Category Archives: Uncategorized

Forbearance

I get why people go off the grid –

passwords.

Yes, I have a password app.

Yes, I forget to use it.

Yes, I think I will remember.

Yes, I’m overconfident in the moment.

Yes, I remember phone numbers from 1972.

Yes, I will be patient.

Yes, I will wait for authorization.

No, I will not toss my phone out the window.

Yes, I’m lucky to have a phone.

No, I am not complaining.

Sorting

Every Christmas, our family does a jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen counter. Each of us approach the task differently. Like Bethy, I insist on first sorting and connecting the outer edges. Katie takes a territory, like Santa’s sack of toys, and tackles it with our grandchildren. We don’t complete the scenes all at once, but eventually, everyone contributes. People step up and step away as appetites fluctuate and conversations meander. This year, we polished off Santa and his sleigh in two days.

After the grandkids left, we started another much more complicated, smaller-pieced puzzle with a water scene from Australia. Brendan, Joe, and Kevin helped, but we didn’t collectively place the last piece as is our tradition. In fact, we barely dented the scenario.

Because of my team effort view of puzzles, I usually pack up unfinished puzzles and give them away. I don’t like redoing puzzle parts.

This year, I left Aussie on the counter.

On Thursday, I spent two hours working on two wooden boats.

I lamented to my friend Laura that I wasted hours on this puzzle when I could have been getting something done.

“You were taking out the garbage,” she replied.

I laughed. I said, “I think I was actually running the garbage disposal.”

According to LongevityLive.com, jigsaw puzzles are good for our mental health.

I’m going to keep one out year round.

Let Your Life be a Prayer

My mom turns 96 next month. She’s not doing well as she has no appetite, lost nearly ten pounds in a month, is down to 82 pounds, and sleeps – a lot.

She lives at Mercy Circle, a retirement community in Chicago for Mercy nuns, and her life speaks gently and profoundly. She had ten children, lost my dad 34 years ago, and buried two sons. I want so badly to hear stories, to know what her life was like growing up during the Depression, being raised by Irish speaking parents, falling in love with my dad, staying true during WWII, creating lifelong friendships, getting married at twenty. As I sit with her in the dim light of her Baggot Street room, childhood images settle into my mind.

She was always working – for us, always focused on what needed to be done to serve us. Grocery shopping was a half-day undertaking complete with mutliple shopping carts, packed station wagon, and systematic unloading of brown paper bags. Meals were carefully planned, and cooking began around 2:00pm. While we were at school, my mom prepped the house – for us. It was a quiet place.

At night after dinner, the kitchen was lit by the soft glow of the under cabinet light as the dishwasher hummed. Each night, the counter was wiped clean except for my mom’s simple evening snack – saltines and soft butter.

In the solitide of the Artesian Avenue basement, my mother ironed, washed, sorted, whitened, brightened, and starched. She also tossed whatever attire was deamed inappropriate.

On the concrete wall by the ironing board, there was an old black dial phone the size of Maxwell Smart’s shoe that weighed ten pounds. The cord was not a fancy, curly retracting coil – it was a thick black wire with a limited extension of five feet from cement. Occasionally, my mom would chat with friends while somehow juggling the 16-inch wrench-shaped metal receiver in her right with a hefty clothes iron in her left while crisping Catholic-school unifrom blouses, shirts, pants, and pleats. Mostly, she was quiet down there.

She never asked for a better floor or lighting or heat in that dank, dingy space. The cracked green and white linoleum tile, the harsh flourescent bulbs, and the cavernous chill were never mentioned. She putzed down there in the mornings, lights off, with natural light streaming through the narrow foundation windows. It was quiet down there.

My mother’s laundry room provided her a refuge, a place to be by herself doing things for others – namely my siblings, my dad, and me. Her mornings were spent in the solitude of downstairs, the afternoons in the kitchen. It was quiet in there, too.

We grew up, and when I had children, she would say, “Give me that little dress. I’ll get that stain out.” And she did.

Now she doesn’t do laundry, she doesn’t cook, she can’t use a phone, and she doesn’t care if she eats. She takes no medicine except an occasional Tylenol for pain as her legs and hands are cramped beyond extension. She hasn’t walked in a few years, and she spends as much time in bed as possible. She loves to lie down and rest. When I enter her room, it’s quiet in there.

It will not be a blessing for me when she dies. I hope nobody says that to me. If you do, I forgive you in advance. You can’t help but try to help me see the bright side.

