Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It’s funny the things that give us comfort.

After a long day at school I came home to my two beautiful girls. We chatted about the day, in this new way I have of talking to these young women who just last week were my baby girls. They started homework and I threw in a load of laundry and hopped on the treadmill. After that, I made a nutritious supper and my dear husband arrived just in time for us all to sit together. As the girls cleaned up, I opened up my laptop to finish up Progress Reports.

The second half of my day was clearly so much better than the first; my family is fantastic. Counting my blessings is a blessing in itself.

Still, the best part of my day came after Greg left for soccer and I tucked the girls in bed and I turned on the iron.

Ironing is not my usual choice for a fun evening, but there was a pile that had to be tended to and neither Greg nor I had any work clothes left. I flipped on the TV and got to work. By the time I quit (notice, I didn’t say finished – still a pile left) I had this overwhelming feeling of love for and connection to my mother. So many times I walked into the room to find her behind the ironing board, watching the little television she kept nearby, taking care of my father’s shirts or our school uniforms. The pile of clothes in need of ironing was endless, as if her Midas touch created wrinkled clothes rather than gold. She would watch Bonanza or The Big Valley and get it done.
When I turned off the iron tonight and saw the row of freshly pressed pants and shirts, I smiled. All I could think was, I am my mother’s daughter. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One Little Word

If I were to choose a word to help guide me through the year 2013, a word that would keep me focused on my goals and dreams and aspirations, what would that word be? Many blog writers have posted wonderful words: pilgrim, delight, observe, grow, connect, . . . All good words; all could fit in with my goals. But, none of them feel quite right. None of them feel like they belong to me.
Last night, as I was trying to quiet my panic as Greg booked a cruise for the family, I thought of the word LEAP. I am a tentative person, I fear the unknown. And yet, a part of me wants to leap, to try new things.  A while back, I posted this quote on my White Board: “Leap and the net will appear.” I usually choose the quotes to meet my own needs, though they are posted for the public. I needed to believe that I had the support in place to take a leap. But I never completely trust. I took steps, surely, but a leap? No.
The thing is, I have a plethora of nets strategically placed. Should a job not work out and leave me unable to pay all my bills, my sisters and brothers would feed me and take me in. Should I accept a job I am not completely ready for, my colleagues will reach out and catch me. Should I speak up and make myself vulnerable, my dear husband will cradle my wounded body. Still, leaping takes courage, and I don’t always have it.
I may or may not commit to this word. I’ll be giving it more thought. This will be my first experiment with One Little Word, and I want to do it big or not at all.
I’ll ponder this little word before I take the final leap.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The orphaned adult

I’ve been reading Alexander Levy’s The Orphaned Adult, trying to get a handle on my new status in the world. The most salient concept I’ve been reflecting on is the loss of home. That’s actually a difficult topic with my siblings and I right now.

What Levy is talking about is not a physical structure, but that feeling you get from your parents that you belong with them; that, no matter where they are, you are welcome, and feel welcome. No, more than welcome - there is a feeling many of us have when with our parents of truly knowing our place in the world. Where Mom and Dad were was home.

But, there is also the physical place and it is very important in our family. Dad was a bricklayer, and he built our house for his sweetheart, the love of his life, so they would have a nice place to raise their growing family. They chose plans from the Sears catalogue, bought a double parcel in a newly developing neighborhood on the edge of Lowell, and got to building. Dad worked on the house when he wasn’t working for a paycheck. They rented from my aunt, two houses down from the lot, so it was easy for him to walk over and get a few things done, easy for my then 7 year old brother and 5 year old sister to walk over and bring him a snack, or call him in for supper, or make a mess of their school clothes in the piles of dirt. There was one more little one at home, too small to toddle over, and one on the way (she was born 3 months before they moved in to the new house).

