Thursday, December 1, 2016

A hop, skip and a jump

When I began this blog my mother had Alzheimer's and I was trying to track the progression of the disease. When she passed away in 2011 I didn't want to let go of the blog. So I kept going, post-Alzheimer's ... remembering things that happened, conversations, just everything as it came to me. And then it became a blog about my changes and growth after my mother left this Earth.

I haven't been very good about keeping it up. Some things seemed so personal that I couldn't bring myself to share them with the Universe. (And the Internet IS a universe unto itself, maybe.) Sometimes things are better left unspoken. And maybe by blogging about those things I was wasting my precious emotional reactions on a blog instead of injecting them into the characters in my stories. (Yes, I am a writer.)

Mom has been gone for more than five years. Life has gone on with me and sometimes without me. I may not have had a lot of time to process things as they have occurred, but I am taking the time now and if nobody understands that, so be it. But for me, I have to take some time. I don't think we are any good for anyone else if we aren't good for ourselves and each of us has to figure that one out by ourselves. Nobody can do it for us.

I'll try to be more regular in my posts. Maybe I still have a reader or two. Maybe I don't. But someone somewhere may have a need sometime and a guide will direct them to these pages. I hope my words will help someone.

(c) 2016 Cathy Thomas Brownfield
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An Honorable Woman

Conscience. Honesty. Patience. Sacrifice. Tolerance. These are things my mother taught me well, perhaps to my detriment. I’m not sure about that yet.

Mom enforced The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. When something goes wrong, the first person you look at is yourself to see what your part was in the situation and how you are going to make it right. (I think making it right might be called ‘restitution’ ­­or ‘atonement.’) “Clean up your own doorstep before you start on someone else’s.” So I have a huge conscience. And when I have done my best I still question whether I have done enough and with the right motives. How can I restore the trust I might have broken inadvertently because I would never intentionally hurt someone?

The Truth hurts. There are times that we need to hear something even if we don’t like it. Being honest can hurt the person who is being so truthful. But can I be anything less and not compromise my values and the qualities that make me who I am, hopefully a trustworthy, honorable, patient woman who tries to make her little corner of the world a better place. But being a nice person does tend to get you walked on…like letting the contractor of the property owner next door put his ladders on our property to repair the house the owner is going to flip after he cost us $2,500 after the storm last June, and us not doing anything about it. I doubt he’s going to think about that or make restitution to the tune of $2,500.

Patience. Everyone tells me to be patient. Things will work out. I am trying. I don’t know where to draw the lines that can’t be crossed because I have a conscience that says I haven’t been patient enough and I’m honest to a fault and I don’t know where my rights begin and end. I’ve never filed an insurance property claim in my life! I am disadvantaged here because I don’t know what I can rightfully expect. Everyone has a different opinion about it so I have stopped listening. I just want this all to go away, a faded memory over time. But I have to be patient and work through ‘the process.’

Sacrifice. How many times must I be the one to take care of everything, to sacrifice for others instead of looking after my own needs. I don’t really understand that concept because I’ve spent a lifetime putting everyone else first. That’s the way I was taught. And long after those lessons were integrated into the little person I once was, I was told, “Don’t forget about you. Sometimes you have to put YOU first.” Um…what does that even mean??? I worked hard to crochet a large order for someone a couple thousand miles away from me. She pays me pretty well for my crochet work. It is hard on my hands. The money was designated for Christmas presents and Christmas dinner. Some of it has been spent on gifts, but an unexpected expense came up, the household account fell short, and I had to use that designated money to cover the expense. Sacrifice…again.

Tolerance. I wish I wasn’t so good at this. I can excuse anyone’s behaviors. I can forgive and most of the time forget. I can readily convince myself that if I am patient and wait, things will get better. You don’t throw away things because they might later prove to be worth something. So, I tolerate — sometimes things that I shouldn’t tolerate — and wait for things to get better.

Sometimes I get tired of waiting.

©2014 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved.
For permission to reprint/use on a website, contact the author.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thoughts on a spring day

