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Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

Even though I live in the Midwest, I have never seen a tornado in person. But I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard:
“Beep… beep… beep… This is not a test. The weather center in Pleasant Hill has issued a tornado warning. A tornado has been sighted… Please go to the lowest level and take shelter.”

To this day when I hear this, my heart starts pounding, I breathe faster, and I can feel my blood pressure in my ear drums. When I was younger, I would cry when I heard the interruption on the television. There was one spring when I was in middle school where the sirens screamed, the television went blank and the only thing my mom and I heard was, “This is not a test…”

My mom screamed, “Oh shit!”

“What do we do Mom?”

Of course I knew what to do in a normal situation, but we lived on the third floor of an apartment building. I had no idea where to go or what to do. There wasn’t a laundry facility close enough for us to run to and because the stairs were outdoors, there was no hallway either. So we went to the center of our apartment where there were no windows: the bathroom.

We each grabbed a cat and threw them in the bathroom. Then we looked out the windows, heard the sirens screaming, the computer voice on the television telling us to take cover, grabbed a blanket, some candles, and flew to the bathroom. We sat in the bathtub, candles lit, lights out (which we could have had the lights on, we had electricity still) each holding a cat and holding our breath. Our eyes were huge, mouths agape, the veins in our necks throbbing, with fear in our voices. Never had we been through such a weather predicament together before. We sat in the bath tub until our legs were numb and mom was itching for a cigarette.

“How do we know when we can come out? This is crazy! I can’t sit in here all night!” My mom said sternly.

“Mom!” I screamed as she got up, went in the living room and lit a cigarette. I envisioned her being sucked through the sliding glass door by a giant twister. I stayed in the tub a little longer, fretting about whether or not to follow her. The cats fretted about it too. Once I saw that my mom was not going to be sucked out the window by a twister, I left the confines of the bathroom. She was on the phone. Her boyfriend had called to check on us. The tornado had touched down one city over about 10 miles from us. We should be in the clear now.

Mom sucked on her cigarette while I continued to watch the weather coverage on the television.

This wasn’t the last time we weathered a storm. When my mom became ill and we were awaiting the official diagnosis from the doctors, another tornado warning came into our lives. This one lasted for over an hour. I was in the process of driving over to see my mom when the sirens started screaming. The computer voice interrupted my “favorite song” on the radio to tell me to take cover while I videoed with my phone churning clouds all around me on the way to my mom’s house. When I got there, my mom, her boyfriend, the two dogs, and my aunt from Texas were down stairs watching the weather coverage. The clouds churned and turned for over an hour producing tornados all around us. The sky looked angry and agitated. Once it was all over, I drove to my step-daughter’s school to check on her. She ran to me when she saw me. The poor thing had been in the frantic tornado position for over an hour. She looked weak and tired. I had the comfort of my mom throughout my tornado adventures; this poor girl had teachers and friends to comfort her, who apparently were just as scared. There’s nothing like a mother’s love to make you feel safe.

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I love participating in charitable walks. I love the idea of masses of people coming together, donating their time and money for a cause that is important to them. I have walked for Huntington’s Disease in honor of my oldest sister’s in-laws who are suffering with the neurological disease that is unfortunately hereditary. I have walked for childhood cancer in honor of one of my student’s baby sister who was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of one after an x-ray was looking for pneumonia. I have walked for lung cancer in memory of my mom.

The way I stumbled across the Free to Breathe walk was a Google search one late evening in bed. My mom had been diagnosed a couple of weeks and the idea hit me; I need to form a team in her honor and get people together for lung cancer research and awareness. In two hours, Clan Diane was born. We had our own webpage through Free to Breathe that people could donate and sign up for the team. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom because I knew she would be flattered. I wanted her to see the good out of the ugly cancer that had started to shave time off her life. Due to her illness, we were given an opportunity to raise awareness of lung cancer by telling my mom’s story.

My mom’s boyfriend was able to network with his company co-workers and friends to bring in a lot of money. It was thrilling to log in and check the donation page every day. I became addicted and started to get a little rush, sort of like gambling, every time the number went up. I was a little occupied with my mom’s situation, which took all of my concentration, so I couldn’t really focus on raising money. I was too worried about when her next doctor’s appointment was, where it was, who we were seeing, what floor of the hospital it was on, what time did we need to get there, whether or not she could eat. My mind became numb to everything else except my mom and her needs. It was kind of like a mind vacation from all of my personal needs and it actually felt nice to only focus on my mom, her needs, and our relationship as mother and daughter. Plus, I really loved seeing her every day. It had been seven years since we did that.

