“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

No Hammock: Post Mother’s Day Reflections

The apostrophe in “Mother’s Day” suggests that the day of celebration is for one mother only. This regulation, in fact, is what the founder of Mother’s Day had in mind, “an occasion for honoring the sacrifices individual mothers made for their children,” according to the History channel’s on-line site “History in the News.” Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Jarvis of West Virginia, worked obsessively to make Mother’s Day a national holiday (although she had no children). She got her wish. President Woodrow Wilson signed the celebration of Mother’s Day into law in 1914.

“No Duh,” you say. “We all have only one mother.”

“Except,” I say, “when that isn’t the precise case.”

After it went national, Anna Jarvis worked just as obsessively to have the holiday called Mother’s Day undone. She became nutsy over the commercialization. I have a feeling she would have become nutsy to the extreme over all the real-world exceptions to the holiday she had in mind. Families have become very different animals from the traditional family compositions she must have known. She died in 1948 in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium after using up most of her inheritance on legal fees spent on trying to undo the holiday.

My exception: I am both Joanna Leigh’s grandmother and her Mother. I am not “mommy,” but according to all the wonderful pictures, cards, and gifts she presented me, I am the Mom of Mother’s Day. And she didn’t flinch or ask hard questions when she honored me on Mother’s Day. That was the first reason to be extremely grateful on Mother’s Day 2013.

recital and flowers-edFlowers after the dance recital

The second reason was an answer, finally, to a double-sided question I’ve been obsessing about: I’ve been searching for a clearer answer to “Who am I?” after 30 years of being defined and living as the mother of my unrelenting drug addicted daughter, and “Who would I have been if I hadn’t become a parenting grandparent?”

The answer to both questions is Joanna Leigh. First, she has given me the joy of raising a happy, curious, well-adjusted daughter. My own daughter never seemed happy and lived mainly a joyless existence chasing drugs. I lived with the horrible guilt that I had something awful to cause all the misery and unhappiness. It took a long time and a lot of work to finally understand that I didn’t do it. Second, she has given my husband and me a monumental purpose in our waning years, one much unlike the traditional ideas of seniorhood: time spent traveling, golfing, playing bridge, taking art lessons, lolling in the hammock.

Who am I? A parenting grandparent; who would I have been if. . . ? It doesn’t really matter anymore. The overarching gratitude is that my husband and I were able to be her safety net. I tremble when thinking about what could have happened to her. I posted a blog October 3o, 2010, after coming across one horrifying statistic:

Combined data from 2002 to 2007 indicate that over 8.3 million children under 18 years of age (11.9 percent) lived with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year.

That’s the population of New York City, according to 2009 figures. Or the combined populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined. That’s almost the entire populations of Missouri and Kansas combined.

Here's more:

l That's more than 1 in 10 children in the U.S.

l 13.9% of those children are YOUNGER THAN 3-YEARS-OLD

l Another 13.6% are 3- to 5-years-old

And those figures don’t include 2008 and 2009. If drug use figure have gone up, likely so have the numbers of children in the U.S. living with drug and alcohol abusing or dependent parents.

Being a parenting grandparent is no picnic, no daydreaming in the hammock. I’m often tired and stressed. Her recent dance recital and all the rehearsals, applying make-up and putting curls in her wispy locks, and all the rest that goes along with it wore me out. Now comes her 6th birthday and party. If I had the leftover energy, I would become obsessed with changing the apostrophe in the name of the holiday so that it would become MOTHERS’ DAY. Punctuation matters.

 

Constellation Patty

A sad event presented an opportunity to have a conversation I have dreaded having with Joanna Leigh. She will be only six in a month, but you can hardly ignore such a prompt. Maybe six years old is the right time regardless; I don't know. All I've known is that she must begin to understand getting old, getting ill, dying, grieving, and moving on.


Our eleven-year-old all white, blue-eyed cat, Patty Cake, became noticeably ill about two weeks ago. She didn't have fever, which alerted me. But I thought she had just been eating lizards again, those creatures being about all she could catch. Slowly she began to quit eating. I continued to touch for fever. None. I tempted her with salmon and all kinds of goodies. Finally last week she quit eating altogether. I poked and prodded around her belly, legs, and back to see if she'd flinch. She didn't. The signs were bad. So early the next morning I took her to the vet; we agreed that blood work was in order.


Patty-patio.jpg


Patty spent a lot of time in the sun on the patio.



heat vent-2-ed.jpg


And on the heat vent.



Sure enough, her white blood count was astronomical. My stomach flipped, and I knew. The vet suspected cancer, likely leukemia, and she would only waste away. I spent thirty or forty minutes with her; I finally said goodbye and gave her to the vet. We buried her with all the other cats near the greenhouse: BartholoMew (Barthy), Slash, Tammy, and Prissy (the only mean cat I've ever had). I waited until Saturday morning to tell Joanna Leigh that we did not have Patty anymore. She burst into tears. So, I did, too.



Patty used up probably eight of her nine lives in August 2009 when she was attacked by a coyote and nearly killed.



Why?



Why expand this conversation wider than the event itself? I worry everyday about the reality of my (and my husband's) age and how it likely affect her. I am 70 this year. If I live another decade, she will be only 16. I worry.



More than that, I worry about not living another decade.



We sat on the patio. She asked many questions, primarily, "Why did Patty have to die?"



"Sometimes when you get old, you get sick and can't get better. You have to remember that everything dies."



"Like all those trees out there?"



"Yes, but trees live a long time," I replied.



"Where is Patty?" she asked.



We buried her over by the greenhouse where all our other cats have been buried."


We went to see the burial site.



"But is she in heaven?"



"Yes, pet heaven. That's kind of next door to regular Heaven."



"Yes, but where is it?"



Oh, golly. Quick, think. "It's up there out in the Universe with the stars. Maybe if you see a twinkling star, it might be Patty."



She pondered. Then her eyes lit up. "You mean Patty is a constellation?!"



Last night she didn't go to sleep easily. She came into my study and said, "Can we go outside and see Patty?"



I thought she meant the burial site at first. Then I realized. "Not tonight. It's cloudy and raining. We'll have to wait until another night."



So, we will go outside and search for the Constellation Patty.



This seems like a good time to mention one of my very favorite apps, Star Walk; there's a version for the iPad and the iPhone. We will use it to find the Constellation Patty. If you like stars and all the other things in the sky (including pet Heaven) like comets, the International Space Station, and Web sites like www.spaceweather.com, you'll love Star Walk. As PC Magazine says, it's like having a home Planetarium. It has a gallery of images, calendar, compass calibration, constellation information, and on and on and on. A YouTube video will entice you to go to the iTunes store to get it.



When you find a constellation or area you want more information on, you get it. You don't need an Internet hook-up; it uses GPS technology.



I just wonder if it will let me add the Constellation Patty when we find it.

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