                The hummingbird’s wings beat fast and furious, a spectacle to behold. Dynamic. Seals & Crofts sang about the hummingbird… “Don’t fly a-way …” And I was inspired to title this blog as a dedication to my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s early in 2001.
                I’ve recently heard some terminology I hadn’t heard of per se, but I was aware of the feelings associated with the terms. Sometimes it’s nice to put a label on something to give a more complete understanding to it.
                Mom was dynamic. Most people were drawn to her ready smile and quick wit. She was a people person, compassionate, loved deep and forever, no matter what a person did to her. I never thought of Mom and codependency in the same sentence.
                False truths.
                “Your mother taught you things that were instilled through family,” D said. “Some of those things are good and true, but some of them were false, even though they were believed to be true.” (That may be paraphrased by my personal interpretation.)
                Again, I had thought of these things, just not from this perspective. I had not yet learned the term … false truths
                I recall a sermon at church. “H” stood in front of the congregation and preached, “Just because your mother tells you something doesn’t mean it’s the truth.”
                I was so upset that he was calling my mother a liar. Or was he saying I lied to my children? Or was he saying all mothers all the way back to Eve were liars? Was his mother a liar? What about fathers?
                False truths
My grandfather told Mom she didn’t need any more piano lessons. Studying to be a concert pianist was a waste of money. But he bought ice cream cones and new shoes for the poor children in town. Later, when she was in high school, the home economics teacher encouraged her to study fashion design with Elizabeth Corsico in Cleveland. Her father told her she was going to marry a man who would take care of her for the rest of her life. She didn’t need to pursue a career in fashion design. She would be provided for.
                Her father died at age 45 leaving a widow and five children – two of whom were still living at home. He had spent every penny he had earned on providing for his family and half of the poor children in town. No one came forward to help provide for his family when he died, though many of them noted what a good man he was. His was the largest funeral this town had known.
                Mom married a man she took care of for 58 years, most of those years challenging. But if I think in terms of reincarnation I wonder if she was a happy soul because she was an old soul about to move from the cycle of Earth life to another place, another plane of existence higher up the intelligence ladder because she was a very intelligent, very talented, gifted individual.
                What a concept!

© 2014 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Baby Steps

It's April 1. Nope, I don't do April Fool's Day jokes. I'm not very much of a practical joker at all. My birth sign is Cancer and I am serious about the people and things that are important to me. I am fiercely protective of my world and the population inside it. Once you are in my world, you are one of my priorities, even if you think I'm one step away from s-mothering. It's my nature. I try to curb it, but sometimes it just steps in and takes over. 

For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me because of this. Then I started to read a book about Birthdays and read about my birth sign and thought, "Well, doesn't that just nail me to the wall?" Someone said that zodiac stuff can apply to anyone so I know not to mention that to her again. Hahahahahahaha! I don't want to offend her. She is very helpful to me in other things. I want to keep her on my side. It's my choice what I believe and I believe that book helped to lift me from the doldrums I had found myself in.

In another respect I have begun some other baby steps to learn that I have already picked myself up and started to move in the right direction for me. I thought, again, that there was something terribly wrong with me, but as it turns out, I am doing--and saying--all the things I need to do and say. Feel that confidence thing growing? And as I feel that confidence growing I feel happier, lighter, and as if I've walked out of the darkness into the light. What a feeling!

There are some reasons why I was in those doldrums. My dad died. I stayed with my mom as long as I could because she couldn't live alone. I finished college while I stayed with her. I couldn't have done it without my daughters, Beth and Christie, to help me. They visited with my mom when I had classes so I could finish that last semester. Then Mom was moved to a nursing facility. (If you have read any of my blog entries I probably already have explained that they are NOT homes. There is nothing HOMEY about them. They are death camps. That's my opinion and I don't think I'm likely to change it.) Then one of my daughters received her associate degree. Then two of my daughters moved to North Carolina, more than 500 miles away from me. Then my mother died. Death, nursing facility, empty nest, death, and a few problems with the mister at our address. There was little time to heal between crises. And there was no comfort from the mister. That might be my fault because I didn't want anyone close to me to make me weak. I'm thinking that's not exactly so but I've always been willing to take responsibility for my part of things. I'm flawed, too, ya know.

It's been a long road. Yesterday, D and I were talking about God and our gifts and if we don't use what he gives us he takes it away. D suggested that maybe Mom didn't use any of the gifts God gave her--and she had a bunch that patriarchal "rules," perhaps which can be perceived as "false truths" were the culprit that prevented her realizing all of her potential. 

Is it trying to strike a deal with God that I have made this giant leap to determining it's time to use the gifts he gave me so long ago, but I was in an apprenticeship to learn how to best use I won't get Alzheimer's? Well, whether I get Alzheimer's or not, I am going to throw myself into using those gifts. Everyone will have to accept that I am not always going to be available. And that they must contribute, too, not just me. I'm not everyone's mom. I am not everyone's servant. We are all in this together. Time to pool our resources so we can get the greatest benefits for all. 

(c) 2014 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

They remember my world

I helped serve a public dinner on Sunday. I recognized the older couple and when I saw the lady I thought of my mother. She must be nearly the same age as my mother. Chatter was light as they passed through the food line. After they had eaten the gentleman came to me. When he and his wife sat down, he said, his wife asked, “Is that Goldie?” 

I was touched that she would remember my mother. I reached out and said, “Hug your wife for me. I am so touched that she remembered my mom.”

“Do I have to?” he grinned. 

