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Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

During my traveling days, I did manage a few train trips, like the one to the top of Colorado's Royal Gorge. I took this photo as the train curved around a bend while on the train itself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

          “There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived between 535-475 B.C.

          I’m currently reading Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar by Train Through Asia, which was published in 1975. It recalls a four-month trip the author took in 1973.

          Almost half a century has passed since then, which makes the book as much about history as travel. At times, it’s a bit confusing because names of countries have changed, and the places Paul visited are not the same today as they were then. Some sites have died out, while others have grown into giant cities.

To keep track of everything, and because armchair travel has become the most comfortable way for this 82-year-old-broad to continually be exposed to new places, my reading is constantly being interrupted with questions. I’m continually chasing down the answers to my curiosity by checking up-to-date maps (I have a good atlas) and internet resources, the latter being one of the reasons why I don’t long for the “good old days.”

Having the time to do this is one of the upsides of aging to offset the downsides.

But the changes that happened in the world since Paul’s book was written, makes me wonder about the changes time has brought to the places I visited in my own rambling journeys in a small RV between 2004 and 2013. My book, Travels with Maggie, is about a slice of that traveling life that took place during six months of 2006, but the book wasn’t even published until 2017.

I wonder if someone will read my book with questions, and if they will take the time to find the answers as I do? No idea how to answer this question.

Meanwhile, I noted that Paul’s journey began with him taking the 1530 -London to Paris Train, and him writing: “Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I were on it.”

Those words made me think of when I was a young child and the Texas Zephyr that blow its whistle each day as it roared behind my grandmother’s home in Dallas.

I always wondered where it had been and where it was going, and yearned to go along for the ride. Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying my trip across Asia with Paul.

Photo: Train to the top of Colorado’s Royal Gorge, which I rode in 2007. I took the photo from the train as it curved around a bend.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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Male House Sparrow in breeding colors -- Wikimedia photo

          Three weeks ago, if I covered my left eye, my vision became quite blurry. Today the blur is gone and I can see better with just the right eye than I could with both eyes before – which means the Lasik and cataract removal procedures on my right eye were a success.

          Monday, I get the same procedures done on the left eye and my vision hopefully will be even better. We live in a wonderful age, especially for avid readers and enthusiastic birdwatchers like me.

          Six months ago, I had to enlarge my computer point from 12 point to 16 point to be able to see it comfortably. And reading small print was beyond me. As for identifying birds, that has been getting more difficult for the past few years.

          I could easily tell a sparrow from a dove, both of which are plentiful around my apartment complex, but I couldn’t tell what species of sparrow I was seeing.

          There are over 35 different species of sparrows in North America, but all the tiny markings that distinguish one species from another weren’t visible to my eyes. All I was seeing was one grayish mass.

          That has now changed, I realized, when a few days ago I clearly saw all the details that make a common house sparrow beautiful. Because it’s so common, I think people don’t give it the credit it deserves. Perhaps that is also why, truly seeing it for the first time again, is why I was so thrilled to be able to identify it by its markings. .

          Since then, I’ve also seen the yellow marking on the verdins that eat at my hummingbird feeder, and clearly seen, through my binoculars, the yellow eyes of the great horned owls that call my apartment complex home.

          I’ve been updated. Yea!

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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Missing a Beat

Annie was right. The sun came up tomorrow. — Photo by Pat Bean

          Ten days ago, I was prepped and ready to be rolled into the operating room for surgery to remove the cataracts in my right eye when everything came to a screeching halt.

          Seems the wires I was hooked up to had given the surgery team the idea that I might be having a heart attack. They were all set to call an ambulance and bundle me off to the emergency room. I insisted I felt fine, and they reluctantly released me into the care of my friend Jean to take me home.

        I was pissed. I cussed. I cried. My friend stopped and bought me a special white chocolate raspberry cupcake. It helped a little.             

I got in to see my primary care doctor’s nurse practioner the very next day. A second EKG – a test that tracks the beats and electrical impulses of your heart – was also abnormal and she made an immediate referral to a cardiologist.

Between the time I left the doctor’s office on Tuesday of last week and yesterday, when I saw the cardiologist (a delightful man whom I called Dr. B because I couldn’t pronounce his name), I was a bundle of nerves. I fumed and I cried. But I continued to feel fine.

That’s because, while my third EKG in a little over a week also came back abnormal, the cardiologist said it was a benign normal-abnormal and that I had a great heart. It had no blocked arteries and a good beat. The problem was just that one electrical impulse had gone rogue, so to speak.

