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Dallas Ice Storms…

Dallas Ice Storms…

Alright. This is the last thing I wanted to see on our last leg of a 14 hour-long journey. Granted, we we’re traveling over Thanksgiving weekend from Denver to Dallas, so we ran a bit of a risk, but Google maps simply said there was a “30 % chance of weather” in the Oklahoma/Texas border area. Did we know what Google meant when it showed a yellow blob representing “Weather”?

No, we did not. A’tall.

Well now. We went from cold (and I mean COLD) breezy weather in Denver, to windy and freezing gusts in Hays, Kansas. Holding steady to Salina, Kansas. That was our half way point, and I thought we had it down pretty well. A lot of stops for gas, snacks, and Subway sandwiches (The smell of Grandpa’s extra onions still makes me shudder) got us to Oklahoma City.

Then it got real. I mean really bizarre. Because, look… I have only ever heard of ice storms, and my thinking was, “Boo Hoo. What’s the big deal? I live in Denver, and we Coloradans get snow and blizzard conditions a lot. We get icy roads, and we deal with it just fine! These Southerners are lightweights!”

Those were my thoughts and my attitude as we drove into North Oklahoma City. We weren’t expecting to drive into anything specific, you remember, but ice storm was way down on my list of worries.

Until, we stopped at a rest stop. The first thing I noticed was car after car pulling in from the direction we were going. They looked like they were wrapped in cellophane, from a distance.  As they came closer, I saw strange little ice daggers slanting off the mirrors, the door handles, the radio antenna, and even the tire wells.  All were slick and shiny-looking.

This did not look good.

I got out of my car and walked over to where a man was cracking open his truck. The ice crackled and fell off from only around the door. The rest just stayed put.  I just had to know. I mean, part of me knew that if there was an overwhelming amount of ice on a car, then logically an ice storm had to have put it there, right?  But my head wasn’t having any of it. So I just asked him what direction he had come from.

The man looked a bit frazzled as he ran his hand through his hair. “Dallas”, he replied. Then he must have seen the nervous look on my face and he opened his mouth to speak. At this point I thought the guy was going to soothe me by saying something like, “Its not that bad. We have them all the time down here…”

Nope.

The man looked me right in the eye and said, I kid you not, “Don’t go there. I don’t know how we got through it. People are sliding off left and right. Seriously.” and that was it. He turned around and fussed with his vehicle some, and I was left to walk back to my SUV.

We went anyway.

We went through Central Oklahoma City just fine.

I was now certifiably scared, but it still didn’t occur to me what ice storm meant until we started seeing ice on the road signs. And on trees. And on fences. The only thing we didn’t see it on was the road, and the reason is because it looked like wet roads. Like after a rain storm.

I took all this in as we slowed to a snail’s pace, thanks to the cars ahead of us. The crazy ones that chose to keep going, I mean. The blessing, and I mean  BIG blessing is that we had just missed the real storm part. The freezing rain part. We were in the after math, and that was bad enough.

And this was just South Oklahoma City.

Cars had slid off the road in every which way direction. Some just slightly off the road, and some, all the way down this hill or that. Tree limbs, heavy with ice, had broken and fallen on cars, houses, and buildings. There was no traffic, by the way. Just the few of us cars going south through the city.

And how were we staying on the road? No clue. We were traveling maybe, possibly, 5 miles an hour, and we were still sliding around. This was not a highway with slick spots. It was an ice rink. There was no respite from the skating. Thank goodness we were on a level straightaway. Not all the cars by us stayed on the straightaway. I saw one move to an off ramp. It didn’t look good, as it was on a downhill slope.

Well, we crawled out of the city and eventually we moved past the ice and into the thaw. The slush and snow had never been so welcome.  As we accelerated, I realized one thing. There was no sand or chemical salt anywhere on the roads we had just passed. WHY???

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages had just happened on the road, what with rescue attempts, and accidents. The roads needed to be ready, and how! I am assuming, no I know, that what I had just seen wasn’t a first time for the Texas/Oklahoma border. Where were the ground crews?

We made it to Dallas. I was rattled. We all were. Grandpa had never been so quiet.

I shook off the fright by the time it was time to return to Denver (and after we found absolutely no signs of Google “Weather”). We returned home and had a good story to tell.

