Saturday, September 10, 2016

Been a while

There are day's that I still can't believe she's gone. Where I still pick up the phone and try to call her. Day's where I am angry, sad or lonely, confused, sad and a bit depressed. I have let small tears flow, I have curled up and hid from the world. I have talked to my mom, I have remembered the 2nd of every month since her passing. Today was different. My family was all out of town, so I am on my own. I was going through a closet and pulled out a bag I have been avoiding. It was cards from my mom to her grandkids for different milestones in their lives. I was sorting them out by child and in the back I found a birthday card with my name on it. The last words from my  mom.... I bawled like a baby. It was not something that was over the top, nothing that was too extreme... it was just the moment. I just cried.. out loud and long... for the first time, I just cried like a little baby. I really am so happy that she left me something. It was unexpected and caught me off guard.

My world is smaller without her in it of course, but my heart was happy to know we had moved on from some hurt that we had.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A month down ...

One month ago today, my mom spoke her last words to us. They were simple words, private ones that I can't bare to share with everyone, but today a month ago, she made up her mind that she wanted to no longer be in pain, no longer suffer or wait for the next part of her body to fail her and have more medication. She knew that 3 day's later they were coming to put in a pain pump that would make her a zombie, sleeping until her body finally gave out. Unfortunately, her mind and her heart gave up four day's before her body would finally listen, but that day, in her final words to us, I knew that there would be no more laughter coming from her, no more talks or new ideas, no more making it right or remembering things from years ago. She wanted so badly to make things better between her and I that for each morning that I saw her while she was staying here, she would tell me how sorry she was for everything and that she was proud of me, jealous of my relationship with the girls and sorry she was leaving me with so much.

For the next 3 day's, I held her hand, telling her she could go home when she was ready, that I loved her, that we would be okay. I let friends and family talk to her over the phone, even though she really couldn't respond in full words, she did respond that first day. The last 2 day's me, Al, my aunt, and Brad stood 24 hour vidual at her bedside, sleeping on the floor, next to her holding her hand, Al in a chair leaned over her holding her other hand. Tending to her every need that she wasn't able to tell us she needed. We did out best to make her comfortable and hold onto the hope that I was fulfilling the promise I made her to make sure she wasn't in pain in the end. I didn't sleep more than an hour at a time those 4 day's, only letting go of her hand to run to the bathroom and back. I can only assume that I did what she asked of me and eventually, be able to let go of the guilt that I carry in my own private world. It's been so easy for everyone around me to tell me to just let it go, to pick myself up and move on, to just jump back into life.  Day's are getting easier and for the most part, I have begun to heal and find my way back to a "normal" routine with my family. But then day's like today slap me in the face when I realized that she'd been gone almost a whole month, that in 4 day's it would have been a whole month... I was reminded because the cemetery she's in is a Veterans cemetery, and therefore they put flags out today and sent out pictures. Then it suddenly hit me that 4 day's before she passed on from the pain of this world, she spoke her final words to me. It seems so simple, so ridiculous to be heart broken this evening, to have all of those feelings come flooding back.

But, it changes you when you sit in vidual watching a loved one who wanted nothing more than to have the pain end, spend 4 day's in a virtual coma unable to tell us of her needs or her desires.

I can only hope that wherever she is today, she's happy, pain-free and running through grass with bare feet without the need of her braces and special shoes.

The balloon floating away is her cancer color and represents her. She wanted this tattoo and wanted to go with me to get it, but we just ran out of time. I got it a few day's ago. It was bitter-sweet, and I hope she loves it because it was certainly not easy to sit through!