People who know me sort of said, Duh!

Dr. B wrote a letter to my eye doctor saying I was good to go for my cataract removal – and I go in tomorrow to get the right eye done.

Wish me luck.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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An insignificant watercolor that also marks the passage of my days. — Art by Pat Bean

I just completed the last page of my current journal, whose first page was written Nov. 9, 2020.  Before I put the book away, I perused back through it.

On the very first page, I had written the definition of the word pedantry, which means an excessive concern with minor details. A good word for a journal keeper, I wrote.

Here are a few other insignificant details and thoughts I wrote to mark the passage of the days.  

The estimated number of insects in the world is 10 billion billion, according to David Attenborough’s book Life on Earth. He also wrote that an ancient split in the ancestry of fish means humans are more closely related to a cod than a cod is to a shark. Hmmm?  

A coxcomb is a jester’s cap.

In this day and age, doubt is the only way to read social media. Duh.

Socrates lived from 470 to 399 B.C. and yet already understood that we are all in this chaotic mess together.

You can use your knuckles as a memory aid to remember what months have 31 days. You learn something new every day.

It is a shame everyone else is an idiot.

More than two dozen cars got towed because their owners ignored, or didn’t get, the memo that our apartment parking lot was being repaved.

Today, December 21, is supposed to be the shortest day of the year. But I see that the sun came up and went down at the exact time as yesterday.

The first Amazon Kindle came on the market in 2007, and sold for $399. I love my Kindle.

          My good Tucson friend, Jean, was exposed to Covid. She’s a teacher. (P.S. Two weeks of isolation from her, but she didn’t come down with it, and now we both have gotten the vaccine)

Get over it. Just do it.

“Let me live, love and say it in good sentences,” – Sylvia Plath.

And with that said, I think I will now go start a new journal.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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An Alexander Kind of Day

It may look like a dark day, but the sun is out there somewhere. — Photo by Pat Bean

I cried as a kid because other kids made fun of me, because I didn’t have a boyfriend, because I foolishly married the first one, because my kids were sick or had been hurt, because after the divorce I couldn’t find my true soul mate, at Lassie movies, because my teenagers had minds of their own, because I made a mistake at work and got yelled at.

I really could go on and on.

But then my kids grew up, I had great friends, and I realized I was my own soul mate and a dog was much easier to live with than a man, even if I liked or even loved him.

I came to appreciate not having to listen to music or TV programs I didn’t like, of being able to get up on a weekend morning and go exploring only where I wanted to go, to eat cold fried chicken or listen to audible in bed at 2 a.m. without earplugs, to not have to cook if I weren’t hungry, to not having to share a bathroom, and simply to enjoy having some solitude.

Suddenly there were no more tears, well except at sad movies — but those tears dry out before the movie’s credits end.

While I don’t miss the reasons for my other tears, I realized this week that I do miss the feeling of release that flows through the body after a crying jag ends.

That’s because I experienced one. Like Alexander, I had A Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And I cried about it.

But, as Annie predicted, the sun came up the next day.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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These days, I have time to not just smell the flowers but to paint them. Life is good.

What the heck! Who have I become?

I asked myself that question this morning as I carefully zipped closed Scamp’s package of peanut butter doggie treats after our morning walk.

          The bag hadn’t fully closed the first time I zipped it shut, and I was taking the time to redo it, and then checked a third time to make sure it was truly closed.

          This time-consuming action made me think of the person who was always in too much of a hurry to even close cabinet doors, a habit that annoyed orderly people.

          Following this memory, I remembered myself merrily tripping up and down stairs as if they were flat ground. Hand holds – well except when I was climbing to the top of Zion’s Angels Landing – were mere architectural doodads.

Today I hold onto stair railings for dear life and look for other handholds anytime I have to maneuver uneven ground or floors. What happened to that person who ran instead of walked from place to place, I ask myself?

That impatience gene that once ruled my body, driving me to constantly sprint to get somewhere, to jump from one task to another, to always come in first, has clearly taken a vacation to Timbuktu — and decided to stay.

I guess it’s what happens to you when you’ve lived on this planet for 82 years. The funny thing is that life is still rich and exciting. I’m more observant when I get out in nature, sometimes seeing more on a short walk than I did on a 10-mile hike.

I take time to satisfy my curiosity. My home stays neater. I explore the world through travel books. I bird from my balcony window. I piddle around with watercolors. Sometimes I just sit and connect the dots of my life. My writing is richer because of my experiences and I get to write what I want to write. And I feel closer to friends and family than I ever did during my younger years.

