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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Unsettled" Chapter 13-B

The Women at the Well

Reading these chapters, it would be easy to assume that my teen years were all about working with Dad on Saturdays. They weren’t, of course. During the same years in which we cleared the land, dug the well, built the barn and bridge and house, I went to school every day; went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night; played weeknights in the neighborhood with friends; mowed the little lawn at what was our home for fourteen years; delivered various paper routes; held other odd jobs; went to camp each summer; sang in the choir, had girl friends; wrestled on the high school team and played basketball in our church league.

From 7th through 12th grade, Sunday through Friday life had almost nothing to do with the working with Dad, which is why those storied Saturdays stand out in my memory. Other than those Saturdays, our lives were much like all of our closest friends'. More frugal, perhaps, but we were somewhere in the middle of the vast middle class.

That first year of the land, Mom was as involved as she could be in our Saturday world. She came out to watch or help where she could for much of the day. She took pictures of our progress and was very excited about us living there. In many ways we all could see she shared Dad’s dream and admired his vision for the land. But that summer we dug the well, began a hard time for Mom. By then we had owned the land for nearly three years and still there was no sign of a house. The well we were now digging was, in fact, the first real confirmation that we would someday live on that spot.
This long chapter is an attempt to give just a glimpse of the private struggles the "woman at the well" was going through that summer. It is far too long for a blog. It could have been four separate posts, but then they would be in reverse order, and I really think they need to be read in sequence as a whole.

A little over a year ago (around the time this picture was taken), I asked my mother if she would mind my including some of this personal information in future stories. She thought about it and then said, "If you think it might help someone, I trust you."

So here goes...

Saturday Morning of the Sixth Crock

By now it was late-July, and on this Saturday Dad planned to sink the sixth of the seven crocks in the well. We’d missed a week of digging because Dave and I had gone to church camp, and rather than try to dig with only Paul to pull the bucket, Dad let Paul stay home to deliver the route (which had originally been his) while he went out to the property alone. He used that week to clear away the mounds of clay that had grown around the well. We'd made the piles one bucket-plop at a time until they stood shoulder high like giant crawfish holes down by the creek.
With the front-loader of the tractor, Dad scooped up the piles of sand and dirt and clay and hauled each load down to a low spot below the barn. The next week when we returned to continue digging the well, we hardly recognized the site it was so tidied up.
As was true on the Saturdays of the first five crocks, I had stayed home to do the paper route then planned to go out with Mom at lunch time.

After the last paper was slipped inside the screen door of a house on Huron Street, I peddled home as fast as I could. The empty Detroit News bag made its usual plinging music in my bike spokes which had worn the corners through over the years. When the bags were full, the music was a heavier tone that got slightly higher with each pound of paper delivered, and the light sound of empty canvas against spokes was truly music to my ears. But as I turned into our driveway, real music was coming from inside the house.
At first all I heard were the piano notes, and it struck me as odd that Mom was playing the piano in the middle of the day. (She most often played at night.). I leaned my bike against the inside wall of the garage, and stepped inside the back door and up the three steps to the kitchen. It was then I recognized the song and heard Mom singing:
Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy:
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
"Draw from my well that never shall run dry".
Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
read of heaven, Feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

"Mom, we gotta go.” I interrupted.

"Just let me finish this song,” she said and went on singing. I dropped backwards onto the couch.
There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
Fill my cup Lord,I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Her fingers added a flourish at the end, her hands clasped at her chest, and she sighed, “I like that one.” (She ended nearly all of her songs at the piano with those four words, which I think is a pretty accurate translation of the word Amen.) Then she spun full toward me on the wooden piano bench without getting up.

"Now what were you saying.” she smiled. I was struck by the fact that she actually had to ask. Was she unaware of the time? The truth is... she was temporarily unaware of any earthly commitments, of any burdens or cares. She always got that way when she sang her hymns at the piano. So I said as if for the first time...

“We gotta get to the well. It’s almost lunch time. Where's Jimmy?”
.“He's napping. Let him sleep while I frost the cake and we can leave.”
“Frost the cake? Mom, we’re going to be late.”

“No, we won’t, and I want to surprise your Dad with it.
.“Is it your banana cake?”
“Yep.” she said, fully understanding the magic of that fact as she stepped into the kitchen.

“Well, that's a different story," I mumbled to an empty room, "He won’t care if we’re a little late.”

