Numbers

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #44: Numerology

 

7 tomatoes

 

Did you notice the unit number?

Yes, I did.

Well?

…I’m going to let it go.

…and that was that. My husband could exhale.

The 3 digit unit number for our potential new condo added up to 13. A possible deal breaker. Theoretically. Based on past history. I won’t even book plane seats in row 13.

I hold fast to the significance of there being almost exactly 3 months between the birth dates of my husband, my 2 children and myself. And that my birth date involves multiples of the same number. The symmetry of their birth date numbers (all containing an 8) offers a strange comfort…which I have never questioned.

I was the first child of 5, born into a family of 7. Odd numbers. Still pondering that.

When bad things happen, I’m not surprised when the 3rd follows the first 2.

Even – rather than odd – numbers just make more sense. After all, you have 10 fingers. 10 toes. 2 hands. And so on. At least that’s the plan, if you’re born lucky.

Using V.J.’s link, I looked up my life path number. Which turned out to be 7. The personality traits, according to the Numerology theory…are surprisingly (or not so surprisingly…) spot on for the most part. Especially the part about “always looking for the answers….”

When we bought our first home in 1980 and realized the house number matched what had been our first apartment number, I knew it was meant to be. And it was.

However…36 years later…in 2016…I could not make the rest of our lives contingent on such things as…numbers. And, one might say, superstition.

Fortunately the square footage numbers added up to 17.

So far, so good.

 

Rain…Yay!

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #43: Rain

 

What is rain?…

 

RAAAIIIN!!
RAAAAIIIN!!
RAAAIIIN!!

A warm July evening…
A small boy dashed from one puddle to another…his voice pitched high with excitement. His wispy blonde hair matted from the downpour.

Be careful Buddy!

He jumped back from the edge of the concrete steps…onto the lawn. The ground soaking wet. He hopped. One foot. The other foot. Arms waving.

Do you like the rain?

He stopped. Gaze fixed. On the grass. The garden. The fence. Through the rain drops. Watching. And listening. The summer shower hitting the porch. The roof. Dripping down his forehead. His nose.

He blinked fast to clear his eyes.
Short legs planted firmly. Arms spread wide.
His body momentarily a statue…

RAAIIN!!

Another hop. A small jump. A twirl. Fingers patted the evergreen bush.

The ground spongey.  T-shirt stuck to his tummy. Shorts soaked.
The brick walkway puddled.
Splash…one blue sneaker. Splash the other one.
A two-year old’s happy tap dance. A smile plastered in place.

Do you like the rain?..

RAAIIN!!

Where’s the rain coming from, buddy?

SKY!!

Little wet hands reached out.
Unfolded.
Palms up…

RAIN!!

Do you like the rain?..

He paused. Pointed and…turned to his parents.
His outstretched arms raised in celebration…
A Victory V…
…and a final shout…

RAIN!!
YAYYYYY!!

 

So there you have it…
Rain is joy.

 

 

Farewell

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #42: Farewell

forsythia

Every day is a farewell of sorts.

I am reminded of something I learned in science class years ago.
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
For every farewell, there is a Hello.
A Welcome To sign.
A Chapter One.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a do-over.

Farewells accumulate more quickly…the older I get.
Crowding the rear view.

Perhaps blocking the front view…
…now that I have more time to notice.

This came to mind upon reading another blogger’s post today: The Art of Letting Go. The coincidence of finding this post in my inbox as I was contemplating V.J.’s challenge is probably more serendipity than coincidence.
One of those Pay Attention moments.

Farewells are often difficult. While trying to maintain connections. To people. To what is important. To who we are. It is a decision with consequences after all.

I have bid farewell many times in the last decades.

Mostly by choice…

Downsizing – thousands of farewells with every trip to Goodwill. Sale on Craig’s List. Yard sale. Donation to charity. Trash and recycling day. Even “stuff” that brought me joy. The reality of space as the priority. Realizing it was okay to let go.

Moving – from a home of 37 years. Where my marriage bloomed. Two beautiful children slept, ate, played, laughed, cried, hugged, stomped, yelled, studied, loved. And then bid farewell. A home where the grass grew tall. The trees and flowers blossomed. Glorious forsythias…a special Mother’s Day gift…flourished. Now all in the rear view.

…Also goodbye to mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. Raking leaves. Climbing stairs. Taking care of a big house.

Emptying the nest –  There was always that catch in my throat as I watched the train pull out of the station. Or the bus leave for the airport. Carrying my son, backpack in hand. My daughter, her oversized purse packed with books. Back to college. Work. A new home. In another city. I waved frantically…hopefully at the right window.  Or from the front steps of our home…as the car backed out of the driveway, shifted to drive and before I knew it, rounded the corner and disappeared. Farewell. For now.

…Also goodbye to listening for a teenage driver returning home late at night. Responsibility for raising ’em right. Laundry. Tuition.

Farewell to worry? Not so much.

