Saturday, February 26, 2011

God Showed up in the thrift store

15 days ago, my dad went in to the hospital to have what was supposed to be a “relatively” simple surgery…. For an 83 year old… The surgery itself, you know cutting and stitching, removal of a kidney and the cancer that thought it needed to take residence in dad’s body. All that went well. But then dad’s tongue swelled up, he thought he’d have some chest pain, and his body forgot how to swallow properly. Note to self… Do not EVER take the ability to swallow for granted. What was supposed to be three days in the hospital turned into 6, along with Puppa being discharged with a feeding tube that goes from his nose to bowel. All this for a man who has never made a big deal about himself or caused too much “commotion”. Even now, as he and my mom’s house is over run with their “Gestapo” daughter, the brother’s, my mom, and any help I can gather along the way, I have not heard one complaint from dad, other than “I thought we were going to get to go have some oatmeal.” This after his second failed swallow test. “My flapper’s not working” is Dad’s description over the phone to his people that call.

If Dad’s “flapper” was working properly, he’d be doing groovy, instead he’s hooked up to a pump 16 hours a day. My brother’s and I have all taken turns running the show; I have taken on the position of patient advocate. It’s all trial and error, I am in previously uncharted territory, and I seriously wonder constantly what the people who don’t have an advocate do. I suspect get sicker, stay in hospital longer, wither away, and don’t go fishing.

Spending a large amount of time in the role of scheduler, Dr. caller, list maker, direction giver, nurse, daughter, mother, and sister…. I’m pretty worked. As my friend Erin put it, “Even if you’re not physically there, you are there.” So I look for God, wherever I can find him. I thought I would share some of the places I saw God this past week.

I turned my head to look out my front window, and there he was in some peach blossoms in the yard next door.

He’s my brother Roy making food, perfecting the medication time list on the computer.

He’s my husband just doing what I say, even when I don’t say it in a nice way.

He’s my brother Pat providing his expertise on stuff I don’t know about and making us laugh.

He’s my mom saying, “Bob, I missed you,” when Dad and I have been gone all day in an attempt to get things going in a better direction.

God came to the yoga studio when I needed to be reminded to just breathe, when my teacher walked on my feet and pushed on my back when I was in child’s pose, or when another gently eased my shoulders down and rubbed my head in savasana.

God showed up at orchestra Tuesday night. As we played Andante and Nocturne from the Rabinowitz Suite, He helped everyone find their correct notes and me smile and silently cry at the same time in the beauty of D minor. He was my buddy Mary sitting next to me giving me insight on what the piece was written about. Brian telling a new person that the only reason he stayed with orchestra is because I told him (Brian) to just play the notes he knew. Brian is in his third season with North Coast Strings. God was here in the Dome when I came home and had Robert was playing something in a minor scale on his harmonica. He’s Irma who vacuumed up all the threads up off the sewing room floor.

God’s the speech pathologist who shares the same name as a friend from fiddle camp. He’s a home care nurse. He’s a dietitian who plans my dad’s feeding and calls to check on us. He’s the Dr who put his feet up on the counter today while he talked to Dad. I took it as I’m going to just sit here, be with you, and listen gesture.

God is my dog, Rodeo, who is so happy to see me when I come in the door, who will follow me around mom and dad’s house if he comes with me, who is happy to let me smell his dog nose, who gives unconditionally when I want some quality dog time on the sewing room floor.

God is my kids who call or show up when I need someone to give someone a ride or spend time with Gramma, so I can be where I need to be with Dad to learn some new thing to help him get better and go fishing. So he can go back to taking care of Gramma.

He’s my brother Giles and his blunt practicality, Giles who is here being Eugene and Giles, because it doesn’t work for both to be here.

He was the wonderful sunshine and the smell of the sea on Shelter Island, as Dad told me about ships and we watched them come and go. He was in my friend’s back yard today, while Dad and I sat under an umbrella, and I could hook up the feeding so Puppa could get a little nutrition to go the long haul.

He was a snail mail letter from Sue, a phone call to my girlfriend Shelly, emails from other folks. He is one of my co-workers who brought in a book to work that I need for a test. He’s an art project. He’s all over the place, even if he decided Dad was going fail his swallow test and I would be pissed off at Him, he still shows up in the most random places.

