Goodbye, Leola

Our family has experienced a sudden, devastating loss. My mother’s wonderful younger sister, Leola, passed away unexpectedly in her sleep yesterday. She was 72 years old. She’s the second of mom’s nine siblings to pass since 2013. 

I snapped this photo on Christmas Day two weeks ago at her daughter’s house. My mother is on the left. Aunt Faye is on the right and Aunt Leola is in the middle. Aunt Mae, the fourth of the “sisters” had just stepped out of the frame and I just kept on snapping photos, hoping to catch my mama, Priscilla, smiling. Aunt Leola was tickling her big sister, hoping to provoke a smile too. 
I didn’t know it would be the last time I saw her. I don’t even remember if I hugged her goodbye that day. 

But the radiant joy you see here sums up her entire life – and it’s always been the vision I have in my head when I think of my sweet aunt. 

She was spry, energetic, and one of the kindest creatures you’d ever meet. I don’t often admire someone for their religion but this is one lady who lived her personal Christian faith deep and wide – not through damning or shaming, but through songs and praise and smiles and laughter. She was the only person I’ve ever known who could touch me and say “You’re upset, honey let’s pray about it” and I fully believed that somehow, some way, a supreme being actually DID hear her. 

Her husband of almost fifty years, Olin, an avid Elvis fan, had passed away three years ago and she’s spent the past few years happily traveling back and forth between here and Oklahoma where three of her four grown children live. She was brave and headstrong, never fearing to hop in a car and travel the open road alone for thousands of miles. 

I never really knew when she’d be around. Mom called her a gypsy because she had a love of traveling! Sometimes she’d text me randomly. And just a few weeks back she dropped by my house one morning and spent a precious few hours with me chatting. 

She’d often pop in at my Mom’s to visit for a few minutes, grab a water, use the restroom or deliver some trinket that she thought my mother would like. Their visits always reminded me of the eternal bond close siblings share and how wonderful it is to have a sister to lean on at any stage of life. 

Last night, two of my mother’s brothers sped down here from Lexington to make sure they were with her in person when the news landed in her ears. And they sat on the couch side by side with her, holding her as she cried – over seventy years of shared family memories between them. 

And as I watch the closeness of my moms family this week and how they come together during times of crises and sadness, I know I would give every single thing I own to experience the bond of a brother or sister. 

Even if it means that some day I’d have to say goodbye.

Storms at the Swim Meet

Thunder sounded its warning. 

While waiting for the required thirty minutes for swim meet to restart, six year old Maggie and I took a moment to grab hidden snacks from the car. We held hands, walking back to the pool, chatting, just me and my eldest girl….

ME: “Maggie… I sure hope you remember these days. When you grow up, I hope you look back on your childhood and are able to remember all the fun activities we’ve all done together!”

MAGGIE: “Don’t worry, mom. I will visit you! And I will never forget you. And I will never ever forget my family. Because I love you! And I LOVE MY FAMILY!!!” 

Nice memory to visit, don’t  want to live there

How do you neat mamas do it? 

I’m a slob. Or rather, a recovering one. I try really hard but my skills and motivations are lacking in many areas. Around our house I am responsible for all house maintenance, yard work and car cleaning. It’s like a devil’s triangle…when I find myself happily taking care of one, the other two slip past my immediate attention and suddenly look like a landfill opened up and puked from above. I can’t seem to grasp a happy medium on a simple tidy scale for all three. It gets frustrating.   

Today, I spent a few hours spring cleaning my totally trashed Honda Odyssey minivan filled with sand, eleven coats (11?!), fifteen pairs of shoes (only two of which were mine, thanks), random toys, papers, hair bows, and enough candy and food to feed a third world country. I may or may not have crunched a plastic bottle up against the tree and cursed at a falling leaf that accidentally slipped through the door and landed on a spot inside the van I had just cleaned. 

As I was wiping down the dash board and scrubbing the leather, I found myself day dreaming about my first brand new car I purchased at age 21 – a cute Suzuki Grand Vitari mini SUV. I treated her like a baby…kept her immaculate, immediately spit polished any tiny smudges, vacuumed weekly, swept daily and allowed no food whatsoever in it. 

But then, as I tossed Maggie (who was digging sandcastles ten feet away) a small Cinderella figurine I found stuck upside down in the console, I remembered how alone I was at that point in my life.

Completely and utterly alone. 

Today I’m 31 years old, have beautiful three children, and am expecting a fourth. I have a husband who loves me and a great circle of friends. 

That first car stayed spotless because I had no one to mess it up. I had no tiny hands grasping at French fries, no Barbie princesses to get stuck in the seat cracks, no tiny feet kicking off shoes and yanking off socks, no sounds of a toddler singing Fraggle Rock from behind me and more often than not, only one single body ever rode in it. 

And I realized, as I finished the final scrubbing and shut the sliding door, that while daydreams of our past are nice to momentarily visit… I wouldn’t want to live there.