First farewells – Perhaps the most etched in memory. My daughter – my oldest – at 3. Her first day at preschool. Pink corduroy pants. Flowered turtleneck. Eyes bright. Huge smile. More than ready. Sun shining that March day as I walked her into the coat cubby room. “Bye Mommy!!” A hug and a kiss. She hasn’t looked back since. A bittersweet farewell. That made perfect sense.

The most difficult farewells…the unexpected ones. Not by choice….

IMG_2714

 

When doctors started concluding office visits with “now that you’re 35…” these things happen. Which 20 years later morphed into “now that you’re menopausal” these things happen. To – finally – “autoimmune” happens. It might as well have become my middle name.

The doctors shrug. No longer look me in the eye.
Another farewell to who I used to be. What I could do.
No do-overs here; but adjustments for a new path.
Refocused.

 

IMG_0927

…Relationships desperately needing a shift.
Unexpectedly…no longer healthy.
Perhaps the most difficult. Challenging.
Familiar connections gone terribly wrong.
Out of my control. Into the deep end.

Leading to…Farewell.
~
Hello
Welcome To
the new chapter.

 

 

Polished

polish heart

 

Express Lane 12 Items or Less:
I emptied my basket onto the conveyor belt.
Milk, orange juice, salad, tomatoes, bananas.
A quick trip to the grocery store.
Or so I thought.

The cashier, a woman probably about my age, dragged the juice carton past the scanner, paused…looked at me and asked:
Do you have children?

My purse open, digging for my wallet, I looked up.
Yes I do.

How old are they?

Still searching for a ten dollar bill, I mumbled….
Umm…37…31….

She began filling my blue canvas bag.
You don’t look old enough to have children that age!

Okay well I don’t know about…

As she weighed the bananas…
You must have had them young.

Ummm…no not really…

She took my cash…turned towards the register and added…
I was 40 when I had my son. I didn’t think I was going to be able to have any children.

As she handed me my change, I offered…
Wow that’s hard to have a baby at 40.

She smiled.
Yes it is!…Have a nice day!

I had never seen her before in my life.

This happens often. Random, sometimes personal, conversations initiated by complete strangers in the grocery store. I wonder why. Do I look smart? I’m not that smart. I really don’t know why detergent pods can leave holes in your laundry. But apparently I can commiserate as to why Proctor & Gamble won’t make it right.

Back to the cashier…and how “young” I looked…

Is there really an age-appropriate way to look…after raising 2 “old” adult children?

Let’s face it – the story of motherhood is unique to every woman. How much we all age – or appear to age – is the sum total of many experiences (…never mind genetics and health).

Not just motherhood.

However, that being said…
Motherhood does jump start the process. From day one…when you may stumble around bow-legged like you’ve ridden a horse for too long…after birthing an almost 10 pound first child. Swearing there will be no more. Until you change your mind.

I will admit…motherhood carves out a chunk of your heart and holds it forever. It also forces you to grow up. For real. The shock – to your entire system – of a love so epic. Slamming into a whole new reality: It’s not all about you anymore.

The Rite of Passage to end all others.

Before parenthood, your self…still rough around the edges.
Still young.

There is real pain along the way.
The birthing. The sleepless nights. Sleepless days.
Endless decisions and acts of faith.
Stretching…reaching deep down…for patience…
You didn’t know you had.

Embracing the joy. The fun.
Taming the worry.
Searching for answers. Finding courage.
Hoping you know what the hell you are doing.
Because you love them so damn much.
Even when they cut away and move on.

You’re stronger for it.
Much stronger than you ever dreamed.
Braver…
And, yes, older.
Rough edges smoothed…
Polished.

More than ready…if you’re lucky…for the next level.

Grandparenthood.

 

books

 

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #41: Polish

 

Things my Opa said

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #40:
Things my father (or any male of influence growing up) said.

 

 

opa 59
Opa visiting his grandchildren
circa 1959

 

Are we here to eat or play cards?
You haven’t got a ghost of a chance.
Throw one away you won’t have so many.
Don’t bend the tickets!
Punt!

Discharge!! 

 

Card games: May I…Pinochle…Hearts…
Always accompanied by my grandfather’s litany of patter. To keep squirmy card players at attention. Snack crumbs to a minimum. Playing cards unbent. Always with a smile; however small, tugging at the corner of his mouth. The corner not clamped tight on a lit Pall Mall. The smile winning out at the last directive – discharge in lieu of discard – to get a rise out of my mother who was predictably horrified every time. Snickering ensued amongst the rest of us. Every time.

My grandfather – Opa – was a talker. A rabid card player. And so was I.

He did not offer endless pieces of advice…but a few come to mind:


The Ticket

I was 21 and had just started seriously dating the man I eventually married 3 years later. I was home that March on my college spring break…and spent a weekend visiting Opa and Oma. As we shared a booth waiting for pizzas at a local restaurant, he sat directly across from me. Oma was on my right. The conversation shifted from his questions about my nutrition classes…to questions about my romantic boyfriend. Who had sent a dozen yellow roses. To me. At their house…FTD!