But as I am doing research now on the ins and outs of weather crews for the Texas/Oklahoma area, The results are underwhelming. Sand and salt are readied for the season, however many times the crews don’t get the sand or salt out until after the ice storm has hit! And then it is spread slowly, as the slick roads impede any vehicle driving on them.

This seems ludicrous to me, but then so did the enormity of the damage and fright of a good ice storm, before I experienced one. I hope they prepare better and this was a fluke, because it is senseless to be under-prepared and let any city go through that again. Not needed a’tall.

Now that I have experienced the effects of an ice storm (and who am I kidding, I only touched the tip of it), I think about other storms that I have discounted. Sand storm… Locust storm… You know what I’m saying. I think about them and cringe inside. Then I think, Southerners aren’t as thin-skinned as I originally thought. They go through ice storms and hurricanes quite a bit, and they still live and thrive. I shudder again.

Maybe I am the thin-skinned one.

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The Stranger


No intro needed…

 

The Stranger.

 

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An Update…


Dad passed away on October 7th. Just 2 weeks ago now.
In some ways, it feels like years.
In other ways, I am still in the middle of it.

I see the sunshine seeping in my parents kitchen window. It’s about 2:00 PM, and it’s just that right temperature of warm but not too warm.  I still hear dad breathing hard in the other room, from his hospice bed. He is in the very last hours, and 2 of us kids hold his hands at all times. It’s not my turn. (When it is my turn, I look forward to touching his warm skin, and looking at his face, knowing I won’t have very long to do that.) His breathing gets easier for a bit, then stops. We all count, as we have been told that an apnea can come at this time, stopping the breathing for anywhere from 15-45 seconds. …5, …10, …15, and he takes in a deep breath. We all take a breath, too, and continue our scrabble game.

Yeah, scrabble. We were playing a game while my father was dying. We had been looking over and after him for 5 days straight, and as neighbors, friends, and relatives came to say their goodbyes,  or dropping off cards and food and hugs, well at some point we just realized that it was ok to do something other than watch the man die. It didn’t mean we loved him any less. In fact, it was probably a relief for him to hear some laughter and gossip coming from the next room, like in old times. (You should probably know that dad got 5 daughters, and would lament, only half jokingly, that he had somehow upset The Lord for Him to punish dad with so many chattering, laughing, bickering daughters…)

So we went on with our game. QAT was my word, and I got it hooked to a double word score. Woot! And I did woot, right out loud.  We all looked at each other quickly, and then at dad in the other room. And our voices raised even more. It was almost a relief to remember that we were allowed to be living, while he was dying. It was odd, but during this vigil, we still ate meals, and hugged each other, and talked normally.

At first this all felt like a betrayal. How dare I sleep when I should be watching over this dying man! Right? And I could not imagine leaving his hospital bed, whether to go to the bathroom or for food, a walk outside, or to play a game of scrabble. Why should I go do these things when he could not?  I don’t know what I expected. I guess for us to be hush hush around him so he could labor in quiet…. I guess that was it.

Well, life is not tidy.

What happened instead was 8 siblings descending upon the Thornton home, from across all sorts of states, all in various stages of grieving. The one thing that didn’t happen was quiet. I was stupefied. The house of grieving flipped like a switch. We had a room of crying and whispering. A room of food prep and eating. Then we had a room of catching up and visiting. And, because we are Thorntons, that room turned into a room of laughter and loudness. In all rooms, reverence was gone.

It was the best thing that happened, in my opinion.  Where I had been moping and obsessing before, being exhausted beyond belief, there was now a life and energy renewed.  Instead of literally watching a man die to death, we provided a father and husband with family living and celebrating his life all around him.

We played board games in the kitchen, just a few feet from where his hospice bed was set up.  We played the piano where he could hear his favorite songs. We put Pandora on the iPad and let him listen to the “Tabernacle Choir” channel because he loved the music so much. And it worked

Whatever IT was.

IT spread through the house gradually. Through each room of sadness, IT seeped in and smiled the sadness away. Oh.  The IT was… Peace.

Peace spread through the house and household. It made it ok for us to laugh or cry. It made it ok for us to sleep in, or stay up all nigh with our sweet dad. Peace made it ok for dad to rally at the end, for us.  He came out of the labored sleep he was in, and acknowledged those who were there in the house. He said he loved hearing the music. He touched our faces and let the little ones give him kisses or high fives. He loved our laughter and talking which, he said, just sounded like LOVE.