The walk was scheduled for end of September so I told myself not to worry about the walk until August. I just couldn’t donate any more of my energy; I was starting to run low. August quickly approached after a long tiresome July in the hospital involving my mom’s emergency surgery on her heart.

During the first week in August, my mom and I sat on the hunter green and maroon floral couch in the sunny living room, mom a little lethargic, I a little wore out. By that time, I quit working a 9-5 job and worked solely on my mom. I was also trying to mentally prepare myself for student teaching which would be starting mid-August. I had no idea how I was going to take care of her, student teach, and advocate for the walk all at the same time; but I knew it would all work out somehow. While we sat there on the couch, heads on each others’ shoulders, my mom picked her head up, looked at me with slatted eyes.
“Are you still doing the walk?”
“Oh yes” I said.
“When is it?”
“September.”
“Hmm” was all she said. I knew she was wondering the same thing, would she make it?

She didn’t make it. My walking in honor of my mom turned into walking in memory of my mom. Now I am the chairman of the Free to Breathe event in Kansas City planning the race/walk for 2012, still in memory of my mom. And yes, Clan Diane will be there with bells on.

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I awoke this morning crying out in a loud sob. I had just had a nightmare. It was the kind of nightmare that gets tangled up with a memory. The memory was my mom’s memorial that took place on August 13, 2011. The nightmare was the memorial playing out all over again, only this time my mom was in attendance.

It was a balmy summer day, only hot if you moved around a lot or were nervous. Needless to say, I was a hot mess. The ancient trees cast a shade spot large enough to hold all of my mom’s family and friends. A canopy shaded the antique refinished table which was the foundation for the ashes, photos, and flowers. The ashes were in one of my mom’s favorite elephant jewelry boxes, the kind lined in red velvet. It was a heavy, gray bulky thing with an elephant’s head and trunk as the lid. It reminded me of an old black and white photo of a circus tent. The flowers were all white to symbolize peace and tranquility.

It was a peaceful day, despite the circumstances. There were so many family and friends I had not seen in ten years. It’s sad that funerals and memorials become a place of reunion. Makes seeing each other grim, hanging on the memories of my family until I see them again, which I haven’t since the memorial.

After the memorial, my uncles got out their acoustic guitars and played joyous music for all to hear. We filled the porch from one end to the other, sweating, crying, and laughing. The covered front porch on the old family home stretches the width of the house, cooling off all who enjoy the creaky old porch swing and colorful lawn chairs. That day stretched on until night, until only a few were left, soaking up as much togetherness as possible before returning to their everyday lives. We decided to explore the back acreage that held a very small muddy pond, hidden in brush, tall grass, and trees. I in a skirt and barefoot, took off running. I hadn’t visited that old pond since I was in middle school. I couldn’t wait to see if it had changed. The tall grass and brush scratched my legs and feet, but I didn’t care. I ran as hard and fast as I could, dodging fallen trees, and large branches. When I reached the pond it was completely surrounded in trees and tall brush. I ran around to the back side and found an entrance, where I immediately stuck my toes in the mud and waded around in the water. When my family caught up with me they chided me reminding me of what kind of creatures could be lurking in the muddy water and mud. I ignored them while I closed my eyes soaking up every childhood memory I could that included this pond, this land, this house, and all the family in it.

It really was a pleasant memorial, but my nightmare was not. My mom was in attendance. She took her spot during the memorial right up by her ashes, just standing there, smiling, wearing an orange sundress; her favorite. When it was over, we hugged and laughed, catching up as if she were back. Her hair was long and brown with no gray that flowed down her back and covered her shoulders; her eyes large and shining, and her skin lightly tanned and flawless, not a wrinkle in sight. She looked young and happy. That’s all I remember from the nightmare but now that I focus on it a little more I realize it wasn’t a nightmare after all. It’s not my favorite dream, but it was pleasant in a way that I got to see my mom happy and healthy, looking really beautiful. It’s been a long time since I saw that.

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