I stretched out on the couch with my head on the arm rest and stared up at the ceiling. It was not a particularly comfortable couch. We'd gotten it from my Grandma K's when she moved from her house to live with my Aunt Betty. It had hard, deeply-embroidered fabric [seen in photo here] that left imprints in your cheek if you happened to fall asleep face down. Lying there, I remembered the time a few years before (before Jimmy was born) when I’d been sick and stayed home from school. I spent the whole day in that very spot....

I’d thrown up in the middle of the night before. Worse yet, I hadn’t made it the ten steps to the bathroom, which put the mess right in the middle of the hardwood floor in our bedroom between the “homework” desk and the doorway. Only Mom had woken up.

“Couldn’t you have held it to the toilet?” she said, blotting the floor with old towels.
“It just happened, but at least I didn't do it on the carpet. That would be worse.”

“True, but I’ll have to go over this again with hot sudsy water so you just go sit on the floor there by the toilet ‘til I’m through.”

“I don’t think I have to throw up anymore.”

“Just stay there ‘til you’re sure.” she winced, holding the wad of putrid towels far in front of her.

I didn’t throw up again, and actually went back to sleep until morning, but Mom recommended that I not go to school. Dad, who had missed all the action in the night, was less certain I was sick He came in, sat on the side of my bed and began his fatherly diagnosis. He was good at it. The inquiry included lots of caring questions but always ended with one asked in earnest:

“If they were giving out $10 bills today just for going to school, would you go?”
If the answer was “yes,” he’d suggest that maybe we weren’t that sick. But this day I had said, “I’d go get the ten bucks, but then I’d have to go puke in the bathroom. Would they let me keep the money if I made it to lunch time?” Dad just stroked my head and told me to stay home.
I understand why parents want to make sure a kid is really sick when school is on the line. Let’s face it, there are worse ways to spend a day than stretched out on a couch with Vicks VapoRub on your chest and a glass of Vernors within reach. We never had pop in our house except for medicinal purposes. (I take that back: If we had company for New Year’s Eve, Dad would go out and buy two wooden cases of “Towne Club” pop, but typically, there was never any pop in our house.)

Vernors is a strong ginger ale that people either love or hate. I love it to this day, and I think it all started when I was a kid and Mom swore it could “settle a stomach.” I don’t know about that, but having a bottle of it assigned to you was one of the perks of being sick in our home.
One of the other perks of being sick enough to miss school was getting to watch "Bill Kennedy at the Movies” just after lunch. (Bill Kennedy was a local B-movie star who’d come back to Detroit to host an old movie show.)

That day I'd been sick, Mom and I got interested in some old film noir flick about a pretty mom with a son about my age. I don’t remember what the title was, but in this movie, the mom was a flirt prone to “cheating on” her husband.

I had only just learned the facts of life myself and barely knew what “cheating” really meant, and though the film skipped the details, it was clearly implied that she was cheating all the way, which of course led to jealousy, rage, divorce, heartache, and in short a sad ending. I felt especially bad for the woman's son who watched it all unfold.

“The End” came up on the screen, and what was about to happen is the only reason I remember the moment. I sighed and said without thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have a pretty mom.” Yes, I said that. I said it as though offering happy consolation to the lady who'd cleaned up my puke the night before.

Mom's jaw dropped, “Well thanks a lot.”

“No. I don’t mean it like that," attempting to spit the foot out of my mouth, "You‘re pretty, Mom. I mean THAT kind of pretty.”

“And just what kind of pretty is THAT?” she asked.
“Not your kind of pretty. THAT kind of pretty. Where the lady acted like pretty was the most important thing to be.”

“Go on…I’m listening…” She strung me along.

“That woman acted like--you know, flirting with all those men, and kissing them and stuff. You know…THAT kind of pretty. You’re just pretty."

“Just pretty, eh. The kind of pretty men don’t notice. Is that what you mean?”

“No. Dad noticed. That’s the kind of pretty a mom should be--pretty for the dad but not other men. THAT lady acted like... like...well, a sex-pot [to use one of Mom's pet terms for such women]. She always had to have men looking at her. Look how she walked, Mom. She wiggled and you know it.”

“You noticed that, eh… that she wiggled when she walked.” (I did notice, but I'll also confess that I was at that age where the mechanics of sexual behavior could be observed with no impact.)

“Noticed? Mom, if her skirt was any tighter, she'da had to hop. And her sweaters--good night! It looked like she was smuggling torpedoes. Pretty ladies who dress to be stare at--that's not good, and look what happened in the movie. That wouldn't have happened if she looked the way moms are supposed to look. So THAT’s the kind of pretty I’m glad you’re not. But that doesn't mean you're not the good kind of pretty....”