God showed up in a thrift store in San Diego today. Dad wanted to take the scenic route to my friend’s house. I turned off the GPS, and let Dad lead the way. I heard more stories about when my parents were in the Navy, where my dad worked on boilers, I heard bits about my parents honeymoon. I learned Dad’s first car was a ’47 Nash, named Milou. Part of “the scenic route” passed a thrift store I had seen from the freeway on my way to the airport, never managed to get to it. “Dad, can I just run in and do a quick walk through?” “Sure, go ahead, we’ve got plenty of time.”

Mom was angry this morning because she was missing a yellow bowl that had made it’s way to my house over Christmas time and wasn’t returned. I didn’t need to start my day with someone getting angry with me for something I had no control over. “Mom, you’ve got two others, do you need it right now???” “No, I just want it back.”

I walked up the ramp to the entrance to the DAV Thrift Store. I thought to myself, “How is it that I have never been to this mother of all thrift stores???” I looked down, and there on the shelf, waiting for me, was a big yellow Pyrex bowl. I had no eyes or need for anything else, I was just too excited to go to the car and show Dad.

I have never before, seen the beloved big yellow bowl in a thrift store in California. Today, God was a big yellow bowl at the DAV. Before I left to take Dad this morning, I stuck 5 dollars in my sweater pocket, thinking I would use it to pay for parking. Dad paid for parking. I bought a yellow bowl. I don’t have to look for the one that came to my house. Mom’s happy.

For now, this moment, I give thanks for all the times I got to see and feel the Divine in random places and not so glorious times. I ask for patience for all of us in this situation. I also say thanks for God’s sense of humor. I look forward in anticipation for when He shows up tomorrow.

In Health and Love,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a Lovey

It's a Lovey.

At the beginning of December, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and learned he would have to have one of his kidney’s removed. Dad and I had just gotten the news at the hospital, I had told mom over the phone, and by the time Dad and I got back home, mom had a bag by the door. Bags, from my mom, by the door, are not an unusual occurrence. What was unusual was how she grabbed me by the elbow and dragged me into the other room. “I have Daddy’s robe and his Merchant Marine jumper, I think you need to make a blanket for him for when he goes to the hospital.” I opened the bag, pulled out the robe, and with it my entire childhood of Sunday morning “dutch-rubs”, Christmas’ with dad in the chair with his robe on, mom with curlers in her hair, and Uncle Walt, all filled my thoughts in one split instant. Next, I pulled out the blue wool jumper. I put it up to my nose to see if it smelled like Puppa, the sea, or mothballs. Just wool. I was happy to see the fabric of both garments had maintained their color for over 50 years. I looked at mom, “I can’t cut these up unless he knows.” She replied, “He doesn’t know I have them.”

Not two seconds later, dad walks around the corner into the kitchen and I blurt out, “Dad, mom just gave me your robe and merchant marine jumper and she wants me to make a blanket with them.” He gave me a Puppa style grin and said, “She took those from me and hid them. Uncle Walt gave me the robe, I guess it has some holes…. and she shrunk the jumper.” I said, “but are you ok with me cutting them up?” He just chuckled a little, I took it as a yes.

I took the bag home, knowing I had Dad’s blessing for an art project. A few days later I was telling my friend Erin about mom’s idea. “That may be the best idea your mom’s ever had.” Next thing I know, Erin’s bringing over a pair of blue jeans that had been worn by my daughter Caitlin for 4 or 5 years, and then by Erin for another 4. Erin had patched and re-patched the pants to the point of not being able to wear them in public. Erin had thrown the pants away, heard about Puppa’s lovey, and soon the soft worn denim called to Erin from the trash, “We want to be used some more!” Erin heeded the call and from the trash returned to my house.

Christmas came and went. All the while the lovey was in the back of my mind. What fabrics would I use, how big was it going to be? What would I use to accentuate the beautiful red patches of the jumper? Red corduroy!! I had decided it would be mostly recycled, soft clothing. Robert donated some shirts, I had other fabrics from my stash that I thought would go well with what the clothing donations, I was assembling a pile of old clothes in the sewing room. Then, I tried on Puppa’s robe.

