Category Archives: friendship

So Long, Maxine

Maxine1                                     Saying good bye to Maxine is one of the hardest things I am having to do. For those of you who followed me in the beginning, Maxine lived across the street from me. Of course that is not her real name, but she acts so much and looks so much like the Maxine cartoon that I started calling her that.

She and her husband moved to a retirement community in early January. It is only about eleven miles down the road, but it may as well have been 100. I was feeling my worst and not doing much other than keeping doctors’ appointments and shopping for groceries. Driving that far if not medically necessary was too much of an effort.

Maxine is in her early 80s. Her husband is 93. He has been having health difficulties with his blood for many years. It affects his energy and his cognitive abilities. For a while he was doing quite well, but for the past couple of months he is once again going down hill. Maxine dotes on him like a mother hen. Such dedication among married couples is not exactly common.

They invited me to lunch about a week ago. It will probably be the last time I see them. They are now living in a lovely retirement community. Their’s is a two bedroom apartment on the first floor. I’m not sure what the age range is, but the diners all looked approximately the same age. I had looked into such communities within the last year, but I think I’ll wait about at least ten more years before I make that move.

Alice has intentionally lost about twenty pounds and is looking quite healthy. She seems more filled with energy now that she is not taking care of her big house. Of course with the energy she has, she has met and knows the name of almost everyone in the building. She introduced me to about twenty diners as her neighbor while I was there.

After lunch we went back to their apartment. Her husband was very tired so he excused himself to take a nap. She and I talked about ten minutes more before I headed down the road again. I never have felt at ease to talk in person. It is much easier for me to write.

I love Maxine and will miss her greatly. I never learned that to tell Maxine was to tell the entire neighborhood. She would just mention my affairs to a couple of her friends but she just knew they wouldn’t tell a soul!

I don’t remember being especially that much taller than she, but when I hugged her good bye, her head came to my breast. I have no idea when she started shrinking. She certainly hasn’t stopped talking.

I will always think God put me in this neighborhood for a reason. My son was six when my ex left. Next door we had Grandma Annie and Grandpa John. John died when my son was in the first grade. Grandma Annie passed away when he was in middle school. The couple across the street from them and their daughter all died in the following years. Maxine was always there whenever I needed some help. She’d cook too much and bring over supper pretty frequently. Now Maxine and her husband have moved. I once stayed in this house because I didn’t want to leave the village that was helping to raise my son. Now my son has no desire to return and the village people who meant everything to me has gone.

I wish a Maxine on everyone at some point in their lives. She says she wants to get an IPad but that hasn’t happened yet. She refuses to touch her husband’s computer. I will probably not handwrite letters and she will probably not handwrite answers even if I do. I’m hoping the IPad, if she gets it, will keep us in contact. She always asked me questions that were very personal, she gave me advice I didn’t want, she was able to get more information out of my son than I ever was. She was special. She is the sister I wish I had rather than the one I got. She gave me a gift that few have given to me. She cared. Namaste. Attic Annie

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The Day After Christmas

Christmas Love

My bed was warm and cozy this morning. I managed to sleep until almost 8 a.m. I have made an executive decision that most of the day will be spent in my flannel pajamas and thick fluffy robe, tube socks, and slippers that are faux fleece lined. They look ridiculous because several years ago I covered them with green felt when I went to a Red Hat sleep over. I wore a huge sleep shirt with a picture of a gigantic frog perched on a lily pad. The slippers were converted to frog feet. There were toes at one time but I had made them too long. I kept stepping on them and almost falling so they now have a toe-ectomy. Since no one will see them, I continue to wear them because they are the most comfortable and warmest in my closet.

I’m staying in this attire because it is the warmest and coziest outfit I can think of. I have given up trying to stay warm in my house when the thermostat is set on 68. As the years go by, I have made staying warm more of a priority. It is now set on 70 and the furnace is running almost constantly since it is in single digits outside. My home is as insulated as I can make it, but there is still a slight chill. I give thanks for warmth on cold winter days.