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Phillipp's Eulogy

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for attending this memorial service for our Mom, Shirley Jackson. As everyone here knows, her family consists of Albert, her husband, Dana, myself and Amelia, and also Tate who could not be here today as well as their combined 8 children. I want to thank also her sister Bert and my Aunt Verna and Uncle Randy, brother Tyler and sister Magen for being here to support also.
My mom is leaving behind an innumerable number of family and friends who loved and will continue to love her very much. She was a very likable person and had a way of providing a smile to those who required one when they needed it most.
Shirley Jackson was, as I like to put it, an unofficial gypsy. And I’m sure if they’d have given her an invitation she would have jumped at the chance. Even in my and Dana’s younger years, she was a bit of a free spirit and we regularly moved from one state to another for this reason or that. It is probably why military life came so easy to me. I learned early on to cherish those around me and let go if there was a need to in order to move on and pursue other things. It was in this way that my mom showed my sister and I both flexibility and adaptability. She was able to transition from one place to the next with minimal effort, making new friends and acquaintances at the drop of a hat and yet somehow retaining a few old ones also. I’m not sure that she would consider herself as outgoing, but we all know better. She could enter a room full of strangers and within moments have a conversation going and have to nearly be drug away every time.
She was also an opportunist. Many know her as a jeweler and wire smith, but she had a number of vocations over the years; ranging from a hair and nail stylist perfecting the arts of hair color and French tips to Amway and amateur web page designer. She even owned a nail salon at one point that was once a house where the shop was out front and our family lived in the back. Always feeling a sense of need to provide for her family, I think was as equally important as was being social and interacting with people.
It is at this point that I’d like to take a moment and discuss Shirley’s relationship with her husband Albert. Mom and Al met and married roughly my senior year of high school. Though I was a bit aloof in finding my own way, it was more than evident as the years moved on that these two were perfect for each other. Al, being the quiet methodical one and mom, the outgoing one moved by emotion. They loved each other immensely and it showed.
As for the previously professions mentioned, I feel that they point out just how Shirley Jackson was immensely social. She had a need to not only feel loved and accepted but to extend that same love and acceptance to those around her. I strongly feel that this is the way that she would want to be remembered, as someone who wished the best for those around her and someone who cared for people. Yes, in all of the moving around and uprooting, there were hard and difficult times. Things with my mom weren’t always bright and shiny, but at the end of the day, her biggest desire was to convey love and to be loved equally in turn. In thinking over her legacy and remembering, let us not forget stop once in a while and show love to those around us. She would want this for each and every one of us.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Can it be real?

There is a new "post" if you look at the top left of the page, there is a link that says mom's photo's. That page has lots of information on it. Please feel free to check it out. 

Today has been a tough day. Each day still seems surreal.  Is she really gone? How can that be possible? How can it be that I will never talk to her again, hear her laugh, or crazy ideas or buy another mothers day gift. How can it be true that I and my brother are orphans before either of us are close to 40. I keep wanting to call her with my latest idea on things we should do. 

And I won't even get into all the guilt I carry. Everyone keeps telling me to just "let it go" I have no idea how I am supposed to do that, what it even means or if I am ready.  She's buried in a beautiful place, I am going away for the weekend and will pass by. I thought of going by the cemetery, but I am scared it will only cement things for me and I don't know what to do with that kind of reality yet. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

An Interview with Grammy

This last fall our bigger boys did a series of interviews with most of their older family members. I just happened to remember about it this morning. When they interviewed their Grammy it was late October or early November. It was before we had news that the cancer had returned.
I acted as typist as the boys asked her our predetermined questions. I've tried to relay them as accurately as possible.

1. What is your name and how did you get it?
Shirley Lynn Jackson. Dad was a big fan of Shirley Temple. He chose my name. No nickname.

2. When and where were you born?
August 23, 1961. Napa, CA

3. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
The Rudds, the Neals, the Rileys

4. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
In Williams above Grants Pass, OR it was a1 bedroom shack. There was no bathroom inside (we used an outhouse), no tub, no plumbing. Electricity was only in the kitchen. There were no telephones. Water was from an outdoor pump. Our cooking stove was a wood burning stove that also heated the house. Once a week we had a bath in a galvanized tub. The first one in got the hot water. I was the troublemaker so was always the last one in the tub.

5. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
My Dad and Grandpa strung fishing line on the ceiling above the stove and would hang deer meat and turn it into jerky.

6. What is your earliest childhood memory?
I was about 7 and got my first bicycle. It was so heavy I had to keep trying to lift it so I could have enough strength to ride it.

7. What kind of games did you play growing up?
I spent a lot of time outside in the woods. We played tag. There was a creek nearby and we’d catch crawfish. We’d play Rummy inside around Thanksgiving.

8. What was your favorite toy and why?
A stick I carved into. My Dad would give me a type of knife every birthday so I would spend time whittling and carving into wood.

9. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?
Swimming. I learned to roller skate then I would win contests speed skating at the roller rink. I won 6 out of the 10 I tried for.

10. Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
No. When school was out we’d pick strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. At youngest I started about 12 years old.

11. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?
Grade school was in Grants Pass, Oregon. My best subject was history. My worst was spelling and biology in high school.  High school was in Dallas, Oregon. We lived in an apartment complex across the street. I got picked on quite a bit because of my name but my Mom would curl my hair to look like Shirley Temple. The boys would pick on me and harass me until I learned to beat them up. I didn’t go to college. I went to vocational training school for cosmetology.

12. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
In the 70’s girls weren’t allowed to do a whole lot but I did track, the pole vault. I was really good at tennis. I did a lot of hiking, climbing and swimming.

13. Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
There were bell bottom pants, mini skirts, straight long hair.

14.Who were your childhood heroes?
Wonderwoman. I wished I could be like her.

15. What were your favorite songs and music?
The Beach Boys.

16. Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?
We had 2 dogs. A german shepherd named Cally and a pug named Sparky.

17. What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?
Pentecostal Church of God. I didn’t like it. It was super, super strict.

18. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
Yes, for being the youngest youth leader for our church. I was 16. We were raising money for everyone to go to camp. We put on a car wash. It was such a big hit everybody had CB radios and the semi trucks came in to have us wash their trucks. There were pictures of us on ladders trying to wash these big trucks.

19. Who were your friends when you were growing up?
I was a tomboy so a lot of my friends were guys. Charles was my best friend.

20. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
Jonestown- trying to create a utopia but it magnified into a cult. They bought property. Everyone drank koolaid with poison at gunpoint. Made me look at my own religion differently.
1 year later Elvis died. All the girls were crying all over the place.

21. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
We very seldom ate together. Mom worked 3 to midnight. I was in charge of cooking. Dad taught me how to cook.
We would eat together for Thanksgiving with all the cousins and aunts and uncles. There was so much smoking it looked like a bar. One thing I really liked was the veggie tray. I kept doing it as a tradition.
Steak, shrimp and corn on the cob are my favorites.

22. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
Christmas was gifts under the tree when my parents had money. Dad would cut a tree from the forest. For birthdays we weren’t allowed parties. It was just another day. We would get one gift. I had to learn to hunt and fish so my presents were usually hunting knives, fillet knives or fishing gear.

23. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
We never had to lock our doors or cars. There were no computers or cell phones. People actually talked to each other. We would go on picnics in the summer at the nearest creek. Everyone from the area would go there to go swimming.

24. Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
My Grandma Neal. She was a very reserved person. Didn’t talk about family history or anything. When her husband died she told us her family was Cherokee Indian. She was in her early 70’s with snow white hair. Her skin was a dark reddish brown color.

25. What do you know about your family surname?
They Rileys were actually O’Riley (Scottish or Irish). Neal was part German.

26. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
My Great Grandmother was in her 90’s when I was probably 5. She would tell stories of coming from Oklahoma to California in a covered wagon. She was 3 when that happened. We have a more distant relative that is over 100 who has and tends her own land still.

27. Are there any stories about famous or infamous people in your family?
Not that I was told. Family history was a big secret no one talked about.

28. Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?
A pancake recipe from my Great Grandma Rudd and a banana bread recipe. My Grandma Neal gave me a chili and sweet cornbread recipe.

29. Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
High cheekbones. Red or black hair. One side is white with freckles. Other side is tan and dark brown hair. My little toe curls up under the other toes. It’s viking in origin, I think?

30. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, Bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
A vanity that was my Grandmothers from 1940’s. A family Bible. A picture my Great Grandmother painted on a cardboard box during the depression.

31. When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
We met on base at the country bar he was working at. We became good friends then he asked me out on a date. Dated 5-6 months. I didn’t know he was in the military.

32. What was it like when you were proposed to? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?
It was at the club. He took a day off to be with me. He arranged with the DJ to play “I Can Love You Like That.” It melted my heart and I had tears on my cheek. He proposed. A whole club was full of people. I told him yes. I still say that was the happiest day I’ve had in my life.

33. Where and when did you get married?
We hired a justice of the peace. We were at her house overlooking the beach on a balcony. We had a 2nd wedding ceremony at our house with all the kids so they wouldn’t feel left out.

34. What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?
The sunset coming over the beach was so beautiful.

35. How would you describe your spouse? What do you admire most about them?
He’s a very strong individual, kind and gentle, When he proposed I accepted but because I would be going back into a wheelchair I gave him his ring back. He chose to take care of me no matter what.

36. What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?
Open communication. We talk about everything. We take a break when we’re angry so we try not to say things we don’t mean.

37. How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time?
I felt like I was pregnant but the clinic said I wasn’t. They told me when I was 5 months pregnant and showing! I did a needle test to try to figure out gender. It was going to be a boy.

38. Why did you choose your children's names?
Papa Pickle picked out Paul for his name. I decided he’d be a junior. Dana’s name was supposed to be Christy Lynn but the family laughed and said they’d call her crusty pickle. I got frustrated and changed the name.