I walked around the house in it. I examined the holes. Overwhelmed with reminiscence of youth, my brothers, the houses I’d lived in, the dog’s I grew up with, I announced to Robert and Caitlin that I couldn’t cut up the robe. This followed with Caitlin taking her own little trip down memory lane and soon she was trying on her 7th grade jeans! We all agreed that between her and Erin, those jeans had gone on many adventures, as had Puppa’s jumper.

I started to cut and piece and sew and cut and piece and iron and sew the lovey together. The song by Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors” would pop into my head. The song speaks of a coat her mom made from a box of rags. I think it was appropriate considering Dad’s Kentucky roots.

As with any art project, once I get going it takes on a life of it’s own. As I ripped apart the shirts I thought about my dad’s generation that wasted nothing. The shirts, jumper, and pants, all had pockets. How could I incorporate the pockets without ripping them apart? They seemed so useful. I remembered Sue’s lovey and one of it’s square’s had a pocket. Norma called it a God Pocket. Puppa’s could have lots of pockets and he could hold tissues or anyone who wanted to write him a little note could write a note and put it in the pocket! Or treats!!! Snickers bars!!!!

Initially I started designing the lovey on a sheet hung up on shelves in the sewing room. When it got too big, I moved it to the living room floor. Robert stood over me as I placed the sewn strips together. “That is a handsome lovey.” Having it on the floor gave me opportunity to walk past, move squares around, visualize the size, and let Rodeo, the dog, walk around on it or take a nap on it when no one was looking. Part of what makes a lovey a lovey is having Rodeo spend time on it. Considering he is my constant companion in the sewing room….I sew and cut, he will lie down between me and the machine and the iron, wag his tail when I have to walk over him, and occasionally we have a little quality dog time on the floor, we rub noses and I tell him how much I love him. Plus, Rodeo loves a nice blanket and Puppa. So spending time on the unfinished lovey is his way of sharing the dog love. I don’t worry about germs or dog hair as lovey’s are made to be used and washed in the washing machine.

With the top layer completely stitched together, the batting, backing, and tying process begins. My back gets a little tired getting all the layers just right so I’m grateful for my work table. With the lovey spread out, I have the opportunity to take a little rest on my creation, feel the fabric textures, say a word for the person that will receive it, basically get it ready to give.

You may have asked yourself, “What is a Lovey and how did it come to be?” A lovey is my own style of blanket. It is usually an old quilt top that was never finished and I either found it in a thrift store, it was given to me, or I bought it on ebay. I wash it, dry it, and figure out where and if it needs repairing. I repair any worn fabric or holes with bits of fabric from my own stash. The fabric tells stories and gives pictures of different eras. I like to imagine the lives of the women that made them. Then I put in new batting and soft flannel for the back. A few lovey’s have been made with new fabrics. One was made with blocks designed by all different people for a friend that was undergoing chemo. The name “Lovey,” came to me when I finished my first one. I wrapped it around my body and felt enveloped in its softness and warmth. I thought to myself, “This is a Lovey.” The name has stuck. I have been told, by more than one person, that their best nap or a night’s sleep was under one of my lovey’s. They lovey enjoys going to Baja, to fiddle camp, on long car rides, or just when the kids come home from college and want to keep warm watching television. I also feel they are the blanket of choice for anyone recovering from surgery, just ask my daughter Molly. So, I just keep making and giving them when I feel led. Or when my mom suggests it.

Erin and I have decided that Puppa’s is the Luviest of the Lovies. Yes, we also agree that this particular lovey is one of Mom’s best ideas.

It’s dark outside. I have a nice view to the northeast from Puppa’s hospital window to my left, Puppa and his lovey to my right. People here are enjoying looking at the lovey and putting their hands in the pockets. One sweet nurse recognized 7 jeans immediately. Puppa won’t remember much of this, but I wake him up every hour and make him do his breathing exercises. Anesthesia and surgery can take its toll on the old folks. I want Puppa to be able to return to the sea and the people he loves. I’m thinking he needs a few more fish stories. All, with the help of a lovey.

I hope this finds you and yours having a good day.

In Health and Love, Catherine