What does he do? He’s a musician…
Uh, huh…?  He’s going to be a music teacher when he graduates this year.

Okay that’s good. Opa’s expression at this point relaxed somewhat, but remained neutral. I suspected he was hoping I was in love with someone who would earn lots of money. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. Never mind what my career would bring…but I was a year away from graduation at that point.

And then he got to it…
Shifting in his seat, he leaned forward. Looked straight at me, his glasses sliding down his nose.

His blue eyes bored into mine.

Honey.
Remember This.
Wait For The Ticket.

Immediately Oma kicked him under the table. Muttered his name in a warning.

Waiting for my reply, he repeated:

Wait For The Ticket.

Never breaking his gaze. Uncharacteristically serious.
I nodded. Not really embarrassed, I kept my reaction as noncommittal as possible.
He didn’t want me to repeat his history.


Breastfeeding Is Best

Opa was beyond excited at the prospect of becoming a great grandfather. When I was expecting my first child, he would check in with me every so often to ask about my health. And plans for the baby. Including what the baby’s diet would be. I told him I was planning to exclusively breastfeed. He was thrilled. Your Oma breastfed your mother for a year!

He was one of the first people I called when my daughter was born. His first words…after congratulating me…were:

If You Breastfeed Her For The First Year Everything Will Be Fine!

And she was.

opa & K 1983008
Opa & his great granddaughter
1983

 

 

Answers

Part of teaching is helping students learn how to tolerate ambiguity, consider possibilities, and ask questions that are unanswerable.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

 

questions

 

And what would they be…the unanswerable questions…

We ask them all the time. Naively. Believing answers are forthcoming. Nice, neat, tidy answer boxes we can check off…putting our minds at ease.

Humans need explanations. Logical reasons for behaviors…and difficult situations. Doubt disturbs the equilibrium we crave.

Children’s why questions…usually answerable…

Why do I need to wash my hands?
Why can’t I touch the stove…run into the street?

Until they’re not…

Why are those kids so mean?
How come grandpa had to die?

As time passes, the answers thin out. They don’t cut it.
We see through them. The holes.  The exceptions. The weaknesses. The path to newer questions. Black and white fading to gray.

In the end…sometimes no answers. Not really. We’ve lived too long to settle. We know better. But still…not why.

Why is she sick with cancer and I’m not?
Why can’t the doctors figure out what is wrong with me?

Shifting realities pose more questions than answers.
Humans don’t fit neatly into a category of reasons why.
Too much mystery. Too many unknowns. Intangibles.
Questions expand. And filter down to the universal…

What is life?
Why am I here?
What happens when I’m not?

~~~

I took a class in college – my one and only Philosophy course – entitled “Explanation” – and was immediately lost in a sea of questions. The professor with his PhD paced back and forth in front of rows of earnest young students like myself.  Trying to absorb his explanations of deep philosophical questions and answers. The existential questions of…life? To me…it might as well have been another language all together. I had no answers for him that I understood, but I offered them anyway on exams….and assigned papers. Fortunately the answers were good enough. To earn a B in the class.
I wonder how it would go if I were taking that class now….

 

 

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #39: Unanswerable

What’s in a Name

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #38: What’s In a Name?
what’s in a name? Specifically, your blog name.

 

img_8130.jpg
So how did I come up with…oneletterup?

It was a process…a metamorphosis from one idea to another.
Quickly realizing there were many like-minded WordPress writers who had already scooped up my blog name ideas. Containing the words diaries or letters or journals

I took that as a sign. To dig deeper. As this blog-to-be was just taking shape in my mind…and I surveyed the saved boxes of diaries, journals, stories – and old letters.

Especially the letters…hundreds of handwritten letters from as far back as when I was 7 years old. Precious pieces of everybody-has-a-story history. Letters from girlfriends, camp friends, grandparents, mother, father, sisters, brothers.
Also, just as interesting, were the letters I had written to my parents…from camp, summer jobs, college or from the privacy of my childhood bedroom.

Something…intuition I couldn’t ignore…kept me from throwing them all away.

Despite advice from well meaning loved ones…
What do you need all those letters for?
Burn them. They’re awful.
Or
Nobody cares.
It’s all in the past anyway!

However…the past – and its people – and their stories – are important.

I needed to write…and use the letters…and the diaries…
and (as I was to discover) the photographs that had piled up high.
Source material? Inspiration? Family history? Because it was fun? And perhaps cathartic at the same time?
All of the above.

I had already begun writing about my family and friends over the years. Sharing at various writing classes and groups. One short essay published online.

For the most part, though, my life had been full of responsibilities pushing the writing down low, if not completely off, the list. Until a year ago. When I was ready. And strong enough to ignore all the discouraging voices…inside and out.

Stories were swimming
Beneath the surface.

I needed to dive in
Put words on the page…
…one letter up….at a time.