My mom is a rock. She asks for little, and she suffers her discomfort quietly with an occasional grunt or groan. She gives thanks gracefully, and she’s funny.

This week, I told her I was going to stay with her until her nap. I said, “I’m going to hang around and make sure they help you get into bed. You are too nice to ask.”

Eyes closed, body slumped in her wheelchair, she whispered, “Boy, have I got you fooled.”

Her gift for self-depracation puts others at ease and creates lightness, wonder and joy. She’s feisty. And her wit preails in the midst of confusion. She’s a living paradox as she appears fragile, yet she exudes strength.

Her bragging rights consist of being the best napper on her floor.

I often pray for God’s will to be done with my mom. The older I get, I realize that’s the only prayer that matters . . . and that works.

My Aunt Aggie asked her this week, “Eileen, do you pray?”

Eyes shut and curled under the covers, my mom replied, “I sleep – same thing.”

Her life is a prayer, and it always has been.

The Measuring Cup

My husband Tim never complains to me. In fact, I have no recollection of him ever saying anything unkind to me. And he makes few requests.

A few weeks ago, he said to me, “Quit moving my stuff.”

Wide-eyed, I looked at him and said, “Okay.”

So, I reigned in my urges to pick up his discarded socks, ipad, notes, charging cords, keys, books . . .. his few personal items. He lives very simply. I fought impulses to tidy his limited sacred space – his nightstand, desk, and dresser.

Over Christmas, we were blessed to have eleven family members stay with us. It was heaven on Earth for me – chatting, cooking, marveling at toy trains, exchanging gifts, snacking, doing puzzles, picking up, playing games, sharing stories – the things families do at Christmas.

Thoughout it all, I periodically searched for my perfectly shaped, 16-once, distinctly lined measuring cup with strategic pouring spot, my kitchen go-to for all recipes.

For four days, in the midst of loading the dishwasher, putting things away, reviewing ingredients, wiping the counter, opening cabinets, I’d think, “Now where did I put that cup? It’s not like me to not put it where it belongs.”

On Christmas Day, as we prepared to visit my mother, my conscientious youngest son Kevin brought his bedsheets to me. I thought to myself, “What a great kid. He’s so good about stripping the bed.” Then he said, “Oh, I just have to get the dishes out of my room.”

As I did a final walk-through before departing, I looked back to see Kevin place five random forms of drinkware on the counter – including that beloved measuring cup.

I’m no longer tempted to move Tim’s stuff.

Eileen’s Soccer Lesson

My granddaugther Eileen is seven, and she plays soccer. She’s built like Olive Oyl – lanky, lean and deer-like. (Remember Popeye?) Eileen is quick, and I have no aspirations for her athletic prowess. Like her parents, I’m content to be in the present and not make a big deal out of sports. (Been there, done that.)

A few weeks ago, Eileen’s team was ahead 8-0, and her coach called a time-out. He explained that the opponents had lost every game this year without scoring.

As Eileen’s team returned to the field, they were determined in their new plan of attack. The offense missed the ball, the defense was sluggish, and the goalie’s timing was off. The other team scored three goals, and its players and parents went nuts! They were ecstatic as they leaped, cheered, and hugged!

Eileen told her mom that was the best game of the year.

Collectivity

Two weeks ago, I lost my wedding ring.

I went golfing with my friend Beth, and right before I got on the course, I put my ring in my shorts pocket and zipped the pocket. Safe and sound.

Two months ago, I took my ring off before golfing with my son Brendan, and he said, “Mom, you don’t want to lose that.” I put it in my golf bag, and he reminded me to put it on when we finished the round. He asked why I took it off. “Calluses,” I replied.

Foreshadowing, that’s what that was.

Back to two weeks ago. When Beth and I got to the first tee, I decided to keep a few tees in my pocket. I forgot that my 37-year-old ring was in there.

That evening, I reached into my pocket to put on my ring, and it was gone.

I pride myself on not being a materialistic person. I have all kinds of stuff, but I cycle through it without much attachment. If someone compliments me on something, my urge is to give it to them, not because I’m a saint, but because I don’t really care about a thing. And chances are I got a good deal on it.

I called the golf pro Vince, and he said he would ask his grounds team to look for the ring. Being a Columbo-kind-of-person, I explained that the ring was probably by a tee box.

