May 28, 2014

The Spirit Tree

My maternal grandmother had the ability, like my mother, to make me pee myself a little when she walked in the room. Grandma was cranky, and angry. Those are my perceived memories, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, she loved us, we knew it, and loved her back. She had 11 children and lost her husband when her youngest was 3. She had to be strong and like most of her generation, did what needed to be done without complaining or assistance from the government. Hell, I’d be cranky too.

She came to visit us once when she was 65 years old. She was crippled with arthritis in her knees, and had gray permed haired. She wore the typical housedress that women of her era wore, and had old-school nylon stockings. She wore them everyday, and she would start her day with them rolled down to her ankles until she went out and about. Then, they got rolled up and secured to her girdle/garter belt.
They were not pantyhose, those weren’t even invented yet, but Stockings… the kind you bought at a Stocking Counter in the department stores, and the sales clerk usually put them folded nicely in tissue, inside a special long, flat “stocking box”. And they were shaped like a curvy leg, not like the big wad you get nowadays in a package of pantyhose.
On that visit, she was cooking supper and I was assigned to help her. Being the good military child that I was, I never volunteered for a chore. I didn’t need to… they were assigned to us on a daily basis. She was not happy with the way I was peeling the potatoes and yelled at me for peeling them with a knife instead of a potato peeler. “YOU’’RE WASTING HALF OF THE POTATO!” Yes, in caps because it was loud and angry. When my eyes welled up, she said something like “go on tell your mama, big baby”. If I felt like doing the math, I could tell you what year that was and how old I was, but since math makes my butt hurt, we’ll let that go. I can tell you I was old enough for that to make a lifelong impression.

What I took from that moment was I didn’t ever want to live to be 65. In my mind, she was old and miserable and just had to be near death. I prayed in my best Catholic prayers for God to let me die before I turned 65. I prayed that for a LOT of years. Well, I am now 62, and not anything like my grandma. My hair is gray, but you’d never know it. My hairdresser makes sure of that.  I watch What Not To Wear faithfully and apply those rules to my wardrobe. Stacy and Clinton are my best friends. I’m healthy and happy, and although I have my cranky moments, I mostly bury those so deep no one knows about them.

My Grandma lived another 30 plus years, and got a little softer with time. A little.
Life is hard and should be so much easier when you reach your 90’s. It isn’t. It is confusing, and sad, and depressing… for the seniors and their families getting them through it. I bless my siblings every single day for tenderly caring for mom. We have learned first hand that a retirement home is a somewhat safe place but without constant supervision from a loved one, it is a scary place. It has been an eye opening experience for all of us.

I don’t think I’m ready to go yet, but my prayers are different. I don’t know what’s in my fate as far as a death scenario goes, and glad I don’t. If I could choose, it would be a peaceful moment. Let me just not wake up one day. Don’t we all wish for that? Just let me go way before the Assisted Living Years. No Depends, no mush at the dinner table. No wheelchair gatherings around a TV in a communal lobby. Dear Lord, no. Please.

I have a lot of hopes in my life, but my biggest hope is that my children and grandchildren have fond, loving, warm-fuzzy memories about their mama/grandma. I found this awesome link on the big that meets my wants for my after life. Take a look here. It may sound crazy to some, but it is totally up my alley.

It is, in a nutshell, an urn of sorts that you mix human ashes (from a cremation) with a tree seedling, and the tree absorbs the calcium rich ash, and grows to be a big tree in memory of the loved one. I love that idea. Really, go to the link. It’s awesome. If my children are reading this, bookmark the link, please. That’s my living wish. Seriously. Find a nice place where my grandchildren and great grandchildren can come visit the tree, and plop me down. Gigi’s tree! A nice deciduous elm would be nice. Yeah, that’s what I want…Yellow and red leaves in the fall, and beautiful bright green leaves in the spring.  Hang a swing from one of my strong branches, so I can cradle my babies, and their babies… A sweet Spirit Tree.