Seeing Mother (16 November 2017)

my parents, photo taken in 2008 or 2009

Mother and Father

Prompt: “When I see my mother”

When I see her now
she looks so much younger—
filled with song

vigorous and happy, radiant…
sorrows past, still in love

—Elizabeth Bennefeld, 2017-11-18

Note:

My mother died on 15 November 2016 (age 94, and my father, a little more than 3 months later, age 100), and I have been trying to write a poem for the Day 14 prompt from PoetryPotion: “When I see my mother”.  It took me a while, but it was a writing prompt I wanted to respond to. (Also posting this on my Quilted Poetry blog.)

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 18: A series of anecdotes

Not likely…Instead, a few pictures with comments.

These photos are from my personal album. My parents took a lot photographs throughout their lifetimes. As we left home for college, we each received a large photo album with a copy of every photograph that included us. Mine is on the bookshelf just to my right as I sit in the front room. This first group is photos taken the first winter in our “new” house. They started out building a basement house, adding the upper story (which my mother designed and drew up the blueprints for) before I finished grade school. My mother’s father took endless correspondence courses, and she and her father took architecture courses together; she also worked at the hardware store until she left for college.

In the summertime, Mother would send Dad and me out of the house, so that she could take care of the younger children and get housework done. (I was an active, precocious child.) I enjoyed going fishing, learning how to remove the scales from the fish, learning how to mark a trail through the “woods” in the pastures along the river, and going out into the fields with my father and his brothers when they went hunting for pheasants. (When I reached the proper age for such, I was the only girl in the school-sponsored Hunter Education Program.) The table at which I am sitting in that last photograph above is a picnic table that my parents built to serve as a kitchen table in the basement. (Mother’s father had a lumber yard, back in Iowa, and she was really handy at planning and building shelves, bedsteads, daybeds and whatever else needed doing. Together, she and I built the furniture for my first apartment after college and refinished some pieces that we picked up at the Salvation Army Store.)

Three more photographs.  First is the “gathering of the Wicker clan” for Father’s 100th birthday party, the day after Mother’s memorial service in the home town. The second is a photo that Dad had taken to send to Mom while they were in the service (Army and Navy, respectively). The third is a portrait photo of Mother in uniform.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 15: Take a c(l)ue

Rather than poll my readers (hi, Mara!), I turned to the alternatives listed for Day 15 on the Resource Page and selected three related suggestions:

  • Tell us about a book that opened your eyes when you were young.
  • Describe a life-changing experience with a book.

When I was in grade-school, I read “In Hiding”, a novella by Wilmar H. Shiras, and later, Children of the Atom, based on “In Hiding” and two other subsequent stories. (Our village librarian knew that I was into science fiction novels, and I got a steady supply from her and from the regional bookmobile from second grade on up.) The child who was the central character in the book had interests beyond his age and had developed self-protective practices that helped him maintain a fairly normal front to the rest of the world. The novel deals with his finding other children like him and gradually forming community with them and beginning the process of integrating with society.

Because I found it difficult to communicate with peers, with few interests in common, I started developing some of those techniques as a camouflage. That is, I pretty much quit talking to people in general, outside of my family, except for librarians, who could be counted on to provide me with reading material beyond my grade level. I also shadowed a couple of students in my class who seemed to have no other friends, and that gave the three of us a group to be part of: to sit together during school events and to walk with, going from one classroom to the next. I don’t think I formed any friendships as such until my last two years in college. Almost none of those “took”, but at least I knew and was known by a fair number of people. As I look back, I don’t think I was quite so invisible during my college years as I had thought at the time. I still wasn’t paying much attention to anything outside my head.

Another thing that Shiras’ stories and others taught me was to start making decisions about my own life, and not just follow the path of least controversy. In college, lacking only two courses to complete minors in chemistry and mathematics, I started an English major the summer leading into my junior year, and the summer leading into my senior year, I began a philosophy major. The philosophy department arranged for me to take one of the required courses by independent study, so that I would graduate on time. My parents had been set on my becoming a scientist (and making a lot of money with a major corporation). My changes in coursework did not go down well, but since I had previously arranged with my chemistry advisor to have him talk with my parents about my decision, should that become necessary, I prevailed. But had to borrow more money, my senior year, than I’d planned on to pull it off.

Anyway, Shiras provided a “role model” for me that made me comfortable moving through society without more than minimal interaction. After I ended my corporate career to work freelance, I began to meet more people with similar interests. That was really good, being able to have conversations with folks. Talk about almost anything. Sometimes, still, I don’t find the right words to communicate what I see in my mind, but that also doesn’t bother me so much anymore.

  • Where do you like to read?