The next day, still trying to feel unattached, I drove to the club and searched,. It was the day of the women’s league, and I surprised myself by choking up with tears when I explained to the golfers that I was looking for my ring. My emotion embarrassed me. It always does. The ladies were all-in on trying to find my treasure and assured me they would keep an eye out. I knew they meant it.

In my head, I equated the ring with the parable of the lost sheep. (Bear with me.) And then I thought about the woman with the lost coin. Both went through hell and high water to find the lost items. I could not find my ring. I decided I was a shitty shepherd and that not only had I lost my ring, but I have a child I don’t see often. The domino effect of this line of thinking nearly did me in.

That evening, Brendan called, and he was empathetic. He did not say “I told you so.”

As the days passed, I rationalized that it was a ring, a thing, an item. I had another one with a green stone (emerald maybe – I don’t know my gems). I put the gem-of-some-sort ring on my left hand, and I was good.

A few friends told me to pray to St. Anthony that the ring be found. My friend Kim put her mom to the task. My friend Maggie told me that her husband lost his wedding ring at a Christmas tree farm and found it with a metal detector.

Oddly, we have a metal detector. My husband Tim bought one because he thought it would be fun for our grandchildren to search for treasures. Who knew?

Seven days after the dumb pocket move, I went back to the golf course, Vince set me up with a cart, and I took off with the metal detector in tow . . . in the box. I thought the assembly would be simple. I took it out, and stared. When God passed out mechanical put-stuff-together skills, he skipped me.

The groundskeeper supervisor Mike came by in a golf cart and said, “I am going to get someone to help you.”

Next, Chris, the course mechanic, approached and assembled the metal detector in five minutes without even looking at the directions. I asked him how he could figure it out, and he said, “I’ve always loved taking things apart and putting them back together.” God gave him my portion of that passion.

I zipped off to the first tee with the contraption as my compansion. The two of us spent an hour hearing a plethora of beeps, buzzes, zaps and bongs. I wished I had lost my ring at a farm that did not have so many coins, fliptops, sprinklers, water pipes and who-knows-what-else buried beneath the surface. The cacaphony of sounds confused and startled me.

Most people would read the instruction book and then set out in search of treasure. Not me. It took me an hour of hovering the detector and reading the manual to learn that different metals have different tones and the machine can determine depth. I knew the ring had to be near the top of the surface . . . somewhere.

Then I figured that I would not have lost the ring on the first tee because I would have gotten the first tee out of my bag, not my pocket.

With this revelation, Nancy Drew (me) headed to the second tee. After being over-stimulated by a bunch of noises, I re-opened the manual in search of a clue. I found one game-changing sentence: When looking for jewelry, like an earring, take the other earring and put it on the ground to identify the pitch.

I took off my green ring, tossed it in the grass, hovered the metal detector, and heard “Ping!” That’s what jewelry sounds like.

I moved the detector three feet to the right and heard “Ping!” I dug my fingers into the grass, glimpsed the gold and caught my breath. I then shouted at the top of my lungs to the heavens and an empty fairway, “I found it! I found my ring!”

Suddenly, I was back with Tim proposing on March 4, 1985. Then I relived us driving to Sheffner’s on 111th Street and seeing the ring in the window, of going inside and saying “We’ll take the one in the window,” and the lady saying, “You can’t just buy the one in the window. You have to shop more.” And then us driving to downtown Chicago to Wabash and looking in a few windows and then returning to Sheffner’s later to buy the one in the window, the one on my finger now.

Tim used an expense reimbursement check from Ernst & Whinney to buy this ring. (That should have frightened me, but it didn’t.) I sometimes wonder if he would have proposed if not for that New Orleans audit.

I stood on the second tee and remembered being twenty-two and madly in love. And I was madly elated at the joy in finding something I know better than to be attached to.

I called my friend Beth from the tee box because I was sure she felt bad about my loss. When I gleefully cruised back to the clubhouse, left hand prominent on the steering wheel, Beth was there. She came to give me a hug and a huge smile. When we saw Vince, the pro, and I showed him my finger, he beamed and said, “You found it!” I searched for Chris, the mechanic, and he said, “You found it!” And I saw Mike, the course supervisor, who raised his arms in victory at the sight of my finger and shouted, “You found it!”

I called Kim and Maggie, and Kim then called her mom to say St. Anthony came through. I texted my friend Dan from church who was also reigning on “Tony.” I called Tim, and I know Tim was happy, but I know Tim understood. We lose stuff. We are the same that way. We try our best, and thus far, we have not lost each other.