“Okay. You talked yourself out of that one.” she smiled and took my empty Vernors glass to the kitchen.

That was a close one. I said what I had to say, but the truth of the matter is: Like most of the kids I knew, I did not think of my mom in terms of being pretty. Not in the Hollywood sense, but it didn't matter. Most kids just want a mom to be a mom. I'm not talking about little kids, the ones who wake up with a hug every morning and say, "You're the beautifulest Mom in the whole wide world." Kids say that when they mean it in the purest sense, before their understanding of beauty is distorted by culture. Eventually, most kids stop telling their moms that, and they mistakenly assume that moms no longer need to hear it.

We need to study this picture from Chapter 9-B again. That was Christmas Sunday, 1969. Dad took the picture. Paul is in the back because he was not quite ready for church. We all cleaned up pretty good, and Mom looks great there holding "Jimmer" (as we called him at the time). The great thing about snapshots is they allow us to sort the good from the less presentable things in life. We did not always look like this. [This was taken six months before we dug the well. See the "Fill My Cup Lord" music on the piano? It was left out as if part of the room decor for over a year.]

With all due respect and unconditional love for my mom, the truth of the matter is: right about this time she was just starting that "frumpy" stage in life that most mothers of the "Baby Boom" went through around age 40.

Let's start with the hats. By the late Sixties, the fashionable habit of women wearing hats was passing. I’m not talking about the hats people wear when playing in the snow. I’m talking about millinery products made by milliners. Department stores had “hat departments” with works of felt and feather and fur interspersed with oval mirrors so ladies could see which fuzzy concoction suited their face or dress or mood. (Yes, mood. A cartoon I remember from the time showed a woman boasting to a man, “Whenever I’m ‘down in the dumps’ I get myself a new hat. To which the man replies, “I wondered where you got those things.”)

From hats to wigs: About the time hats went out of style and we thought Mom would stop putting strange things on her head, "fashion wigs" came in vogue. The same store shelves were filled with nothing but wigs on rows of wig-heads. Eventually, Mom had two or three styrofoam wig-heads of her own, each sporting a different style.

During the wig years, Mom quit going to the beauty shop. Dad had put it all to paper and figured they were actually saving money each month Mom was willing to pull on a “hair style.” It was a win-win for while, but the problem with these $14.95 wigs (purchased at E.J. Korvette in Roseville) was they were made of who-knows-what synthetic fibers, and they could not stand up to the slightest heat that came from mom’s stove or oven.

One day I walked through the little kitchen as Mom was making supper. She turned to ask me something, and I saw that all the hair around her face was completely singed and shriveled up against her forehead.

“Mom, your wig is melting!” I gasped.

“I know,” she said, “but that's okay. This is my cooking wig. I singed it last month.”

“Your cooking wig? Why don’t you just not wear one?”

“Because my hair’s a mess underneath it.”

“It can’t look worse than that thing, Mom.”

She walked around the corner to the big mirror over the couch in the living room and leaned toward it.
“I guess it has melted more than it was when I put it on,” she laughed, and went right back to cooking supper.

Before we sat down to eat, she switched out the melted wig for a good one. The trouble with her system was that, over time, she lost track of which wig she had on and one by one all but her newest looked like they'd come from a fire sale. Mom saw the humor in this. More than once she'd accidentally wear a bad wig to the store, and I'd see her joking with a cashier about how she melted her wig, and the stranger would laugh right along with her. She had a sort of Lucile Ball sense of humor that helped her build a huge network of friends wherever she went.

Something else was going on the years before and after that photo.

I don't want to overstate what I'm about to share, but something more serious than melted wigs was going on. It started years before Jimmy was born. Mom began showing early signs of what today would be called an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It was not extreme in the spectrum of such issues, but it did affect her appearance. I hinted at in Chapter 3 "The Places We Pick," which was a deliberate play on words. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see marks on Mom's legs. Most of those were superficial scars from months before, but some of them were "current" scabs covered over with make-up. There were also some on her arms and back, any place her hands could reach. (Sometimes I helped her dab make-up on the ones she couldn't see.)