Every once in a while I am given the gift of realizing that I feel really well…not just physically but also spiritually. Today is one of those days. Even though Christmases are a little hard for me, I found comfort in this one.

A birthday buddy I found about seven years ago has included me as part of her family. She has reunited with her estranged father and so she hosts a dinner for him and his wife. After so many years there seems to be a bond forming between them again. I kind of envy that since there was never enough time for me to experience that with my own father.

After the dinner the two of us went to the candlelight service at church. It is the same every year, but this year I felt a solace that I don’t usually sense. Ill feelings about Christmas go all the way back to childhood. It was a little sad when she confided to me on the way home that she is thinking of changing churches. There has been much conflict the last couple of years in our congregation and we split almost in half. She stayed as I did but she is thinking of moving on.

Yesterday I was invited to the gathering at another friend’s home across the street. She cooks a huge pot of tortilla soup, tamales, beans, and makes wonderful chip dip. They buy a honey baked ham which gives me my pork fix for the year. Her family and friends arrive whenever. I walked across the street around one and had a nice visit while all was calm. It was very nice visiting with her and watching huge snow flakes fall outside. As the day went on, her two daughters and their families appeared, and a short while later two more relatives and their families arrived. The house was getting crowded so I decided to come home, full of her delicious food.

Her home is a little more drafty than mine so I had wisely chosen to put on another layer of underwear. By the time all those people had gathered, I was getting a little toasty. My introversion kicked in and I realized it was time to move on. I weary after four hours with any group.

Before I went to bed, another friend called to share her success about hosting her family for Christmas. She has so many best friends I can’t count them all, but she has chosen to add me to her “club”. It is one of those rare honors one is given in life to find a friend like her.

Back in 1968 I was dating a young Marine. He surprised me at Christmas and came home on leave. It was during that time we got engaged. Since he was in officer’s school and knew he would be heading to Viet Nam, I had no idea what to give him as a present. I decided to borrow a negligee gown and wrap from my aunt, (which had remained unworn in her drawer for several years), wrap a ribbon sash around me and sit under the tree with a gift of a big smile. It was a wonderful Christmas. I believed I had been given the gift of love. Things didn’t work out with him, but if I concentrate, I can connect with the good feelings of those few days.

I woke up this morning realizing I had been dreaming about him. I realized that the dream was probably because of “King of the Hill”. John reminds me very much of Hank Hill.  If I wake during the early morning around 4, that show is usually on. I guess I was hearing it in my sleep and started thinking of my love. After all these years I accepted the fact after fighting it for almost fifty years that for a number of reasons there will always be a part of me that loves him, but I realized today that I am setting myself free. Maybe the memories will now fade and I will recognize that that relationship also had its toxic moments that I have too long suppressed and all worked out for the greater good.

Whatever the cause of my feelings of joy today, I am grateful and will relish every minute. It is a new feeling to associate with Christmas and I will hold onto it as long as possible. I hope your days were as blessed as mine. Namaste. Attic Annie

holly

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What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Shakespeare Didn’t Corner the Market on Tragedy

photo from Star Telegram

Shakespeare did not corner the market on tragedy.

The play that has been unfolding in the past month here in Fort Worth is worthy of a Shakespearian nod along with the best of his works.

Last month there was a two vehicle accident in the middle of the afternoon. The driver of a pickup veered into the path of an Escalade EXT. The teen age driver and one of his passengers was killed. Another passenger was seriously injured. The driver was drunk. He had left school at lunch time to purchase a 32 oz. bottle of malt liquor. He was seventeen. The dead girl and the injured one were both fifteen. I’m sure they were probably excited to be with “an older man” who was showing off his skills of being able to drink and drive at the same time. That was a fatal flaw in their thinking.