That person who never had time to make sure packages or cabinet doors were closed is gone. I miss her. But I love her replacement.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Scamp: What do you mean that I snore?

          There is something warm and comforting about having a warm body lying next to you that makes sleep come easy and feel safer. But it’s been some time since I’ve had a regular human bed companion – which is probably why my dogs are allowed on the bed.

          I’ve been a single, happy, free spirit now for over 30 years, so given that dogs’ lives are shorter than humans, I’ve slept with four dogs. The first after my divorce was Peaches. She was a golden Cocker Spaniel and five years old when I got her. We bonded on sight. She was my protector and enthusiastic hiking companion – and would have given her life for me.

She would always go to sleep at the foot of my bed, but would creep slowly up toward its head. I would awake with her nose just inches from my face, her eyes telling me she needed to go outside. .

 Maggie, a black Cocker Spaniel with a mischievous bent, came to me after a year of being abused. At first. she was afraid of almost everything. It was a full year before she felt safe. But then, she decided she was queen of the castle and it was my duty to give my live for hers.

 I loved her very much, and she and I spent the last eight years of her life traveling the country together in a small RV.*

She, however, was the least satisfactory of my bed companions. She would always curl up next to me when I went to bed, but if I were restless during the night, and I usually was, she would huff that she was going to go sleep on the couch. And so she would.  

Pepper came next, a black Scottie-mix, whom I got when she was only four-months old. I hadn’t wanted a puppy because of all the work I knew puppies required. I thought about that when I saw her barking and running around in an animal shelter yard. Nope, not for me.

She had other ideas.

I was sitting on a bench when she saw me. She ran over, jumped up on my lap, locked my blue eyes with her shining chocolate ones, and emphatically communicated that she was going home with me. And so she did, but she also zapped my fears about puppies right out the window.

Pepper already knew her potty was outdoors, and understood the meaning of the word “No!”  Unlike Maggie, she loved pleasing me and was the perfect sleeping companion. She would curl up next to me, forming her body to my shape, reforming it again and again, without complaint, each time I changed positions.

Her only fault was that she fooled me into thinking I could adopt an eight-month-old, 18-pound Schnauzer-mix – or so the shelter personnel, who also erroneously listed him as female, said.

I don’t know if he had a gender change or what, but he was clearly an unneutered male, and as rambunctious as a teenage boy when I brought him home.

I named him Scamp, which fits him perfectly. I had him neutered and house trained – never once did he hit a puppy pad that I had carpeted my floor with – within a hard month. But he’s still a big adventurous wild one. His saving grace is that he is friendly and loveable.

When he kept growing, my daughter had his DNA tested and it turned out that he is 50 percent Siberian Husky and 37 percent Shih Tzu with not a single gene of Schnauzer.  He is now almost three years old, and weighs 40 pounds. He’s also a cuddler and thinks he is a lap dog.

Scamp sleeps beside me on top of the covers at night, a warm presence that comforts my body. The first glimmer of dawn — be it 5 a.m. in the summer or 7 a.m. in the winter here in Tucson — is his alarm clock.

If I’m not stirring when the light creeps into the room, he begins a low moaning. Then begins a routine of kisses and hugs and scratches before he finally convinces me to get out of bed and take him for his morning walk.

Thankfully I’m a morning person. And thankfully I don’t have to sleep alone.

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Bluebirds

Western Bluebird — Wikimedia photo

 If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the popular World War II song, There’ll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.

       If you’re an ornithologist, that phrase might make you chaff. England has no bluebirds. But if you’re just an enthusiastic birder, like me, it might bring a smile to your face.

That’s what it did when I read this piece of trivia. It’s amazing the things you learn if you’re an eclectic reader. As a birder, I do know that America does have bluebirds, three species. The Mountain Bluebird, which is bright blue and resembles images of the Blue Bird of Happiness, and Western and Eastern Bluebirds, which also have a bit of white and rusty-red hues in their feathers.

          But in defense of idea about Bluebirds flying over England’s White Cliff’s of Dover, some say the bluebird in the song refers to English war planes flying over the cliffs, others that it refers to swallows and martins, which do fly over the cliffs, and which have a blue sheen.