We all grew up in that brick ranch on the corner. I was born ten years after the house was built, the tenth child to grow up there. We had our pictures taken in front of the chimney that had an L bricked in it for Lamarre. We raked leaves off the back sidewalk where my mother had written “Pauline & Bob” before the cement dried. We became who we became within those brick walls. “A solid foundation is built brick by brick.”

Before Mom died, I thought that house would always mean the same thing to me. But, now that neither she nor Dad is in it, that house no longer feels like home. Sure, I know where everything is; everything looks familiar. But, when I walk through the front door, it is not as if I am coming home. It is as if I am visiting a cemetery plot. There is a connection to the name etched on to it, but the stone is cold.

And this is different than some of my siblings are feeling. Some of them want to keep gathering at the house. They feel our parents there; the place is still home to them. And, there’s the difficulty. One group of us is annoyed with the other for not feeling about the house the same way. For some of us the house is a place of sadness; it is empty of the force that made it home. For the others it still is home, a place not only of memory, but also of ongoing family connection.

This is going to be tough. How do we reconcile this difference? I haven’t hit a chapter in Levy’s book titled “How to tell your sister you don’t want to go over to the house you told her last year you would always love?” or “How long do we call it Mom’s house?”

My grief has been difficult to fully embrace because I have felt torn between wanting to follow my own changing views and not wanting to hurt my sisters’ feelings.  But, I find myself feeling more and more sad. Worse, I find myself getting angry at those who don’t understand where I’m coming from.

This post is something of a ramble. I’ve been on something of a ramble since losing Dad more than two years ago and the path has completely meandered out of control since Mom died. I wish I could just settle into their house and carry on. But really, I don’t think they’d want me to. Despite the overwhelming number of us, our parents wanted each of the ten of us kids to follow our own path. They asked only that we be good, and that we stay connected.

I promise to stay connected. I’ll invite siblings, nieces and nephews over and accept invitations from them. And I won’t wait for holidays. But, I also won’t rely on the house which is no longer Mom and Dad’s. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New calendar

In 2013, I have no parents.
I remember as we were just approaching the year 2011, many in my family were looking forward to a new year. In 2010, we had lost a cousin, two uncles, and aunt and my Dad. That meant that one group of cousins lost their brother and both parents. So, it seemed logical that many looked forward to a new year with less pain.

But 2010 was the last year I had a father, and I did not want the calendar to turn. I wanted to hold on to my life with a living father.

2012 was my last year with a living mother and I am feeling the same backward pull. I am not ready to enter a year in which I am parentless, motherless. I look back on a family calendar peppered with dates with Mom – Mom to doctor, drive Mom to work, Mom to Foxwoods. Mom will never be on another calendar of mine; she’ll never be anywhere in the physical world. How can I just toss that calendar out?

My 2013 calendar includes “Mom’s Birthday” on January 5, and no other entry for Mom. But, here are some of the things it does include:
“Back to school” – this is on January’s page much earlier than last year, since I am back at elementary school. I look forward to a challenging and exciting year as a grade 2 ELL teacher.
“Greg to China” – My husband continues in his job, which regularly brings him to China, Australia, Mexico. The job interests and challenges him as well as supports our family finances.
“Concert” – both my girls participate in their middle school band and will perform later this month. I love listening to them practice at home, seeing them perform, and hearing them talk about music.
“Lamarre Family meeting” – as we navigate our new lives as adult orphans, my brothers and sisters and I have committed to making decisions together. No longer able to rely on Mom to connect us, we vow to stay connected. It’s not easy to find a time for 9 busy adults to meet, or for those 9 to come to agreement on much of anything, but we all agree that we are still a family and we want to keep it that way.

So, my calendar looks very different in 2013 without my weekly visits with Mom. But, it’s still filled with her. She showed me what a strong marriage looked like; she helped me to become a confident mother; she blessed me with a raucously big family; she taught me to prioritize joy.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope your mother fills your 2013 calendar with love.
Read more New Year posts by Slicers here