Every evening at sunset, I have the extreme fortune to jump into a man-made swimming hole in the middle of a Texas Hill Country ranch and it is completely invigorating and effervescent. The water is cold, the tadpoles are lively, and the scenery is a-buzz, even sometimes with horses or cows.
I am doing this plunge every day for the month of May to help me get settled in my new house and community. I am really enjoying the land and opportunities to rub elbows with nature. Lawdy the bugs are big and will only get bigger as the summer heats up, so I hold a respectful appreciation of all the creatures whose path I cross. My recent interlude with a scorpion in the kitchen sink reminded me of where I am and who rules the roost in Texas. Not me.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. Wow that year flew by quickly, as they all tend to do as I get older. Even with all the year’s logistical changes, the lessons of my mom’s death are still at the forefront of my thoughts and play a part in almost every action I take, every decision I make.
One year ago, I was FREEZING as I stood on a super-windy pier, tossing my mom’s ashes into the icy waters of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The ashes flew all up and around me but eventually found their way back into the water and I watched with tears in my eyes as the smokey ashes swirled away into the water. It was the biting wind that caused my tears on this occasion and honestly, I gave no thought to Juls’ ashes once they were where she had requested; in Wisconsin.
There were conversations that she would have preferred Green Bay, because she was a diehard Packer Fan. I shot that down because I wanted to keep her close to me. I was adamant that I had to keep an eye on her and make sure she was okay; although I had declined to pick up her ashes from the funeral home until this Mother’s Day. I was certain I did not want her in the house with me — but that I needed to keep an eye on her. Strange, perhaps.
My mom and I always loved Lake Geneva, but never for any shared memories, we each had our own reasons. Now that Juls was in the lake, I started visiting on a regular basis to chat with her. I honestly felt better when I would first see the lake because it felt like she was happy, finally. My mom was not a happy woman, especially later in life, but now I believe she was free. It made me smile to think she was swimming around Wisconsin, in the beautiful clear lake, eating pretzels and drinking beer with all the other Packer fans.
When I was 13, I saw the movie JAWS and I wished I hadn’t, who’s with me on that? Once an avid swimmer, I suddenly was terrified of ALL water and honestly avoided every opportunity to swim in anything other than a chlorinated pool for the rest of my days. I don’t like fish and I don’t like seaweed. I don’t swim in Lake Geneva or any other lake, river or ocean for that matter.
Funny thing happened as I started to visit Juls’ in Lake Geneva, soon I found myself climbing into the water. And swimming. With fish. Naked (when I could get away with it!). And often. I would hike around the walking path on the days I could get up to Lake Geneva and jump in where I could. Preferably at sunset.
I took a paddle-board lesson… LOVED IT, then joined a paddle-board club (“tribe”), where we went on weekend outings. I started kayaking and enjoyed this too because I could bring Henry with me. I LOVED being in the water and still do today — even in Texas, where the bugs and fish are BIG and angry!
Me, the one who was horribly uncomfortable in the water now finds comfort in the water.
I recently read “Motherless Daughters” for the first time and although it tends to mostly speak to women who lost their mothers when they were younger, nonetheless I clearly understand it to say that when a woman loses her mother, no matter what age, her life is profoundly and forever changed.
For me, this has meant re-examining EVERYTHING. I did not set out to do this, but in the year and months since mom died, I have become extremely aware of my own mortality and interested in understanding where I came from and how I became the person I am today. There is also an unstoppable force to be a better person.
I like being nice, who knew?
Not only did my mom die in front of me as we held on tight to each other for the first time in our lives, but she apologized. I may have said this before and I will say it for the rest of my life; my mom’s deathbed apology has altered me forever and because of it, I have worked endlessly to change old, tired beliefs that have never served me — nor my treatment of you.
Juls said she was wrong about me. That she wished she had been nicer to me. Was sorry that she didn’t get to know me better.
When she was saying these things, I said, “CUT IT OUT MOM! It’s not like you are dying or something!” I didn’t know what-what. But that’s okay.
My mom’s apology melted a steel cage from around my heart and this has been an indescribable feeling, and one of the most freeing feelings in my life. See “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” for a better description.
I spent my adult life reading self help books, attending workshops, seeing shamans, psychologists, you name it… always digging to discover what was wrong with me and on and on and on…. and never discovering the answers; that anxiousness and restlessness stayed, churning away at me. I kept hearing it was Daddy Issues and sure there were some of those, but nothing will compare to the freedom pill my mom gave me when she acknowledged some of the choices she made in her life — and for this, she was regretful and was sorry.
My life: changed forever.
The year has not been without heartache nor challenges; I am still recovering from the sting of losing a number of jobs, all my stuff and I lost all my stuff, did I mention this? But at this point, this has become my Badge of Honor. I am finding my way. I found my ex-husband in Mexico and have made amends for the mistakes I made when I was his wife. We are living together in Texas now, peacefully for the most part, and with a much better understanding and appreciation of each other. He has a very big life and it has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know Reed and his world once again; this time with eyes that love and not hate.
Today I jump in the water with the bugs, frogs and bats at every sunset. I walk the fields with my camera and take pictures of cows, flowers, naughty horses and sunsets. I cook healthy meals that sometime include bacon and BBQ and am enjoying learning about native plants and birds. Oh the birds! I never noticed the birds last time I lived in Texas — and now they sing to me everywhere.
This Mother’s Day I am grateful to have a mom who gave me the greatest gift of all; the gift of a new life, a new beginning, a chance to make things right. I am a happy kid again.
Thank you Mom. Go Packers! xoxoxo