          Anyway, in case you remember the song, which was written in 1941 by Walter Kemp with lyrics by Nat Burton, and made popular by Vera Lynn’s 1942 recording, the lyrics go like this:

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
I’ll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry sky’s
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I’m far away I still can hear them say
Sun’s up
For when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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My Mom

My mother on a camping trip to Zion National Park. She spent most of her time at a nearby motel but was always ready to sit around a campfire with her beer in the evenings. Afterward someone would drive her back to her warm room. This trip, by the way, became known as the camping trip from hell because we got rained on, snowed on,, our tents blew down, and half the park was closed because of a land slide. We all remember it fondly. — Photo by Pat Bean

 I was at the bedside of both my mother and father when they died. My father simply turned over and went to sleep, as if he couldn’t be bothered with dying any more than he was bothered with providing for his family during life.

He was a gentle man without any meanness, but his drinking and own affairs were always more important to him than being home for dinner or seeing that his growing children were adequately clothed. As a child, however, I adored my father and hated my mother. He never hit me and he spoke softly. I forgave him, even forgot the many times he failed to show up for me when promised, or the times I went to school with cardboard in my shoe to cover up a hole.

But I didn’t forget a single wrong my mom ever committed, not even if that failing was only in the mind of a stubborn, difficult child who defiantly wanted her own way. It was my mother’s screaming that woke me in the early morning hours when my father finally did straggle home. I would try to shut out the sound but my mother’s voice had a shrillness to it that penetrated deep beneath any pillow. 

My mother’s anger never seemed to cool. I still remember the time she threw a beer bottle at my dad and knocked him unconscious. I thought he was dead. The incident became part of our family’s history and everyone, including my dad, laughed when it was retold. Everyone that is but me.

I rarely saw my father. He was gone in the morning by the time I awoke. As long as I could remember he worked for the same auto body and paint shop in Dallas, but most or all of his weekly paycheck was long drunk up or gambled away by the time he made it home. Those payday Friday nights, usually early Saturday mornings, were the times my mother was at her worse.

By the time my father died, I had married, moved out state, and had children of my own. I was only 16 when I got married. My mother signed the papers for the marriage because I was a minor. Her consent left me thinking she was glad she no longer had the responsibility of an ungrateful, difficult child. I swore I would never be like her, and had high expectations I would now get the love I so craved. It was an illusion I stubbornly maintained for years and when the call came about my father’s stroke, I could no longer deny my marriage was in crisis.

I drove alone to see my father one last time, planning to use the solo drive as a time to sort out my life. Instead, I began to see my father in his true light and to get a glimmer of the demons that had so long plagued my mother. 

When I arrived in Dallas, my father was lucid, even joking although he was blue from lack of oxygen. He could hardly talk and coughed a lot. He mimed for a cigarette and I told him the doctor said he shouldn’t smoke. “To hell with the doctor,” he scribbled on a bedside pad. So, I held a cigarette to his mouth and he took a few puffs before motioning it away.

Two hours later he was dead. 

It was a very small funeral. Dad had come from a large family of 11 children but he had estranged himself from them. Even if we had located them, they might not have come. I sat through the funeral dry-eyed, remembering all the times this man had never been there for me.

There was no question that I loved my dad, but it was simply because he was my dad. Try as I would, I could not recall a single time he had ever walked across the street for me. My own children, who had stayed with him and my mom for two weeks once, had more of his attention than I did in 16 years. By then, however, he was sick and his gallivanting days over, and his boss had also started giving his paycheck to my mother.

My mother stayed with my dad to the very end, but I finally chose to end my own marriage. While I still had younger children to provide for, I walked away with nothing, preferring to start fresh with no ties to the past. I quickly found myself thinking of my mother in better and better light. It was she, I realized, who had held our family together, and she who had worked long hours to see that we children never went to bed hungry. She did it all under the most difficult of circumstances.

When I found myself a single parent, I had skills to fall back on as I had worked during my marriage. My dad wouldn’t let my mother work outside the home. Why she gave in to this pronouncement until after we kids were grown, I do not know. It was just one of her few concessions to the standards of society at the time. When she finally did go to work as a desk clerk for a laundry, my father joked that her job cost him more in taxes than she made.

 Not true of course, but it was a way for him to salve his macho image. Besides, for the first-time mother had a decent car and my parents were able to buy a home. Mother could squeeze a penny, when she had one, to the moon and back.

My early image of my mother was that of a small woman who smoked constantly, wore socks with high heels and had bad teeth. That appearance was shockingly different from a picture I found of her before she married my dad in 1938 when she was 23. She had been a secretary and in that photo was dressed to perfection with a neat cap of waved hair.

