reverse threading

the path back is the path forward

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holding on, letting go

photoit’s that time of year. the school supplies are out en masse. i wander through the store, the office-supply-lover in me fondling the new blackandwhitespeckled composition books (wide rule), spiral notebooks (college rule), mechanical pencils, sharpies, highlighters, sticky notes…. we are surrounded by signs for college necessities: futons and storage containers, bins for the shower and three-drawer chests made of every color plastic can achieve. and it suddenly occurs to me:

this is the first year i will not be buying school supplies.

what?? no colored pencils, no erasers, no pencil sharpeners, no index cards for cramming late-night-factoids into too-tired brains? no. none of it.

for the last twenty years i have religiously gone to a variety of stores and bought a plethora of supplies. i was always shocked by how picked-over the choices were when i went, even weeks before school started. some moms are just overzealous, eh? nonetheless, i would love shopping, with or without my children, for everything on the list the school provided, the list they provided, and my own list. every year a box of kleenex was on the list from the schools. every year dry erase markers were on the list. and somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that i could actually put the 6783 colored pencils we had accumulated over the years into one bin and they could choose from those, rather than buying yet another brandspankingnew box.

but this year? this year is different. the girl graduated from college three years ago and is well into her life-minus-index-cards-and-futons. the boy is almost done with college. just a few short weeks and he will no longer require paper or pencils or pens or post-it notes from me.

and this is taking my breath away.

i stood in target today wondering where the time went. my yearning to buy a new lunch box or bag is unfulfilled. my mom instinct to find the coolestfoldersthatmatchtheirpersonalities is untapped. i wandered – still touching the 50 cent composition books and in awe of the sharpie highlighter display – and i realize that in my holding on, i am also letting go.

maybe i should buy a few composition books and that box of kleenex.  for me.

holding on, letting go

itunes: kerri sherwood

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swimming upstream

photo-4about a half hour before momma’s book-signing party, she taught david how to put on blush and lipstick.  she used her walker to get to her dresser and, ever so carefully, let go of it so that she might lean into the dresser.  with a free hand she carefully picked up her blusher and blush-brush and applied just a bit of to the apples of her cheeks, saying that “i was taught you have to smile when you put on blush.  that way it is applied to the right part of your cheek.”  she then carefully selected a lipstick and demonstrated step-by-step how to apply this lovely shade to her pink lips.  david asked her questions; i love that about him.  he engaged with momma at all moments, from the simplest to the most intensely profound.  i carefully tucked this memory away, guessing i would draw on it in the future.

a few minutes before momma’s book-signing party for Shayne, she asked if we had the sharpies she needed.  we did.  she had been practicing her signature for the signing, carefully forming each letter, wanting to “be unique”.  we watched as she practiced on paper with lines, on graph paper, on scrap paper, in a little blue notebook she kept in a basket in her assisted living facility apartment.  she pointed out that she wanted to use a “big B, little e and little a, a big K and a y without a tail.”  she carefully practiced signing this very special and very unique way to sign her name.  i carefully tucked this memory away, guessing i would draw on it in the future.

the night before momma fell she sent me a text message.  it was a screenshot of a saying she had seen:  “every so often your loved ones will open the door from heaven, and visit you in a dream.  just to say ‘hello’ and to remind you that they are still with you, just in a different way.”  i responded with how beautiful that was and carefully screenshotted her message so that i might tuck that memory away, guessing that i would draw on it in the future.  photo-5

that was the last text message i received from momma.

the future is now.

and i find myself swimming upstream. the loss of my sweet momma is huge.  we have always been so connected. i keep drawing on my memory bank of moments, on all the sweet momma-isms i can remember, all the times spent together.  i am trying to not let little things get in the way.  today i find myself spending the day nursing an unexpected back injury (well, that’s silly…what back injury is expected??)  perhaps we drove too many miles over the past weeks; perhaps stress and sadness have taken a bit of a toll on my resistance…i don’t know.  i’m trying to weigh in on that and not bite the temptation to get consumed by things i shouldn’t get upset about.  it all balances out in the end, yes?  i mean, what really matters?