As if that were not enough of a tragedy, the event took another life yesterday. The teenager had a friend who tried to stop him from driving. The newspaper article does not go into more details of how the friend tried to stop the driver. In any event, the friend failed in his efforts and instead decided to follow the truck to make sure his friend and passengers arrived home safely. He witnessed the fatal accident and tried to help, but it was too late. The girl died at the scene. The driver died the next day.

The friend was left behind with a terrible sense of guilt  . He blamed himself for the death of his friend. He had failed to prevent the accident. His self-reproach was unimaginable.

The teen age years with their normal angst are hard enough to navigate. Adding to that the death of a friend, for which rightly or wrongly one takes on full responsibilty, is a load that few people can handle.

The friend succumbed to the pressure.

He died a few days ago from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head, leaving his mother and a younger brother to find him.

He also left behind another who claims he was the young man’s “best friend”.

The clerk who sold the boy the malt liquor was arrested in a sting. The mother is left with her grief. There was no gun in the house. She will always wonder how he was able to obtain it.

The boy had returned some borrowed clothing from his “best friend” and talked about what good friends they were…like brothers. The friend is now probably wondering why he didn’t pick up the signals that the boy was saying good bye.

The teen age years are difficult enough to get through without the addition of guns and alcohol. The DARE program presented by the police just isn’t enough. They try to teach the kids tools to help them through the gauntlet until adulthood is reached. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes not.

Do I have the answers? Certainly not. I have felt blessed every day that my son made it through those years of drinking and driving in spite of me more than because of me.

Tragedies happen. If someone knows the answers to how to keep drivers from drinking, teen agers from obtaining guns, and friends from committing suicide because of the guilt, I hope s/he comes forward. We have been involved with these problems too long.

I’m certain Shakespeare with his command of language could even come up with a quote that would wake us up to the fact that what we are doing is not good enough. Enough is enough!

My knowledge of Shakespeare in extremely limited. The quote that kept running through my mind as I read the paper was this:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep:
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to…

It is sad that the friend who tried to help decided “not to be” and all too sadly, “there’s the rub”.

Namaste  Attic Annie

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I Do Not Handle Change

I do not handle change well. I eventually get used to it and adapt to it but that does not mean I react to it well at all.

I do a poor job of analyzing why I prefer to be “set in my ways” even if my “ways” are not serving me well at all. My early childhood, for example, was one of constant change. My mother’s sister lived right next door to us. As an infant, my aunt took me in while my mother had surgery and recovered. Those days I should have been given a chance to bond with my mother were not afforded to me. About the time that I became accustomed to living with my aunt (I have no idea how long) my mother recovered enough to take me home again. This lasted from what I understand about  eighteen months, give or take, when it was discovered that her cancer had spread to her bones. I became too much to handle so back I went to my aunt’s home where I remained until my mother died two months before my fourth birthday.

My father brought me home and there were a series of temporary housekeepers until his sister came to live with us when I was five. She was in the home for less than a year when she also had an operation and spent an extended amount of time at another sister’s home during her recovery. About the same time a full time housekeeper/child sitter was found who arrived around eight in the morning and left around seven at night. She lasted for about ten years so at least she was a constant but she had the warmth of a robot. She was just there.

When I was six and in first grade, another of my mother’s sisters had a stroke and died. She had tried to get my father to allow her to adopt me. I’m thankful she didn’t. I saw her every morning at school that first year when she combed my hair and tied my bows. These are things the housekeeper didn’t seem to think were necessary to do for me. Then my aunt was gone.

There were several other significant people in my life along the way who just disappeared including several male friends, a fiance, and a husband. Add to that the deaths of aunts and uncles and the divorce of the aunt and uncle who lived next door. In college there were three different schools and a change in majors before I finally graduated, along with the death of my father when I was twenty one.