 I never knew that woman, and to my discredit I was ashamed of the woman she had become. I often hid notes that invited parents to school events. I know I hurt her feelings more than once, especially the time I told her I wanted to go live with her sister who wanted to adopt me because she couldn’t have children of her own.

When my grandfather died, my father moved us into my grandmother’s home over my mother’s protests. I was about 3 at the time and still an only child. My grandmother adored me but she and my mother, both strong-minded women, were often at odds. My mother put in long hours in a garden, then just as many hours in the kitchen canning its output. We lived on that bounty, along with the chickens and rabbits and pigs my grandmother raised. The work of taking care of them was just another chore loaded onto my mother. My father, of course, was never around. 

When my grandmother broke her hip, the job of taking care of her fell solely on my mother.

While we lived with my grandmother, my mother gave birth to two sons less than a year apart. Taking care of them with all of her other chores often left me to fend for myself. While I thrived on the freedom of being out from under my mother’s eye, I did a pretty poor job of dressing myself for school and my unkempt appearance prompted my schoolmates to accuse me of having cooties. Added to that was the fact I was a know-it-all brat. They called me Cootie Brain. It was a hurtful title that often made me cry. When I was much older and reading Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird,” in which she talks about having to be very careful during your early school days or you’ll find yourself being that kid standing alone by the fence, I realized I had been that kid. And that kid blamed it all on her mother.

The one thing my mother really enjoyed was crocheting. I don’t think I ever saw her sitting down without a crochet needle in her hands. She made potholders and afghans and laced and ruffled dollies, which she starched and ironed so they stood up like a picket fence To this day, I’ve never seen stitches so perfectly the same size as her tiny hands made.

It was my job, one of the few I had growing up, to take these handmade items around the neighborhood and sell them. I hated doing it but could never talk my way out of it, and so another stab of hate for my mother went into my personal pin cushion. I now understand that the small pittance she got for her crocheting usually went on food or clothes for us kids. After we had to move out of my grandmother’s home after she died, her crocheting, and my selling skills became even more important. We now had to pay rent and we had no garden, yet my father’s way of life did not change.

It was during this time that my mother had a miscarriage. The baby had been an accident but she was so hurt and sorry she had lost it that she immediately got pregnant again. I was 12 when my youngest brother, Richard, was born. He gave my mother more heartache than any of us other three children who amazingly were always straight A students and became self-sufficient at young ages.

Richard barely made it through school and afterwards would disappear for months. When he finally did show up, always down and out, Mother would always let him move back home, right up to the end when he died of AIDS. He had been a gay man during a time when the only way to survive was in a closet. Looking back, I now believe that he was the best of us siblings. I never heard him say a single bad word about anyone.

I, however, saw little of either my mother or brother because I lived out of state. And when I did see my mother, once or twice a year, I was perfectly polite to her and hid my true feelings behind a false front, because I at least had the decency to be ashamed of them.

But at some point, I realized my own children adored my mother. I had never told them about my own childhood or what I considered my unnatural hatred of my mother. This left them free to see her with a clean slate. They came to love her because she cooked special dishes for them when we visited, because she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, because she didn’t talk down to them and because she asked nothing from them. My mother never asked anything of anybody. She was a fiercely proud woman who kept her own counsel.

I was nearly 40 before all the hatred in my heart for my mother melted into love. I realized that all the time I had spent determined to be as opposite of my mother as possible had been in vain. I had vowed that my children would never suffer the same hurts, or feel as unloved as I had been. Instead, they suffered different kinds of hurts and pains, some of them because I hadn’t been strong like my mother.

Toward the end of her life, my mother lived 1,500 miles away because my work had taken me to Utah. At my insistence she began coming to visit for a month in summer and a month at Christmas. During those times I tried to make up for all the hurts I had inflicted on her in my younger days. She loved Jackson Hole and the Tetons in Wyoming, and since they were only a few hours away from my home, we went there every summer. My mother, being who she always was, sometimes even threatened not to come unless I promised to take her.

When she visited, I made sure she had a beer at 10 a.m. and one at 4 p.m., which was her daily limit as well as her established habit. My mother was still no angel and could get cranky as hell if she missed her beer, or heard a barking dog, or a mailman interrupted her nap, or her favorite baseball team, The Texans, lost a game. I think her day wasn’t complete if something hadn’t annoyed her. It meant she had something to tell me the second I walked in the door from work.

My friends, like my kids, came to adore her. She was a 99-pound package of uniqueness that defied conformity. There even came a day when I realized her frequent rants and raves amused more than irritated me. 

