Friday, February 26, 2016

Goodbye Mom, Marian (Maffeo) Giacomino 4/14/22 - 2/22/16

     My mother quietly passed away Monday morning, here at home with her hand in mine. For three days we sat vigil by her bedside, listening to her breathe, even counting her breaths for hours throughout the night. Breath, breath, breath, stop, breath, breath, breath, stop, while two clocks in the room ticked the minutes away. And then the breaths were no more. The silence was a shock. A moment later I noticed the clock still ticked, so I reached over and stopped it. The agony was over but the grief had just begun.
     During the long vigil I whispered loving things into Mom's ear. There's so much to say to someone we love when they're dying. No regrets, no confessions, just loving encouragement for a job well done, a life well lived, and promises of paradise and God's loving arms waiting to receive her. Sometimes I sang songs to her during the long nights. A few times I fell asleep with my head on her arm, aching for my mother because I was still her child. Steve played quiet songs for her on his recorder in the day and it seemed to soothe her breathing. Audrey and Tess came to hold her hand when I needed to leave the room. We prayed and cried as those hours and days ticked by. She was never conscious but we assumed she heard all we said and did.
     How close and thin is the veil that separates us from eternity. Just there, on the other side of a breath, angels do the Lord's bidding. Yet, how wide the chasm that separates our living reach from those on the other side.
     Friends came by to pray and talk. They dropped off meals every day, sometimes even two.We felt the love. I hope Mom felt it, too. In spirit, she's passed on to her eternal home with God and all her loved ones who have gone before her. In body, she begins her journey home to New York today. Oh how she longed to go home!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Force to Be Reckoned With

     Suddenly there is a shift in the breeze and life blows in an entirely different direction. Words like "palliative care" and "hospice" are in our vocabulary and friends are rallying round to feed the dog, leave pizza in our kitchen, and show up with a phone charger for me at the hospital. I'm learning there are so many ways to spell the word, "love".
     After twenty years of wondering, "What is wrong with my mother?" we finally have an answer. It would have been good to know sooner, but it explains everything. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, diagnosed with an MRI. Leave it to my mother to live way beyond the projected lifespan for this disease. It will ultimately take her life, but she has fought a good, hard battle with this invisible enemy. It has battered and broken her, taken away her speech and her smile, and yet she survived.
     So, I find myself once again trying to hoard memories and there are too many. They feel like thousands of balloons that I'm trying hold onto by scooping them into my apron. The more I scoop, the more that tumble out and can't be gathered. It's an impossible task yet I feel compelled to keep trying. My father, my sister, and now my mother. So many memories. Lord plant my roots deep and help me stand strong. The wind is blowing and the balloons won't stay in my apron.    

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are: At Nonni's

     Nonni (that would be me) is still recovering from having her hands (and lap) full last weekend. It was wonderful to have Claire's three children here for the weekend while she and Daniel had a little getaway. I'm very glad we could do this favor for them. Here are a few highlights in words and pictures:

All three children love to have books read to them. I'm glad because I enjoy sharing a book with them just as much. Still in our robes and pajamas, we read, "Where the Wild Things Are".

Mari's Grandma Hoffman picked her up to take her and her cousins to a play of Rapunzel at our local theater. The girls decided to dress up for the play. Here Mari wears a flower girl dress that her mother wore when she was five years old. Tess played Beauty Shop with Mari and braided her hair, polished her nails, and helped her dress. As is true with most little girls, "more is better" and Mari added butterfly pins to her sash, a hairband, multiple bracelets, and both tights and ruffled purple socks beneath. Tess talked her out of wearing all the barrettes. Jack wanted in on the game so Tess painted his finger and toenails, too.

Matthew at fifteen months really enjoyed playing in Pop's chair. I think it was because he could get in and out of it easily all by himself. He was happy to sit with me visit with my mom, his Great Grandma! He spent some precious time getting to know her by reaching out and touching her nose and lips and chin. I could tell she was smiling with amusement inside. The little guy spent much of the weekend on my hip or lap. I'm okay with constant cuddles but it reminded me how hardworking parents of little ones are.

Play-Do was definitely a favorite pastime. I remember when my daughters were little, I got on their cases to not blend the colors of dough together. With the grandchildren I say blend and mush away! I wish I hadn't been so uptight back then. (Steve would say I'm still uptight, but I know for a fact that I've mellowed considerably compared to how I was before.)
Later that evening, Jack became very excited when he saw his family's Christmas card on the bulletin board. It was a photo of his family and he kept exclaiming, "It's Mommy and Daddy! Look! Look! It's Mommy. And Daddy!". It just about broke my heart. We took it down from the board and he slept with it on his pillow that night. He is a loving little boy, for sure.

Coloring, drawing, and crafts are also a big favorite with the children. (As are eating ice cream, cupcakes, and cookies.) When it comes to hearts, again "more is better". Mari was very happy to make an elaborate Valentine for her family.
By Sunday evening, Claire and Daniel arrived and everyone was reunited. We watched the Superbowl game, shared stories of the weekend, and I sat with my feet up enjoying one of my favorite drinks, a Moscow Mule.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mud Season

     Along with beautiful sunrises and sunsets, Spring made a momentary pause here. She stayed long enough to warm us into sixty degree temperatures and melt the snow away. It was glorious to step outside, smell the thawing ground, feel the warm sun, and utter the word, Spring.Well, perhaps with a tentative question mark after the word, Spring?
     I had the privilege of doing the animal chores for our neighbors this weekend. The aromas of a barn lot have a magical effect on my brain; I am sure of it. I remember the first time I stepped into a barn. I was four or five years old and it was on the Mays' farm near our home. (Those were the days when we ran outside to play at very young ages with no grown-ups watching over us. On the one hand we got into plenty of trouble but, on the other hand, we had free and fantastic childhoods.) I recall standing in front of the huge, cavernous barn door, stepping out of the sunshine into the dark barn. I was both excited and afraid because I was young and I had never been to that barn before. I was also there without permission. My best friend and I sneaked away from our neighborhood to visit the barn. The aroma of sweet hay, manure, dirt, and old wood was a wonderful surprise to me. It was peaceful inside and not scary at all. I always longed to run across the fields behind our house, back to that barn.
     Along with all this melting snow and rain comes the mud. It's one thing to squish around the yard with a grass barrier between booted feet and mud, but it's another thing to walk into an animal lot where sheep and cows mill about. That's a whole different kind of mud. Only by donning knee high rubber boots can this kind of mud be navigable and any fun. I slipped and slid my way around the feed troughs and gates and made a mental note of the smooth slipperiness of this particular mud. After I finished the chores and turned toward home, I realized the severe state of my boots. I ended up dragging my booted feet through some leftover snow piles. The snow was granular and it worked to scrub away the mud. It turned out to be a neat and tidy solution to a real mess of ankle deep mud.
     The trip across the field worked wonders on my attitude. I got to smell the hay and animals, watch the antics of the ducks and chickens, and "play" in the mud and snow. These days I'm crossing my own field and I no longer need to sneak away from home (well... not usually), and it still feels magical to visit animals and barns. To me, they are some of the most peaceful places in my little world.