And that was when I let go of the process looking a certain way.  I was not in charge, and neither was anyone else. Dad’s death was between him and The Lord. My only responsibility was to be part of the peace and love that was family.  And so I did.

He passed away peacefully, between one breath and another, with family around him.

 

Goodbye…


Sunbeams

I’m not ready to say goodbye yet, but here it is. It is time to say goodbye. The gift you have given to me is that it was gradual. I get to say thank you, along with the goodbye. Thank you for teaching me tennis. Thank you for giving me lecture 47, about everything from cleaning my room to having a fight with mom, and then turning it into a life lesson. Thank you for getting down on your knees to wrestle with me, and play horsey with me, and pray with me. Thank you for playing the only song on the piano that you know, and doing it well. At least the first part. Thank you for dinners together, and basketball games on saturday mornings. Thank you for teaching me the old man shuffle when running was too fast for me, at age 9. Thank you most for loving me, believing in me, and never giving up on me.

Thank you for instilling in me a desire to be more than just me. To be part of something bigger.. Greater. Thank you for teaching me to expect and give respect. Thank you for never raising your voice or your hand to me. Thank you for showing me how I should be treated as a wife and mother. And thank you for showing me what a father should be like.

I get to say my thank you’s along with my goodbye’s, but also my I love you’s. So here is an I love you…

I love that you didn’t like Ketchup, only Catsup. I love that you would sit with me out on the porch and watch the birds, and the neighbors, and the cars roar by. I love that you let me watch you milk the cows all those early mornings, and even tried to teach me how to milk one. I never got the hang of it, but you didn’t lose your patience. Not once.  I love that you made up the game, Balloon Volley Ball for our Family Home Evening game times. I love that it turned into a neighborhood favorite. I love that you built the addition on to our home big enough that Balloon Volleyball fit so well in our family room. I love that you aged so well. You look great with a bald head. Like Jean Luke Picard.  I love that you loved mom so well and so deeply. And I love that you loved us 8 kids so completely.  We were your life.

All these Thank You’s and I Love You’s I get to say to you silently as I patted your cheek one last time. As I held your warm hand. As I kissed you on your forehead. Almost a goodbye. But not yet. And I am grateful, Your last breath is your first step into your next life, and I envy you your journey. But still. Still, I am not ready to say goodbye.

Not yet. So I just hold your hand while the hospice nurse is called. I look at your peaceful face when mom needs to be close to you. And still I can’t say goodbye. When the mortuary tenderly and respectfully brings your body to the facility to be readied for the funeral, I know you are gone, but can’t say goodbye. The viewing is hard, because your sweet presence is gone from the body that is in the casket.  I know that.

It isn’t until now, when the man in the suit is ready to close the lid of the casket, and asks that any of us that want to come by your body to say the last goodbye, that I realize that this is it. This is the moment that, whether or not I am ready, I have to…need to…say goodbye.

And so I say goodbye silently.

Goodbye to the past heartaches and pain. Goodbye to Cancer. Goodbye to awful pills and hospital beds and walkers with tennis balls on them. Goodbye to all that. And Thank You for all of who you are and have been. And I love you for being strong through this last part.

OK.

Goodbye for now.

 

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A New Day, A New Outlook…


Well. It is a new day, and after an emotional wreck of a day yesterday, and a lot of sleep, I have a new perspective. My dad is still on his journey with Cancer. I am still sad. And time is still ticking away too rapidly. I do see something new, though.

Nobody knows what will happen after death. Movies have been written about it. (Somewhere In Time, Heaven Can Wait, etc…) Books, articles, and stories are all about what CAN happen after death. Then there is the

Stairway to Heaven...

religion aspect of it. The faith that plays into BELIEVING what will happen after death. There are even people who have had a near-death experience. And they related their experience as well. But no one knows except the dead.

What comfort does that leave for us? None, unless we choose to buy in to a method of coping. I choose into the method of faith. Religion. Heaven, to be exact. I believe that I will see my dad on the other side. Which I guess means that death isn’t the end. Just a new beginning. I just have to wait a bit to see him. Which is what the sadness is about. I  will miss him. It isn’t that I don’t think I will ever see him again, it is just that I will miss that he isn’t there, in the flesh, in my house that I grew up in. It is a new phase. And I’m scared.

Life without dad. Not exactly true because I have the same memories that I have now. I live 8 hours away from him now, so I rely on memories anyway. My kids rely on memories. There is just something so comforting about the THOUGHT that he is in the house when I want to go see him. It’s my choice.  And now that choice will be taken away. Harrumph.