39. What was your proudest moment as a parent?
Your Dad got in trouble but he was very smart. In 3rd grade he made a bet with a kid about when the bus would arrive at a certain time (because he had watched and knew). The kid lost but didn’t have the $5. Dad tried to charge him $2 a day interest. The kid stole the money out of his mom’s purse when it reached $40. She told me about it and I talked to your Dad. It was a wrong thing to do and I made him give the money back but it showed just how smart he was.

40. What did your family enjoy doing together?
We bought old fashioned water guns one time and we chased each other all over the house squirting each other.

41. What was your profession and how did you choose it?
Cosmetologist- hair and nails. I used to play with my Mom’s hair.

42. If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn't it your first choice?
Geologist. I have always loved rocks and stones.

43. What accomplishments were you the most proud of?
At 33 I never graduated from high school so I went to an adult school for my GED and passed. The school asked if I could take one more test and was able to get my high school diploma. I walked with a cap and gown.

44. What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
I want people to remember that I loved all my kids and my grandkids and no matter what will always be there to support them and never give up.

moving on... kinda

Life is not the same, nor will it ever be again. My mother was loved by many. It took many years for my mother and I to find a balance in our relationship that made it what it was near the end.  I was not the best of daughters as a child, but I tried to be better in her last days. My mother was a cosmetologist. She loved it very much. She loved creating new styles for people and really loved doing hair color. She did nails for years. She really enjoyed that. Nails were her true passion, she loved the creativity that nails let her express. She was expressive in everything she did.

20 years ago she had a bad car accident and was unable to continue to work. It was pretty hard on her and took her a long time to find her new calling. She did not always make the best choices and decisions during those years.  During those years, I was not the easiest child to get along with. Like a lot of mother and daughters, things were not great. As an adult, it took many years to come to terms with all that happened when I was a child.

When we found out she had cancer it was not a question that I offered my home to her so she could have better care and make things easier for Al.  I tried with all my soul to give her great care, keep her pain free and be a good friend. We made amends and I feel like I was robbed from her having a relationship with me.
I am glad she found her calling and that making jewelry made her so happy. I am also so glad that she brought so much happiness and smiles to those she made jewelry for. I was also thrilled to see that coloring made her so happy near the end.  I can't imagine her being anywhere else as she came near the end of her life. She was happy until the last day before she began to start spiraling down. She was happy about so much in her life, her friends that she would go see at JTV and all the people she "met" from around the world making jewelry.

She will be missed greatly by so many people and that is wonderful in its own way.  I wake up thinking I need to check on her, I have nightmares about not doing a good enough job and failing her. In my heart, I know that is not the truth, but having my heart match up with my brain these days is a challenge that I dare say I am not winning. I know grief takes time and will be a daily fight but, it's one that I am going to take on because that is what I do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A life ended the way she wanted

Tonight, my beautiful mother moved on from this life to the next one.  Whatever was waiting for her on the other side of this life, she's there having a great time now!  On Wed she wanted to speak to me, we talked for a long while and she told me she was tired of hurting, tired of pills and tired of waiting for the next pain to come. She said I am done. I told God unless I had more to go here, to let me come home. On Thursday morning, she woke up in a great deal of pain.  She called me in and said, Please make sure that when it's my time, I go out with as little pain as possible. We chatted a bit more about some things that at the time seemed like they were not a big deal. Then, my mom took a nap and never really woke up. I gave her her pain medication and she kept telling me she was still hurting, I gave her the max we were allowed to give her and she then nodded off again, only this time, she was not to wake up anymore. I noticed that evening that she was not rousing, wouldn't respond to my questions or stimuli. I called my family and let them say good-by, then we all set up camp near my mom, I slept in bed with her while others slept in the floor, on the couch, sitting in chairs. Each day there was less and less response from her, Each day I never left her side except to run to the bathroom and back. I held her hand, braided her hair and spent 4 days feeding her medication through a syringe and wiping down her face, turning her, talking with her and praying that I was doing all that she asked from me. Today after 4 day's, she drew her last breath with a good bit of her family with her. I holding one hand and Al the other. It was as peaceful as watching someone take their last few breaths could really be.  No, I haven't stopped crying yet and it really seems surreal at this point. Why I am here again what seems like so soon after burying my dad.

I meet with the funeral director in the morning to make plans and work on getting my brother here from Washington.  "plans"  how do you plan out the box that you are going to put your mom in and then into the ground. Plans for flowers and more stuff than my brain can think of right now. It's really hard for me right now.

Good=bye momma, please know that I did everything I could for you and I hope it was enough. I love you and I am glad you are not hurting anymore!