Everyone who knew Mom at the time seemed to accepted this peculiar behavior unaware that it was a symptom of something that could become more serious. We could not Google "skin picking" back then. Not knowing much about it, we minimized it politely. Her closest friends might say, "Bev, you're doing it," and then she'd smile and stop. Or Dad would sometimes whisper "Don't pick, Bev," and then go on with whatever he was saying. Mom's purse typically hid a few old hankies that looked like tiny wadded up Japanese flags. In time, she quit doing it, but she would look back at pictures from those years, shake her head and say, "I'm so glad God brought me through that. I was a mess."
One day I was transplanting a tree with Dad (I may have been 10 at the time), We were using a shovel and a pick-ax. I held up the pick and joked, "Hey, Dad, we should give this pick to Mom so she has a pick to pick with." Dad didn't laugh. He just shook his head and said, "Never make fun of your mother, Tom." The mild rebuke stung. I look back sadly at my childish nonchalance and hope not to convey the slightest hint of it here.

Deciding to share this fact about my mother has given me pause, but sharing what she told me decades later, is the reason this chapter has taken so long to write. It is also this yet-untold fact that Mom thought might be of help to someone else if I ever chose to include it in a story. I have really struggled about whether or not I should, but I will do the best I can.

What made Mom so nervous that she'd start picking? She had a theory. In another story I've written from Mom's childhood I tried to explain in a loving way that her father was an alcoholic. Because of that, Mom had successfully sworn off any use of alcohol in her life. She and Dad were total abstainers. This remained true for life. I have done the same. It's now popular to call alcoholism a disease, I'm no expert, but I think it's more accurate to say some people have a genetic disposition toward depression, "escapism," or addictive behaviors. It's possible for a person to swear off a bad choice of a previous generation while the causal disposition is still passed along. In other words, "issues" can come in other forms and, if not alcohol, other "bottles" can be involved.

Years before this photo, my mother's doctor did something thousands of doctors did at the time: a patient came in complaining that after keeping up with four little children all day long, she was exhausted. And the doctor had just the thing to give women the energy to be both a good mom and a good wife. These pills had different names and dosages, but they had one thing in common that doctors seemed to overlook. They were addictive, and should not be used for extended periods of time. In spite of this, thousands of doctors handed them out like candy to millions of moms in the Fifties and Sixties. My mother was one of them for about a decade, and she wanted to "un-join" the club.
.In the late Sixties, just after the hippies brought "the drug scene" to the headlines, Mom became under conviction about the pills her doctor had been prescribing for years, and one day she just quit taking them. ["Under conviction" is Evangelical Christian jargon for feeling guilty enough about something to think it's God's way of telling you to quit it.] Mom had many Christian friends who had no idea she had this issue. She was sure they would not approve, and she herself hated that she needed "help from a bottle." How is this any different than my father's problem? she argued with herself. My faith should be able to see me through this. I'll just trust God and quit.
[I can think of several ways this was different than her father's alcoholism, but I'm sharing her thoughts not mine.]
.I wish I could say it was one of those miracle decisions you hear about on those religious TV channels that most viewers watch in disbelief. I wish I could say everything was fine from that day forward... but I can't. It was the beginning of a long journey, which became a sub-plot of these chapters in our life. I only know this in looking back, it didn't occur to us at the time. (Most of life itself doesn't occur to us at the time.) Eventually, she accepted that our bodies are "fearfully and wonderfully made" and in this fallen world they sometimes need help to stay in balance.
You can't be on prescribed addictive pills for ten years and then just quit without having some side effects. Mom was no exception. I'm not sure she could prove cause and effect, but it was during these failed attempts to go cold turkey that Mom's "picking" became more noticeable. And as socially embarrassing as that habit was, it was not the most serious issue she faced.
We'll need to go back to the couch to see what I'm talking about. You know--the couch--the couch I was resting on while Mom went to frost the banana cake that day in 1970....
"Did you fall asleep, Tom?"

"Huh," I grunted, sitting up on the couch.

"I thought you dozed off. I'll be right back. I need to take this cup of sugar next door to Kay. What were you thinking about?"

"That day in 5th grade when I stayed home from school and we watched that movie about that "flirty" mother and her son. Remember?"

"Who was in it? What was the title?"

"I don't know, but you don't remember it?"

"I remember you being sick but I don't remember a movie."

I was relieved to know she'd forgotten that I said I was glad I didn't have a pretty mom, but I knew her going next door when we were already late for getting to the well was a bad idea.
"Mom, let me take the cup of sugar. If you take it, you'll be over there another half hour."
."Okay. Just tell her that I found the bag of sugar after I came and borrowed this."

"You lost a whole bag of sugar? Where'd you find it?"

"In the milk chute," she laughed.