A while later I got to thank the woman myself. “I miss her so much,” I said.

“I understand,” she said.

A woman came through the line. “You’re Goldie’s daughter, aren’t you?” 

I was surprised again. “Yes, I am.”

“When you were going to get married—you were so young, the both of you—you came and bought a table and chairs from me.” 

I remembered immediately. But my surprise was that she remembered me! Again I was touched that someone had so much recall about my world.

I am thinking about how I told God I feel lost. I don’t know where I belong, I told him. I’m thinking that he is guiding me to figure that out. 

© 2014 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 3, 2014

Say a little prayer

          “Father God,” I said, “No matter what they say or do, I will never leave you. Please don’t let them take you from me.”
          I faced a lot of issues at that time. (We face issues every day of our lives.) Next month will be five years since Dad died, starting the snowball down the mountain. It doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon.
          The latest situation was the painful flu that struck our youngest daughter. It never leaves you, that desire to protect your child from the pain – physical and other. This “child” will be 27 next month. Hearing her voice over the telephone from more than 500 miles away caused such a feeling of helplessness. What could I do from so far a distance? Should I be on the road to get to her? Was it “just” the flu? Could it turn into pneumonia? (A lot of people who get the flu are going into pneumonia.) Of my four children, this is the one who gets sick … very sick.
          My friend, P, and I had a limited discussion about my God. She asked if my god is vengeful or forgiving. If he is so forgiving why is Cathy afraid of his judgment … or is Cathy just the dutiful daughter?
          Oh, my! Excellent question!
          My God is my heavenly father who has stayed with me when my dad wasn’t around – which was a lot of the time. When I haven’t had the strength to pick myself up, my God has carried me. When I need comfort, the assurance that I am not alone (which it seems I am a lot) he is with me. I guess I look at it as a parent-child sort of relationship … since he IS my heavenly father.
          Parents are supposed to discipline their children. A healthy fear of parents keeps us on the right path. When children honor and respect their parents they are rewarded. Parents don’t always like what their children say or do. They don’t have to. Kids don’t always like what their parents say or do. They don’t have to.  There is a little thing called “unconditional love” that covers it all. No matter what, one loves the other, no conditions, no strings attached. It just is. We are to hate the sin, not the sinner because every one of us has fallen short of the glory of God … or simply fallen short. We all are human. Love one another!
          When we look at it, what is more important: each little piece or the grand picture? Who is more important, the individual or society when used in the proper context? People who are uneducated or under-educated just don’t get it. Maybe nobody ever got it. What will be required if we are to survive?

(c) 2014 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Looking Ahead

In the fall of 2012 I made a decision. I adopted a mantra to live by: A new me in 2014. I gave myself a year to sift through the memories of my life and plan for my future. And I've spent this year working on rediscovering me.

It's not easy to be truthful with ourselves. We want to deny that we have "bad" traits or that we have messed up sometimes, although it is only human to make mistakes, to "mess up" sometimes. I ask for forgiveness from those I might have offended. And then I forgive myself for my mistakes and go on.

It feels like I have alienated friends and acquaintances because my opinions differ from theirs. And our opinions should be able to be different without causing friends to no longer be friends. But, these are different times we are living in. If you disagree, if you speak what you are thinking, hoping for an exchange of ideas, that isn't what you get.

So, a few people have stepped on my toes this year. And I have said what I thought. And now they don't want to speak to me so I feel like I was wrong to express what I thought and felt. When I expressed that I was assured that wasn't so. Still, when I post to an online group and nobody responds to it I, like so many others--maybe the reader, maybe the people I have tried to reach--take it personally, even though I tell myself I shouldn't. Why does it matter so much to me what people think? I don't want them to think I'm a neurotic woman, a loose cannon. I'm not those things. But not knowing me well enough to judge--and I am probably doing the same thing to others here and judging from what I see and read--well, it has created "issues."

Except, I'm not sure that is true. I attended the calling hours for the mother of a childhood friend. I remember all the hours we spent together and think of the neighbors at that time as "extended family." I was thanked for coming, told it meant a lot. But one of the daughters of the deceased looked at me, and voice dripping in condescension, said my name as if I was unworthy of being there. Obviously she does not hold our childhood memories in the same "family" status as I do. Well, my conscience is clear. I paid my respects to a woman who was deserving of respect and always spoke to me with mutual respect whenever I saw her. I offered my support to my friend and her sister who do not, apparently, regard me as that same friend, but just someone they used to know. Ah, well. I will love them like sisters forever, even if I'm just a distant stranger to them.

Here's to the memories of childhood where we accepted everyone and offered patience, love and kindness to all...And tolerated the bullying from those who were bigger than us and were so low class as to pick on someone too small to fight back. Cowards.

I can't apologize for that last bitter note.