Details of that part of my life are not necessary to share at this point other than to point out there was a pattern of losses to my life. My son is still a part of my life but being separated by half the world does not make the relationship an easy one to maintain. If I didn’t try to stay a part of his life, it would be easy for that relationship to end as well.

That being said, there is another separation occurring in my life. Almost seven years ago I found a church home unlike any other I had found. There were many opportunities to join classes and groups and really get to know the other members. There were social opportunities. It was a place where I felt I belonged. I echoed the same thoughts of many others.

Other churches i attended were a show up on Sunday morning type of congregation. If I was lucky, I learned the name of two or three other people who went there. That was not the case with this one.To repeat,  I felt like I was home. There was a warmth and acceptance that was lacking in my life that was being filled after too many years to count.

Since I am not a political type person, I was unaware that a rift was developing. There was major dissension occurring. A large percentage of the congregation was unhappy. The most visible ones were in the choir. Today was the last Christmas concert. Those who had not already left had stuck it out to perform. It was the final performance for many of them but no one is talking about who is remaining and who is moving on. I asked one member and she said, “I guess we’ll find out on the eighteenth to see who shows up to sing.” She, like all the others, is not committing. The choir director resigned as of this last performance and many are going with her. No one is talking about if the pianist is leaving as well or not. A few months ago the board resigned en masse and a new board was elected. It is not a pleasant situation.

I tend to draw into my shell when I am faced with a loss. I have been invited to go with those that are forming a new fellowship. I would feel invited if I did, but it seems about half of those I know are remaining and are trying to rebuild. I freeze in situations like this. In ways i want to just get things over with and see how many are still around after January 1 and how many are gone. In other ways, I don’t want to open my eyes and face the reality.

The concert today was outstanding. I am praying that other voices will be found to rebuild the choir. I loved to sing as a child but years of strep throats and allergies have long ago left me with a range of maybe five notes and even those are scratchy. I have to remain in the pews. I am just hoping there will be enough of us remaining to rebuild. I  understand that change occurs and growth occurs and death occurs. I just wish I didn’t have to be a part of it. Namaste. Attic Annie

 

 

 

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Pedro, the faithful traveling companion

I named him Pedro because, after all, he was, and still is, Mexican. Pedro is “the rock”. He is there to tell me that all is well. He gives me confidence that I will get where I want to go and back again. He has aged tremendously since I received him as a traveling companion over four years ago. The exact date eludes me at the moment.

Instead of an orange sombrero, it is now a soft melon color. It’s definitely pastel. His serape is no longer kelly green and red. It is more ordinary green and tan. The red is gone. The fringe that was once gold is now lemon. His mane is turning an auburn hue where the sun is bleaching it. The fur under the hat is dark brown. Neither his mane or his tail is black any longer. I’m sad to say I don’t remember the color of his skin exactly but I think it had rather a taupe hue to it. Now it’s the color of beach sand on a cloudy day. His underbelly is still yellow. His tail is now a crazy two tone ash brown where the sun hits and brunette on the underside.

He is currently sitting on my kitchen desk on top of my computer. I had to bring him inside to re glue the velcro square that helps him maintain his position on my dash board. As you can see from the picture I found on EBay,Pedro, my traveling companion, is a donkey or I guess more properly, a burro.

He has been there faithfully since my neighbor Maxine gifted him to me to keep me company on a drive I made down to south Texas to visit with a friend. I was driving nearly 500 miles. You never know with Maxine’s gifts. She may have had Pedro for years or found him at a garage sale. Only heaven knows where he came from. I don’t wish to disparage Maxine. I would never knowingly do that. It’s just that she has a way of recycling a lot of knickknacks over the years. I don’t envision her actually buying new items in the stores for an express purpose such as giving me a traveling companion. She just loves to give away things she has on hand.

Before I brought him inside, he was sliding all over the front of the car. Usually he would come to rest against the passenger side door., belly up. Sometimes he would land on the floor. It was OK as long as he didn’t land under one of the pedals. I decided I had to re anchor him before he became dangerous.