Mom's explanation raised no question from Mrs. Janette next door (Mom called her Kay, but we were never allowed to call adults by their first name.) She simply took the cup and said, "I knew she'd find it somewhere. Tell your mom 'Any time.'" She knew my mother well.
The first Domino to fall

When I went back in the house, Mom was standing in the hall, staring in my sister Kathy's bedroom at the neatly stacked clothes on her bed. (Kathy was at the church practicing the next day's song with her trio.)
She knew Kathy would be leaving for college in the fall--now just five weeks away. Dad knew it, too, but never allowed himself to think about it. And to us boys, the reality of how different life in our little house would be without a “big sister” would not sink in until her chair was empty at the supper table.

But Mom could not turn away from the thought of Kathy leaving. It was not just the fear of being the only female left in the house; it was the anticipated ache of knowing her little girl would be 700 miles away and the sudden shock of mid-life, that feeling you get when the neat years of your life seem to fall like a row of books while dusting and WHAM! the last book slams to the hardwood floor so loud it makes you jump.
Just when you think the bookends of life will hold everything in place, all the years begin to fall like giant dominoes just past your reach. It’s then you realize that life will never be linear again, never lined up in a row to reach for and hold at will. Too soon it's scattered here and there. Mom felt the books falling each time she saw Kathy laying college clothes out on her bed. She wasn’t packing yet, just taking inventory to know what outfits she would need to get  from September to December someplace far from home.

"It’s so hard,” Kathy would sigh to no one at all, “It’s just four months, and yet I'll still need all my summer, fall and winter things. Spring things I can take at Christmas.”
Sometimes I’d hear her as I passed her room, and whisper in the door, “Who are you talking to?”
“Nobody,” she’d smile, “Just thinking out loud.”

After such, I’d go on my way without another thought. I was not in denial. Denial is a deliberate act as if to wish a thing away, but I can truly say the fact had not yet registered. To this day, I tend to avoid my fear of unknown change by not seeing it until the day it hits me straight on.
Mom was not able to defer dread. She not only dreaded the thing itself, but in her mind she saw billboards of dread growing larger and larger before the thing itself occurred. Seeing the first of her brood go off to college was one of those things. She cried a lot that summer, but not in front of Kathy, who had her own mixed feelings about leaving home.
The week before, I'd seen Mom sitting on the kitchen floor pulling out the Tupperware and pans in the lower corner cabinet, which was too deep for her reach. It was not an orderly process, and judging by the racket, I knew something was wrong. Suddenly she just burst out in tears.
“I can’t get 'em, Tom," she sobbed, "They're too far back.”
"Get what?" I asked.
"The pie tins--they're clear to the back!"
I crawled chest-deep into the cabinet to get the tins. It was a grimy unseen corner where less-used items toppled out of sight for months or years at a time. My eyes adjusted to see an abandoned mousetrap gathering dust in the dark. It was empty and un-set. I remembered the winter a few years before when we had the trouble with mice. With a little effort I could have reached it to get it out of there, "But why remind Mom of that? Just leave it." I told myself, but actually... I was afraid to touch it. I saw both pie tins and the biscuit tins, too, old round things with spinning tabs that looked like the big-hand on a clock for separating the biscuits (or oven fries) from the pan. Inching backward out the cabinet door, I handed her the biscuit pans first.
"Looky here..." I grunted, getting to my knees.
“Oh, you found my biscuit pans, too. Good. I'll make biscuits tonight." she sniffed and smiled.
And just that suddenly she was fine, which is how it typically went, and I thought nothing of either the tears or their stopping. Encountering and solving minor catastrophes with Mom was a normal part of our private world.
"If I ever do have a new kitchen," she sighed, "I want one of those Lazy-Susan things that brings the corner stuff right to the front.”

“You’ll have a new kitchen, Mom," I handed her the pie tins. "Dad says we’re pouring the foundation after the well's done, and once the foundation’s done, then the walls go up and then the roof and probably the kitchen will be the first room done after that.”

“Do you really think so, Tom? I feel like it will never happen, and then when I think of it will happen I get so skairt (Mom pronounced the word scared with a "t" at the end). I'll miss Kay. I like having a cup of sugar or a half-a-loaf of bread right next door. Who will I visit with out there? And what am I going to do out in the woods when all you kids are gone?”

“We won’t be gone, Mom.” I assured her, and just as I did not yet care to think about my sister leaving for college, I did not yet allow myself to do the math and see that Mom might just be right.

