When I Grow Up…

I have always wanted to be a writer ever since the fourth grade when I wrote my first short story about a house in the winter woods.  My uncle Henry paid me a few bucks for writing it and I was hooked!  But over the years I have struggled with the ‘why’ of my desire to write.  I had always been a rather shy and withdrawn individual and the teasing I received in school didn’t help matters any.

Finally succumbing to the pressures of my peers, I saw myself as a nothing.  I wasn’t special, no matter how many times my parents told me differently.  And I wrote.  So many short stories with my classmates as the main characters hoping that somehow I could find a way to fit in.  Some liked it, others just ignored it.  I began to live through the characters in my short stories.  They became my friends and confidantes.  Strange, I know, but for a teenage girl feeling the pressures and the strain of her own angst, it helped to alleviate the pain of being the outcast.

I wanted to make a statement to the world.  I wanted to become rich and famous through the words that I jotted down, and to show my peers that, yes, I was a somebody.  Not the loser they saw me as.  And yes, my words have brought comfort to me fretting soul.  The poetry I write has been and still is a release for my deep inner turmoil that festers within me.  Nice picture, isn’t it?

I love words. I am one of those ‘crazy’ people who reads the dictionary, discovering new words and meanings.  As I’ve grown older, I have calmed down quite a bit.  Now instead of seeking glory and fame, just give me the ability to write for a living and make a few bucks off of it.  I’ve learned to be content with who I am on the inside.  I can control the demons within.  Though sometimes the thoughts in my head scare even me.  I worry that if I write about this or that what would people think of this ‘nice Christian girl’?  But I’ve come to realize that I need to release the stories within me.  Writing is like an addiction, you have to do it.

And the reading part about writers is sooo true.  I love to read.  Books have been my friends through the years.  So many different authors and titles.  Yes.  Now I’ve learned the art of contentment and of peace.  Perhaps the saying is right that with age brings wisdom…and peace.

Happy writing to you all.  If your dream is to write, then by all means do it.  We’ll encourage each other!

Letting Go

If you are a parent, especially a parent of a teenager, you will understand.  I have two sons, one who is nineteen and one who is sixteen.  And though one is an official adult and the other almost an adult, I still cannot cut those apron strings.  Why?  Because it is hard to let go.  The love a mother has for her children, especially if they are sons, is deeply rooted and unending.  No matter how old they get, or how far away they will move, I will always worry and wonder what they are up to.

Life as a parent is funny that way.  Never a dull moment when they are with you, and never a moment of peace when they are not.  I am especially having a difficult time of letting my younger son go.  When he was younger, we used to do many things together.  I enjoyed his company, and still do.  Just don’t tell him that.  I might cause unending bouts of embarrassment for him.  Being sixteen and all, you know.

But he is, a very independent young man.  When he was only eight or nine he had wanted to be off on his own already.  I laughed then, but worry now as he is approaching the age when he can legally leave and be off on his own.  I’d miss him deeply.  I’m not sure how far away he wants to go, but he has stated that when he turns eighteen that he is leaving home.  And that hurts me.  Because I love him and don’t want him to go.

Is it wrong for a parent not to want her children to leave the nest?  Oh I know that is part of our job as parents to get them to eventually leave the nest and be independent of us.  But it is so hard to do.  I’ll miss his laugh, his smile, the times we sit and talk, and yes, even his stubbornness.  My eyes well up with tears when I imagine that heart-wrenching goodbye when he packs his things up and heads out the front door for the last time.  My son, my heart, my life.

When you are carrying them in your womb, you imagine a lot what the child will be like.  When my younger son was little, I tried picturing him what he would be like as a teenager.  And he did not disappoint!  But I love him unconditionally, though at times when he is fighting with his older brother I want to smack them both!  Why is it so hard for siblings to get along?

Okay, enough of my rant.  Children are a gift.  Each one with their own unique personalities and looks.  So different in many ways yet so similar when part of a family.  I love my sons.  I hope that they know that.  I hope that I’ve always shown it.  And I hope that when they are out there in this big, intimidating world that they will remember that they have a mother at home that will always worry for them, always love them, and will always cherish her precious memories of her two young men.  I hope they know, too, of how proud I am of them.  Mom loves you both.  Stay safe.

Remembrance

My fondest memories are those of my strong-willed and feisty maternal grandmother.  Looking for a better life for her remaining family, my widowed grandmother came to America in the fall of 1951 from what was then the country of Yugoslavia.  She had lost both her husband and her eldest son to the horrors of war and its aftermath.  Adding insult to injury, my grandmother and her children were thrown into concentration camp for 33 months back in November of 1944.  Fortunately they were finally able to escape in 1947, fleeing to Austria, where they remained for four years before being able to come to America.  After 15 days in New York, they travelled to and set up their new home in Chicago where they already had family settled.

A deeply religious woman, my Oma, German for grandmother, attended daily mass.  As her children got older and moved on,( getting married and began families of their own), Oma spent her free time sewing clothes for her growing brood of grandchildren, and, during the seventies, sewed toys for underprivileged children.

With her giving and caring nature, Oma was hardly without something to busy her hands with, be it knitting, crocheting, or baking sweets for her beloved grandchildren.  Our family’s weekly visit to her third-floor walk-up in Northwest Chicago was always a highlight of my week as a child.  She usually made my favorite:  a jelly filled biscuit-type confection drizzled with melted sugar.  But then something went wrong.

It was in the early-80’s that I remember the cancer dominating my Oma’s life.  Diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her descent towards death was unbearable to watch.  In the early-stages, my mother and her three sisters dutifully took care of my Oma at her home; bathing her, feeding her, applying salve to her bedsores.  Her only remaining son lived in Germany and was unable to help his sisters.  My Oma faced this new obstacle with the same determination and quiet strength that was so clearly defined within her.  Bravely, she coped with the chemotherapy, and the strong narcotics that caused her to be wrapped inside a fog.  Eventually she didn’t know whether it was day or night, confused to what time of day, or night, that it was.

When it was mother’s turn to take care of Oma, my dad and I would spend the night there if it was a weekend.  I remember her cries doing the night; long, sorrowful moans that broke our hearts.  As she continued to deteriorate, that fierce independent flame that once danced in her eyes was now barely a flicker.  She begged her daughters to leave knives nearby so she could take her own life, but of course they wouldn’t hear of such things, ridding the home of any sharp objects.

After some time, my mother and her sisters were no longer able to care for my Oma and they had decided to put her in a Chicago hospice.  The physical and emotional exhaustion was beginning to take its toll on them.  Every movement for my Oma became a slice of hell for her.  I have the last family portrait with my Oma in it.  You could see the ravages of the disease clearly etched on her; puckered face and sunken eyes.  The drugs that were feeding her blessed relief from the pain caused her to blur faces and names together.  In the last week of June, my cousin Peter from Germany came to say goodbye to Oma.  All Oma could do was hold his hands in her nearly lifeless ones, repeating his name over and over.  This would be her final connection to her beloved son.

On July 6, 1981, the final page of her life here on earth was written.  With her second-eldest daughter, Hilda, at her bedside, my Oma smiled blissfully through a medicated fog, as though greeting an unseen visitor, then peacefully closed her eyes and died.  There would be no more pain.  No more struggle.  Finally, at peace.  Goodbye, Oma.