Well, I don’t have much to say except I feel better today. As I’m writing, my head is clearing, and I am learning a new perspective.

I talked with him again today, and I made another memory. Sure it is a sadder one, as he couldn’t really remember what we were talking about, and he mumbled a lot. But I got to make it , nonetheless. What really matters is that he is pain-free now, and comfortable. This is not something I am in charge of, and frankly, it isn’t about me at all. This is his path. His circumstances. I’m just along for the ride when I can. When I can get out there. When he talks with me on the phone or in person. That is when my path coincides with his. And I am honored to take whatever part in it that I can. Right now it is just a painful part, that’s all. I will cry when I need to, and love the memories I have, and the memories I make.

I’ll take it one day at a time, and that is enough.

 

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Life Is Not Tidy…


What I don’t want to hear, or feel, is that life is not tidy.  It is painful now. And not witty, or funny, or even positive. I really believe that life feeds us lessons, in joy or pain, that are good. I am simply not at the point now where I can see the lesson.

My dad is dying. Really. He has cancer, and he is dying.

I am past the panic stage. I am in the acceptance stage. All the way until I talk with him.  He took a bad turn this week, and I talked with him today. I could hear the pain in his voice, and the grogginess as the pain medicine battles to take that pain from him. Oh how it hurt to hear!

This man is a good man.  A strong man. And today… well today, I am sad. His pain is undeserved and I am sad. No.  I am ANGRY! I am not a “Why does this have to happen” kind of girl, but this is a close reason to go down that road.  “Bad things happen to good people”… Blah Blah Blah.  I hate this. I am not ready to be rational, or see how this affects me, or the family, or him, for the good.

Yes, this brings me closer to my dad. I mean, I talk with him more now than I ever did before. Yes, it brings me closer to the family, and we have communication and compassion and caring in an open way.  Yes, it lets me have faith that there is something more in the universe. I firmly believe that I will see him again in another place and time.  I just do.   And yes, this gives me the opportunity to be gentle and kind with him. And genuine. Lets not forget genuine. There just doesn’t seem to be time to be sarcastic and witty anymore.

So there. There is the good news.  Now lets just put that aside, because I have tears streaming down my face, and gulping great gobs of air. I just don’t care about all the good stuff. My dad is dying, and I can’t fix it, I can’t stop it, and I can’t do anything about his pain.

I live 8 hours away from him. Yes, there is family there for him, but not me. Ya know? I have this need to be there and watch over him, and care for him. My heart is just aching to help. Yes, I have been out there twice since we found out that it’s spreading, and the chemo isn’t helping. Yes, I’m going out there in November, but it’s just not quick enough.

I have had people say “he’s strong. He will beat this”, and I want to punch them. Well not actually, but emotionally. No, he can’t. The tumors are inoperable, he’s 73, has had cancer 2 times before, and doesn’t want radiation. STOP BEING SO POSITIVE ABOUT THIS! Our family has worked to get past the bouncy, brave face. How bout comfort instead? How bout holding his hand and just being quiet?

OHHHHH. I hurt. That is all. Later is when I will be hopeful and calm and easier about this. But not today. Today is a day to cry. Today is a day that is ok to feel sad. And so I do.

Life Is Not Tidy. And that sucks.

 

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A Little Sun In Between Storms…


English: Blackbird in Crab Apple Tree. On a dr...

I almost feel new to this place. It has been so long since I have written, there is moss on the north side of my comfy chair.  The birds are warbling hesitantly outside my window as one winter storm passes, and a new one forms over the Rockies.  They sing just a little, on the branches of my crab-apple tree, then cock their heads as if listening for the ominous snowflakes that herald another foot-and-a-half-er.

I listen, too.

Then back to my iPad and on to the thought that has built up in me.  Why haven’t I written, I ask me. Well, says me, I haven’t had time.  I have been so busy. I have…. and the list builds up. The real answer is, however, just because I haven’t. Who cares, really? The writing is for me, and now here I am. The sun comes out, and I think that this time deserves my laptop time so I can really type fast. I realize I have things to say today. And out comes the laptop from its hiding place. I wipe off the dust, and boot it up, knowing I have neglected it, and issue a quick apology for it.

Sorry.