The last Christmas she came for a visit my youngest son, Mike, escorted her on the plane because of her frailty. Even so, she wouldn’t agree to be transported to the airplane’s door by wheelchair. It hurt her pride to even have to use a cane. I instinctively knew this visit would be her last and became determined not to let her return to her home in an Illinois assisted living facility. Before she arrived, I fixed up my guest bedroom to meet her needs and did all in my power to convince her to stay. One day she agreed. I breathed easier.

The next three months we settled into a routine. Before I left for work, I would fix her coffee and try to get her to eat something and urge her not to forget lunch, which often she did. On returning home, she would greet me with some complaint and in the same breath ask if I was up to a game or two. Usually it was Yahtzee, Rummy or Scrabble. Although my mother’s body was giving out, her mind stayed sharp to the end. On weekends I would usually take her for a drive but the last month of her life even that was too much for her.

Then came the day I returned home from work and found her lying on the living room floor. She had fallen and couldn’t get up. With my help, she limped into bed. I fixed her some dinner and brought it to her but she said she wasn’t hungry. She had bumped her head when she fell and I asked her if perhaps we shouldn’t take her to the emergency room and have it checked out. Looking me straight in the eye, and using her shrill voice as loudly as she could still manage, she said: “No doctors! No hospital!” 

I agreed and sat with her until she fell asleep. I stayed up late worrying about what I was going to do. I knew she shouldn’t be left alone any more but I still had to go to work. When I went in to check on her in the middle of the night, I discovered her again lying on the floor. She had tried to get up to go to the bathroom. She was now a dead weight in my arms and could barely talk. I spent the remainder of the night sitting in a chair and wondering what to do. It was the loneliest time of my entire life.

When morning came, I phoned a visiting nurse agency and then called my oldest son’s wife, whom I knew would have the word spread as fast as an eye blink. When the nurse came, she explained my options: Take my mother to the hospital, keep her home but put her on intravenous feeding, or simply do nothing. I chose the latter, knowing that my mother would haunt me to the end of my days if I did either of the other two. She had been a sickly child and all her life she had hated needles.

Mike, my son who had escorted my mother to Utah, was at my house by noon. He heard the last words his grandmother spoke. She looked at this favored grandchild who had always understood her and said; “It’s time.” Shortly after, she went into a coma from which she never woke.

 My brother, Robert, arrived that evening and my oldest daughter, Deborah, the next day. She and I daily bathed my mother and often tried to coax a little water down her throat. Toward the end, the visiting nurse said not to offer the water unless she asked for it. It was becoming clear that my mother’s body, if not its will to live, had already died.

  My friends, her friends, popped in and out for the next eight days. We played the card games which mother had always loved and we laughed and talked about the woman whose every struggled breath echoed throughout the house. Her son, grandson and granddaughter took turns sitting up with her at night, until the last one. That night I sat with her, often finding myself matching my breath with the labored one of my mother’s. The stubborn determination of her frail body to keep breathing was a final testament to the strength that had propelled her through a difficult, hard life. As I sat by her side, I realized every strength within me came from this small woman.

Mother lingered through the night but we all knew the time was close. A game of cards was in progress in the dining room when something compelled me to get up and go to her side. As I stood there, her bony hand in mine, the room suddenly became quiet.

I have missed her every day of my life since.

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Soap Box Rant: Bullies

One way to keep America Great would be export all the bullies. — Bald Eagle art by Pat Bean

          Reading the news this morning sent me off on one of my rants, and I decided it was time to vent.

When did calling people hateful names for something they said instead of intelligently debating their words become a daily part of American culture?

          This behavior sickens me. And the only way I could escape it these days would be to read no newspapers, unplug my radio and television and lock myself in my apartment and shut all my window shutters.

That’s not a life I want to live, especially after being somewhat isolated for over a year.

          Instead of mouthing nothing but derogatory rants about political opponents, tell me what your plans for America are. If you don’t like the proposals of the opposite side, give me a different solution. Why are your ideas better than your opponents?

          Heaven forbid – OK I’m being sarcastic — that a bit of one and a bit of the other might even be a better solution.

          It sounds to me that those who savage people instead of their words don’t have any solutions or plans, and they think if they shout the insults loudly enough it will scare off any contenders who oppose them.

          It also seems to me that all these revengeful attacks against people with different ideas is no different than schoolyard bullying of the kid who is different, only on an adult level.

What kind of example is being set for our young people? I ask as a great-grandmother of seven who wants them to be raised in a kind world – without bullies.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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