It’s cold and rainy today. I don’t plan on driving anywhere but I’ll take him out and place him on the dashboard once again. He is showing signs of aging but then again so am I. I don’t look the same as I did five years ago either. He’s a humble little donkey. He sits and spreads his front legs. His head bows almost as if he is praying with his closed eyes. Is he asleep and dreaming of wide open fields in Mexico? Is he offering up a plea to the heavens that for just one more time I will get him there and back safely? He’s the only one who knows. I just know that he is a faithful companion and a constant reminder of Maxine who didn’t want me to travel on my 1,000 mile round trip alone. I appreciate both of them.  Namaste Attic Annie

 

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An Anglo/Chinese Wedding Part 3

The day of the wedding finally arrived. The four of us went down to breakfast again and my son joined us at to our hotel (it was a five minute walk) around 9:00 a.m. It was the same strange serving as the day before. The restaurant was all set up for another wedding but they were allowing people to eat breakfast. We waited for the photographer and videographer and then returned to the room. When they arrived,  they proceeded to get all the pre-wedding pictures that are usually taken. We noticed that the air in Becky and Bob’s room was not on either. We opened the window but there was little circulation.

My son was already dressed for the day, but he had to undress for the pictures. They couldn’t take the pictures at the apartment because that was where Julie and her bridesmaids were preparing for the day. So…make believe time.

Nathan took off his shirt and tie and pretended to be putting on his undershirt. Then Bob helped him tie his tie. I think he took off and put on his socks and shoes as well, but I’ll have to wait  until I see the pictures. All this time both of the camera guys were shooting pictures of everything else that was going on in the room. It was really a crowded place.

Nathan had brought a bouquet (the first one) to the room with him because that was part of the tradition that he present flowers to his loved one. With all the people passing it around, it started to wilt rather quickly. Nathan called and was told things were not ready yet so we just waited around. Finally, we were given permission to go over to the apartment.

When we arrived, the place was filled with relatives. We could hardly walk around. Julie was in her first dress of the day. There were pictures of honoring grandmother and then me (it was the first time she was supposed to call me Mom.) After Julie bowed to us, we handed her red envelopes with money inside.

A young male cousin jumped on the bed, her parents prepared a basket of personal items to be taken to the groom’s home, a male cousin nailed up a red curtain for which I paid him. Nathan was barred from Julie’s room by the bridesmaids and then had to “fight” his way in to his love. He had to find her shoe and put it on her foot. He knelt beside the bed and presented the bouquet (further wilting had taken place). One of the maids and Bob (one of the groomsmen) sat with Nathan and Julie and ate dumplings and then all tried to feed him a dumpling at the same time. Her mother and aunts had spent hours preparing 400 dumplings for the day to feed the family. We all stood around and watched the proceedings. I later asked Julie what some of these traditions meant and she said she had no idea. It was just something they did.

Although the hotel had moved my friend and me by that time to another room, it was obvious that the room next door did not have air conditioning either. Becky and Bob were upset that they didn’t have a king size bed. There were not quite double beds instead. It was decided that as soon as the picture taking session was over we were moving to a different hotel. The Howard Johnson Hotel was about a block away from where the wedding was taking place. It was much nicer. The first hotel would have been acceptable if the A/C had worked. Now we were in a hotel, it turned out, that the A/C worked too well. Later that night, we got up around 2 a.m. and turned the A/C off!

That afternoon the entire wedding party traveled to the park for outdoor pictures of the entire group…all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, bride and groom. I don’t know if her parents went with them or not but by that time I was really losing steam. I opted to take a nap instead. As a result, I realized when the wedding was over that there were no pictures of me posed with my son and his new wife by ourselves. Oh well!

Thankfully there was enough time to recharge our energy and get dressed for the wedding. It had been warm and humid all day. By the time of the wedding, the weather seemed perfect.

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