderstandings, some harsh words, but in the end, the couple kisses and we assume a happy-ever-after for them.

Then there are the Lifetime movies. Betrayal, revenge, and sometimes violence. Broken hearts, broken friendships, broken bones.  These movies are populated with what my mother used to call, “no-goodniks” out to ruin life for the good guys. Some people watch these movies because they want to see a life that looks worse than theirs. Not me. They make me sad, especially when they mirror the real thing.

Last week was tough, as I worked through the fact that it was the first year of fifty years when I didn’t hear my daughter’s voice on her birthday. It was the first, in what could be the forever of our relationship. The stark reality of separation set in. I rode the wave and held on tight, with a prayer that all storms pass, and there is always a chance to meet when the sea calms.

This shot was taken from the shoreline in Malibu. I remember that visit. I remember the beach walks, and talks, and those moments when things were good between us. We watched one lone surfer, catching a sweet wave. Others behind him hoping the next wave will bring a chance to ride to the shore, balanced, poised, unscathed by the beating surf.

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.

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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The Mother & Child Reunion Is Only a Motion Away

Someone told me once that you have two chances at a mother-daughter relationship. Once as child, and again as a parent. Being a parent wasn’t something I planned when I got married at 19. I wanted a few years as a couple before we ventured into parenthood. But the “rhythm method” failed me after six months of marriage, and one month before my 21st birthday Laura was born. I think of this now as the date of her conception comes around. January 8th. Yes, I remember the date. Vividly.

Over the years I worked to be the kind of mother I would have wanted for myself…to give my daughter what I had needed while growing up. That plan had merit, but I didn’t really connect until I understood what kind of mother Laura wanted and needed.

At Ofelia’s on Main spreading our Christmas spirit.

We are at that place now. A place where I offer input and advice when asked, understanding that I only have the answers to my problems. I can tell her how I would handle a situation, but her solution has to be hers. We are also at a place where we can talk as two women…about careers, about friendship, about our lives in the future.

It’s a tread gently journey, but so well worth the trip.