I share this story not to recommend that you keep looking if you lost something, not as a word of caution about being mindful about where you put things, not as an illustration of my carelessness, but as an awareness of the goodness of people and the beauty of shared gladness. We are a community, and it feels so good.

Oopsie

Last night, anticipating a quiet evening with Tim and a sunset-invoked sense of relaxation, awe, space, and peace, I reached for a beach chair hanging from a high hook in the garage.

Bam! The contraption crashed into my nose – the aluminum arm scraped a half-ince of skin off my Barbara Streisand schnoz. Shocked by my initial exclamations, I stood there and wondered about people who don’t swear. What do they say when they whack themselves?

Oh my, oh my.

Oh boy, oh boy.

Oh shoot, oh shoot.

Oh my goodness. That hurt.

Holy moly.

Oh man – didn’t see that coming.

Suddenly, the sting was gone as I laughed about a different way to be – gentler, forgiving, oh-welling, it’s okaying. Language matters inside and out.

I’ll spend the next week with a scab reminiscent of a toddler who wipes out on the sidewalk – not a bad way to be at almost 60.  And I’ve got a reminder in the mirror to be more mindful. . . in many ways.

  

Virtuous Golf

Last week, I played my first rounds of golf since last summer – 50 holes in three days. On day four, I could barely move. Golf is humbling – in every way – and it’s good for the soul.

Humility – need I say more?

Hope – each tee brings a sense of anticipation. “I’m going to figure this out on this hole!” A fresh start on a new tee – a Bridie, Par, Bogie, or Double Bogie. I love when a hole gets a name.

Acceptance – I stink. It’s okay. I’m getting better.

Truth – cheat and you’re dead to me unless you confess it. Mulligans are fine – just fess up. Wiffs don’t count in my game. I toss balls out of bunkers. Until I get another lesson in the sand, I am not wasting your time.

Tenacity – stick with the mantras: stay in the barrel, head down, arms straight, wrists firm, follow through, power from the hips, low and slow and watch it go, trust the club, open the club face, close the club face, mark your ball, don’t bring the club too far back, don’t sway.

Overwhelm – is that a virtue?

Tact – anybody who golfs with me is a master of diplomacy.

Wonder – on day 3, on par 3 hole 16, I chipped my little pink ball into the hole. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! I could barely speak! Nobody witnessed that Bridie but me . . . and my father. I know he saw it.

Faith – the Gospel of John states, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” Well, my dad dwells on the golf course – even though he passed in 1988 – in his 70’s golf garb of bright polyester pants and collared shirt, white belt and shoes. His light blue eyes twinkle beneath the rim of his round yellow hat. When I hit into the rough, I hear him say, “Grab a club and blaze away.”

Beauty – look around.

Orderliness – look around again.

Consideration – golf etiquette is training for life. Last summer, a direct (and loving) friend murmured, “Get your shadow out of the line of my putt.” No messing around there. I was horrified. I had shirked on my other-golfer-centeredness. I learned as a twelve-year-old that as long as I don’t hold people up, I can be a golfer. To this day, I break out in a sweat when I lose my ball. When I put my club back, I grab my next one. My pockets are full of spare balls – just in case I play like me.

Honesty – tell it like it is. See above. Period. Let others know what annoys you; otherwise, it will screw up your game. I told my son that he should pull the cart of up the right side of a right-handed golfer. I blamed my unsolicited advise on my father. My son said, “Your dad is not God.” I thought, “Humph!” My son pulled the cart up to my right for the rest of the round.

Patience – self-explanatory.

Imagination – my husband told me that he has a client who looks at the ball, looks at the desired destination, shuts his eyes, and opens them right before he swings. He imagines the ball going right where it’s supposed to go. I’ve tried this a few times, and it worked. Some call it creative visualization. I call it a miracle.

Forgiveness – if you can’t forgive yourself, don’t golf.

Self-discipline – no tossing clubs allowed. And if it happens, loop back to forgiveness. You get a double whammy of mercy.

Joyfulness – no matter who makes the long put, all celebrate! I brag about my friend’s Eagle, and I witnessed my dad’s on the 18th hole in Long Beach in 1976. Yes, I still remember! After looking for his ball, he shouted, “It’s in the cup!” Miraculously, I am now part of the “chip-in-the-cup joy club” thanks to last week. Did I already tell you about that?

I get why my dad loved golf, a respite focused on distance, green pitches, angles, slopes and friends all wrapped in an afternoon of courtesy, comraderie, presence. Game on!