so the upstream swim is punctuated with these downstream currents that threaten to pull me into parts of the river i don’t want to go.  and yet, it is all important…to feel all of it…not skip any of it.  when heidi and i were performing regularly for cancer survivor events we had this piece about a lazy river woven into our performance.  there are many places to get in and out of a lazy river at a waterpark; you can stop and get out and rest and then get back into it, in a new floating tube.  the lazy river carries you along; you don’t have to do anything.  no resistance needed.  no work.  there is an ease about it.  it’s actually harder to get out than to continue on your merry way.  but sometimes, you have to get out of the stream.  you have to step out and look at it.  you actually have to resist the currents.  you have to work.  it is not easy.  you have to look at it all and take with you all the stuff that matters, discarding what doesn’t.  you have to linger in the memories that you tucked away, so that you might celebrate and not be consumed by that which throws you off balance, that which doesn’t really matter. each of us is a riverstone, after all.  sometimes, swimming upstream is necessary.

oh….and, by the way, if you want to know how to put on lipstick or blush, let david know.  he can help you.


in the pause with momma

photo-1sixteen days ago we celebrated with momma the release of her first published book. she is beautiful and fiercely independent at almost-94 and she was full of joy as she practiced ahead of time with a sharpie and then signed copies of books for all sorts of people who showed up at the signing of ‘shayne’ – the first in a trilogy of children’s books. at the end of this enormous day, we sipped martini & rossi asti spumante (momma and poppo’s favorite from days gone by) and we ate chocolate-covered strawberries in exultant glee.

fourteen days ago my almost-94 momma sent me a text message with her iphone that said she had mastered powering her electric wheelchair all the way downstairs to breakfast and again to dinner. she was amazed she did it and i know she was beautiful and fiercely independent as she made her way through the halls of her assisted living facility.

thirteen days ago my almost-94 momma was not having a good morning, but she was elated to see the diary notebook we brought her – we had searched for it and found it in a random bin in her garage. she gently stroked the notebook titled ‘europe 1971’ and i knew she would sit and read all the details, study all the maps, look at all the brochures and hold my dad’s hand and these cherished memories in her mind’s eye for hours and hours. she would envision her beautiful self and my handsome poppo in 1971 and their fierce independence to tour around europe for six weeks in the new vw bug they had purchased there.

nine days ago my almost-94 momma called to tell me that kelly had introduced her to new potential residents as “our newly published author” and momma was humbled and oh-so-excited to report this. i am positive she rose up in her wheelchair, beautiful and fiercely independent.

four days ago my almost-94 momma was found on the floor of her assisted living facility apartment and was rushed to the hospital. i am quite sure she was beautiful to the caring people who rushed to her aid, but maybe not so fiercely independent.

yesterday my almost-94 momma was just conscious enough in her hospital bed to look through my niece’s iphone to see me. tears were coursing down her cheeks and my sister wiped them away. she looked beautiful to me. her fiercely independent spirit is fighting seriously devastating infections. she is in a precarious place. i know she reaches in her mind to my dad in another plane of existence and yet, for now, she clings to this life here.

photo-2one day ago my almost-25 daughter was briefly in chicago and i had a wonderful opportunity to see her for a precious bit of time. she is beautiful and fiercely independent; she celebrates life on mountaintops and snowboard slopes and on hiking trails. yesterday i celebrated her life with her, a couple margaritas and a gluten-free pizza. life marches on. beauty and fierce independence are passed to the next and the next.

today my almost-94 momma continues to fight.   she is tired and her fierce independence is challenged. but i do know that inside of this beautiful woman is a person who will make the decisions that she wants to make. joan wrote, “…one of those times when there is no way around. only through….a transition each makes alone in the end.”

as tears ran down my face this morning after another difficult call with my sister about my momma and her prognosis, david read to me a paragraph written by pema chodron called ‘the power of the pause’ – “a momentary contrast between being completely self-absorbed and being awake and present.” he read another quote as well…this one by martha beck, “real power is usually unspectacular, a simple setting aside of fear that allows the free flow of love. but it changes everything.”

and so i hold in this pause my beautiful and fiercely independent momma.   i listen for her voice, i hold her in my arms and wait to feel her arms around me. i am awake and present and hyper-sensitive in my vigil with her. i do not know what the outcome of this huge physical trial will be. i try not to have fear. i am holding on and letting go. what i do know? before the pause, in the pause and after the pause i will always love her. her beautiful-ness and fierce independence. my sweet