When I was very young, I liked to climb from the top of the bookshelf into the casement of the window and hide behind the curtains to read. Ours was a basement house in the early years, and so I could look out the window at ground level. Later, I learned how to open the window from the inside and slide the screen out, so that I could disappear into the horse pasture just beyond our back fence. The village was not well lit at night, and on the other side of the pasture’s windbreak, to the west, I see the sky clearly, the moon (I drew maps) and the constellations (I drew maps). Lovely escape into another world!

 

An assignment in WordPress Blogging U’s course Writing: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

July 26: A pair of poems

the squirrels in the back yard at winter

At Home

“i did not want to trouble her”

i would not trouble her
with present reality
the look behind her eyes, knowing
that she did not know,
worrying what she’d once again forgotten
that should always have been remembered

i’d said good-bye a month ago,
then left her undisturbed–
living cherished, not alone
in the simple “now”

i could not trouble her,
insert myself…

let her long-feared flaws and failures
drift by unnoticed
to the end of the beginning
of eternal life
together once again with her mother
and her beloved father
those she never, through it all, forgot

Copyright © 2017-07-26, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld.

 

if I do not remember

if I cannot remember you…
my love, let me go

let me not remember either
all the rest
or, fearful, fret
at what i’ve lost
that leaves me with such
emptiness

losing you
losing the clear, sweet memories of you
i’ve lost everything

let go the empty shell

“if I do not remember”. Copyright © 2017-07-26, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld.

These poems, although I posted the second one today on my poetry blog, belong together. Remembering is a way, I think, to let go of grief by understanding the loss. In this case, the loss of my parents, this last winter.

Getting It Right

blue wild flax flowers, shadows and light

“Getting it Right”

I write the story of my life
one day at a time, taking care
to leaf through previous pages,
editing events, adjusting
back stories, tidying errors
and casual mistakes
that I would not have made,
had I known then what I think
I know today…subject
to further alterations
as seem prudent at the time.

There is time. There is always
time to get it right. There is
an eternity to get it all right.
Written out finally with no mistakes.

Copyright © 2017-06-10, by E.W. Bennefeld.

I had at one time, encouraged by others, considered writing an autobiography. As I go through the process of adjusting to my parents’ deaths, I realize that that would be the wrong avenue for me to take in grieving. Better, bits and bites in poetry and limited explorations in prose.

I have other things to do with my time, and I most probably will not have time to get it right. Not in this lifetime, anyway.

NaPoWriMo17, Day 13 – [untitled]

text of poem

A Poem
written 13 April 2017

 

failing light
along the dark path
fireflies

at star rise
fish dance in the light
of moonbeams

night sounds call
my head nods over my teacup

[untitled]. Copyright © 2017-04-13, by E.W. Bennefeld.

I have tried to do the bare minimum, and still I feel overloaded, and I want simply to lie down and do nothing at all until at least February of 2022. That not being feasible…I think that I will fix a large salad and reread a favorite book.

WeekendCoffeeShare | 26 March ’17

Monday is so far in the past, I hardly remember it, now.

Welcome! Thank you for dropping by for coffee, this week. There is Toddy coffee, hot or cold, made with water, milk, or both. Many kinds of cheese for nibbling while we visit.

My weekend has ended with a special treat. We went to Denny’s for supper, and I ordered the salmon skillet. Very good, but entirely too much food. I expect to get two or three more meals from it. With restaurants, I know, there may be a broad range experience within the same franchise, but the one here in town usually does pretty well.

My week has been a bit spotty, but I finally managed to brush my teeth without opening up the extraction site again. Still hasn’t hurt worth mentioning, though. I had a nice visit with my doctor to check up on the progress with the diabetes 2. Met the goal that she had set for the A1C when we met at the end of December, which was my ~2-week visit after the diagnosis. The numbers are going down (the A1C by more than 4 percentage points). As is the cholesterol and my weight: I now have lost 21 pounds since December 13th.

I find that I am extremely tired at the end of this week, however. Since getting through all of the rough stuff fairly well, with nothing on the schedule for the next two weeks except helping with the workshop construction in the back yard and getting to the dogs to the vet towards the end of the second week, I have found my thoughts turning back to my parents. I find that my sharpest memories of them are from when they were in their late seventies and going forward. That was, I think, when we spent a lot of quality time together as adults. Mom, more than Dad. When I think of them, I realize that as with myself, they probably thought of themselves as … ageless, or at least in their thirties or forties. I miss them a lot, although not as much as I did during the last years of their lives, when they turned inward and toward each other’s company and mutual support.

I wonder if this is the time to give the hospice organization a call and check on the grief support services available for the 13 months following Mom’s death, she being the one who was under hospice care during the last two months of her life, when she went into the nursing home.

This Weekend Coffee Share post is on a different site. It isn’t set up to automatically feed my posts to the search engines and such.

Hope you have a good week!

Lizl

Link to this week’s post by our host at Nerd in the Brain. Enjoy!