Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Love Letters from The 'Kan EWA
Rose Petals from Bellemaison
“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.’
Deuteronomy 4:8-9

My own mother died at age 72, certainly not a short-lived life. But she was not well for 15 years before she died and when she did go, there were so many things I still was wondering about, things we never got the chance to talk about because she wasn't well enough.

She died from a form of dementia that is not easily explained and so I just say she died of Alzheimer's, because people can understand that and because her illness belongs to that same class of afflictions as Alzheimer's Disease. She became moody and unpredictable, she became unreasonable and vitriolic, she lapsed into prolonged funks, then she lost her way mentally and physically, then she required skilled nursing. She died in my arms on a beautiful late summer morning; we both sat in the sun in my garden as she flew to her reward, legions of angels taking her away from me. I took petals from the roses around us and closed her hands around them as the undertaker came to take her away again. Quite a day. Quite a memory.

All that time we spent together but never enough time to ask her about the things that were really important to me. Like how do you fix it when you are really, really tired? How do you stay patient? What are some surefire hints that the Darkness is near? How do you say goodbye? Things like that. To this day, I still have the boxes of her craft stuff in the middle of the garage; all her wonderful projects never finished. She didn't know what was happening to her. She had no idea how sick she was. Neither did I. So I keep her yarn and her tole paints and her patterns in the neatly labeled bins that I took out of the house my father built for her when she came to Idaho in 1945. I keep the stuff that gave her such great joy for reasons that are completely unknown to me. I keep it close, where I pass it at least 4 times each day. When my children were home, I passed it even more, because I put it right by where I get in the car. Maybe somehow, I wanted a piece of her heart to go with us still? I dunno, but it's still there and I'm thinking about emptying the bins and moving it all out, only now. Ten years later.

So there was a lot of stuff that I didn't know about and I didn't know what to do with. In addition to the craft stuff. I want my kids to get more, more than craft stuff to go with them when I die. I want them not to have to try so hard to remember what I said or how I felt about things. I want them to be able to hear me in their sweetest ear always, if they want. I want them to remember me smiling, laughing, joyful, thoughtful, firm, resolute, grateful, forward-looking. I want them to easily remember how crazy I was about them. How much fun they were for me.

And so I blog. I am writing it all down just for them. Is this the only blog ever written exclusively for an audience of three? Could be. If so, that's just right. Notes From The 'Kan EWA should really be Love Letters From The 'Kan EWA, written for those Loves of My Life, so they can remember. It's my intent to write of the things that matter to me, matter in life, that give me joy and that give me hope. I want to give them more than pictures, more than sterling, china and crystal, more than just a piece of my heart for always. I want them to know what I was thinking and where I came from. Maybe it will help.

I was thinking today about my great-great-great grandmother who immigrated here from Prussia. I have a copy of the letter that she wrote to her sister, explaining why they were leaving. She said she did not want her five sons to be fodder for the czar's war; so she was leaving her home and her family, leaving her country and everything she knew to protect them and give them a better life. She begged her sister for understanding. They never saw each other again.

160 years later, her courage gives me courage. How blessed I am to know how it is that we became Americans. How blessed I am to know the things people in my family saw with their own eyes so long ago. To have their memory now be my memory. It's my intent now to teach my children and their children--never to forget, but to remember always the things that are really important and to build muscle, sustaining and ever limber, that will leap with sickness and separation. And finally, it's my intent to give me rose petals for my own journey, when I go on my way to find Mom.

The 'Kan EWA


ErinG said...

Thank you jb3ll3 for allowing the rest of us to read your love letters.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jbelle, how lucky your family is for your ability to communicate so eloquently what is held so deeply in your heart. You honor your mother and her grandchildren far beyond words.
When my father died I remember thinking how grateful I was that through the years through hundreds of columns I'd written similar feelings that he had read. A Father's Day column from several years ago that he'd framed was among his belongings.
The written word is often what connects us to family for generations past and future. You're a good steward, my friend.

Kerri Rankin Thoreson

Julie said...

What a lovely sentiment, Jahn. Your story about your great, great, great grandmother reminded me very much of my own grandmother who left Italy for the US when her family was plagued by forces there and her husband came here to find work. She was just 16 in 1914 with a newborn cradled in her arms, unable to speak a word of English. She never heard from the family she left behind either.

stebbijo said...

How beautiful.

So many times we take for granted our days on this earth - not looking ahead to see how we can leave the best of us behind so we can relish and remember the best parts of our relationships after they are gone. Some of us even desparately try to salvage what there is to no avail and it leaves a very empty hole sometimes to deep to ever fill with rose petals.

Word Tosser said...

Ah, Jbelle, as always your words soothe all of those around you. So well said, so well thought... some times we feel dementia robs us of so many things. But the looks of the eyes.. the smiles still make the journey worthwhile. And you have made your great,great, great grandmother proud, for you are the reason that is past down and for you to past down, for her journey away from her home land. God Bless...

Toni said...

OMG......this is just beautiful. I came here to answer your question about Marble Mountain (yes it is on Marble Creek) and found this lovely touching post. It reminds me of so many things that haunt me. My sweet Mother took her life. We were in Idaho, she was in Minnesota. The hurt and pain were nothing I can ever describe. When I went back to go through her things there were thousands of old pictures dating back into the 1800's. I wish I had asked her, "who are these people." I wish I had told her I love you.... more than I did, that I miss you.... more than I did....
I am left with a hole in my heart (it has been 25 years.)

Bay Views said...

Not a day goes by that I don't regret having more conversations with my Father before he died. He's been gone over ten years, and stuff still pops up...I wish I could ask him about this...

Scott P said...

What a terrific post, JBelle. Sorry for not stopping by sooner. Ironically, my 92 year old grandmother is a nursing home in Idaho with a severe case of senile dementia, not Alzheimer's. Thanks for making me think of her today.

granati said...

thanks for letting us into such a private area of your life.