I haven’t written for a while because I have not felt like it, if the truth be known.  I have reminders set on my phone every day that let me know it is time to write for 15 minutes a day. I have ignored them for at least 2 months now. I have felt I don’t have anything to say. Which is silly because there is a lot to say.

Like The Thing. The sad thing. Someone close to me has Cancer. I’ve been in shock for a few days, as this is the first I have heard of the C word, but I have known something was wrong for about 2 months. They live far away, and I feel very far away now. You know how sometimes you can just pick up a phone and chat with someone and it is just like you are right there with them? Well, this is not that time. I feel sad, and I yearn to do …. something… to fix it, and I know I can’t.

I still call them, don’t get me wrong, and the conversation is good. A long, sincere talk. But I simply cannot take his hand and hold it now. I can’t see him smile when he talks about the good part of life. And I cannot see his face when he doesn’t hold it together for my sake. And I don’t think he should have to hold it together because he is on the phone with me.

In fact everything about the distance between us ticks me off. I have to use a phone or Skype to see him, well, it just blows. Mostly because I can’t touch his shoulder or hug him spontaneously. I hate that I get my news through a 3rd party, even well-meaning, because he is too tired to keep me up to date daily. I hate that I cannot just go pick up his mail, or vacuum his floor, or dust, or … any of a million chores that he is having a hard time with now. And my excuse is simply that I am far away.

I know that others do it for him, and that makes me sad, too. Even though I have leaky eyes when I write this, it is a relief to put it out there on the screen. It is a relief to say it out loud.

There is good news, as well, though.  Like…

 

My son Hayden wants to be a marine just as soon as he gets out of high school.  And no matter how I have ignored, patted him on the head, or tried to redirect him away from this decision, he has stayed true on this course. Nothing has made him waver.

So I started supporting him.

My son Hayden is now in Young Marines, and has turned into a recruit to be proud of. In spite of being in Boot Camp, with all the mud-crawling, miles-running, and yessir-ing he does, he holds his head high when he speaks. (His high and tight head, I might add. That is a mighty short hair cut, the military standards have…) Although he comes home from these trainings covered in mud and dirt, sweaty and exhausted, Hayden is happy, coming to the car with a smile on his face. He keeps his word in school and at home. He has a great attitude and is driven by the goals that the Young Marines have sparked in him. And he has bloomed. His teen-age grumpiness seems to have gone the way of the Dodo Bird. He smiles. He laughs. He looks adults in the eye when they talk with him. I am proud of him. So that is something to write about.

(A squirrel moves past my window at eye level.  He looks right into my eyes as he nibbles on a branch. I instinctively to the shoo-ing motion at it, then stop as I see that he doesn’t care one whit. I just turn back to my computer…)

Lastly, I have the Boston Marathon Bombing to write about. I have feelings of heartache right along feelings of pride for both the citizens of Boston and police officers that put themselves in harm’s way to aid those that couldn’t help themselves.  I also am exhausted from staying up late night after night, watching the news and hoping for some resolution. I could have read or heard about it in the next morning’s news episode, but to me, it would feel a bit of a betrayal to go to sleep in my bed, all comfy and stress-free, when so many others could not do so.

Again, I feel far away, with no ability to help.  I hate that feeling.

The feeling of elation that happened last night, when the police were tipped off that the last suspect was hiding out in a boat in someones yard, all wounded and desperate…well, that finally seemed to burst a bubble in me, and I could let things go from there. The police apprehended the boy without me. The anchor man on TV reported it all just fine without me. The citizens in the town cheered and waved and loved the police… all without my help. I was able to turn off the TV, and the iPad, and let it go last night.

So now I finish my thoughts at noon, all snuggled down in my favorite spot for writing, and look out the window at my yard. It gives me mixed signals, based on the mixed signals of the weather. There is snow, drifted in all the corners of my yard, on the patio, and covering all my plants. We just finished a large storm that kept us inside for 30 hours. But today, the sun gives us better news. The grass is green and free of snow. The sun is out, and it is about 50 degrees, reaching its sunny hands into all the places that shadow doesn’t hold. Water is pouring off the roof and down the gutters, and it is a gurgling, happy sound.

I guess I have my mixed signals as well.  While I am saddened about some things that go on around and in my life, I have happiness to go with it, and I am grateful.  While I haven’t written and expressed my feelings and thoughts on here for a while, I have the ability and drive to do so today. Again, I am grateful.  Being back in the saddle is a good feeling. I have no idea how long it will last, but it is a good day. 🙂

 

 

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