I didn’t know it at the time; I didn’t know it at age 20; nor yet at 30; I would be 35 before I’d learn of Mom’s secret but on-going battle with depression. Back then we never talked about such things. There were no TV commercials asking, “What does depression look like?” And other than the tears and the picking, Mom's sense of humor, Bible reading, songs at the piano, singing in the church choir, staying busy with five kids... her daily doing masked what she was going through in life. The fact that she was usually able to carry on illustrates both her strength and fact that, medically speaking, things could have been much worse. Her experience made her much more sensitive to the trials of others. I did not understand this until much later when I began writing and Mom trusted me with stories I hadn’t heard before. In looking back at them, it’s easy to see the dots and put it all together, but children know nothing of connecting dots--except in coloring books.

Kathy probably understood more than she let on, but I'm sorry to say we boys paid little more attention to Mom's bad days than we did her slightly burnt toast (the kind she’d scrape with a butter knife and put beside her own plate to avoid the conflict giving it to anyone else would cause). Mom’s bad days, bad weeks, bad months, mixed in with the good, and became “normal” to us all. I guess burnt toast is a good way to put it. Not so burnt you had to throw it out, just slightly blackened, scraped off in the sink, and put at the table... as if everything was fine.
That day as we drove out to the property to help sink the sixth crock, I kept pushing the buttons of the radio trying to find a good song. When this one came on, Mom brushed my hand aside.
"Don't turn it, Tom. I like this one..."

To be continued next week: Unsettled Chapter 14 "The Afternoon of the Sixth Crock" or "A Man Came Through the Woods"


Blogger the walking man said...

Isn't it the human frailty of his children that causes God to love us all the harder?

I like that one Tom.

25/1/09 5:08 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Well put, Mark. And likewise, the more I realized what had been going on (as an adult looking back) we kids loved her even more with time. Things did get better for her,I'll try to include that as I wrap this series up (still a few chapters to go).

25/1/09 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading here since last summer and look forward to each post. You did warn us and now I know why. it took an hour to read but I read it twice and also read the link about the irish beating. I feel like I know your mother and family. It made me sad to read but I think your mother was right to trust you. This was a good chapter. I know someone else who needs to read this but I was wondering if you think it is not good to treat depression with medication? I know people that it helps especially with bipolar.

25/1/09 4:07 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for leaving a comment. The little counter on the bottom of the POI site says about 150 people have started reading this post, but I'm not sure how many have made it through to the end once much less twice. I'm not sure I should have written it. Hope I don't regret it... so thank you for these kind words.

As far as meds go, I'm sure that there are thousands (millions?) of people who benefit from meds designed to help with thier specific diagnosis. I didn't go into detail, but if you click the link in the paragraph about the pills her doctor prescribed, they were not like today's pills (for bipolar for instance) they were basically "uppers," pep pills but prescribed so Mom never questioned them. This combined with depression (I'm not sure what specific name her doctor would have called it) led to a difficult journey of "recovery" and various prescribed "solutions" through which she kept being a wonderful mother to us kids and wife to Dad. I did not realize any of this until well after I was out of the house and married. Hope that helps.

It all evened out eventually (pretty much), her faith was the main reason she was able to have JOY even when "happiness" was thin.

The next chapter is much lighter, but to understand it, this chapter was needed.

25/1/09 10:10 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Great job Tom... have no regrets, this just gives the reader more insight.

27/1/09 12:28 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Your mother, whatever her problems, was one wonderful , Christian lady.

27/1/09 4:08 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy and Dr. John,
Thanks for being web-encouragers. You have a pretty good understanding of her.

As promised in the caveat, this was long (sorry) and it did get tweaked after the post-date. On behalf of my family, thank you for seeing the diamond in this real-life character. You are in good company among the countless lives she touched.

27/1/09 8:02 PM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

So hard to understand what is going on when we are kids sometimes. My mom is agoraphobic and there are many stories. She is 78 yrs old now and the agoraphobia is worse than ever. Oh, it was always bad. But she taught us good values and an acceptance of all people and wonderful creativity. Her world was/is so small but also so large.

Sounds like we both had "pretty" Mamas. D

27/1/09 9:59 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

I just love the most recent picture of your mom in the teal outfit. Such a beautiful woman and, from the way you write about her, she was beautiful both inside and out.

For the life of me, I can not think of a single woman I know who has not had emotional issues to deal with at least once in life. Your mom may have had more than her share and it may have exceeded the usual PMS type of complaints women have, but I believe that challenges like those your mom faced helped to make her into the wonderful person she ended up being. Some of the most caring and responsible people I know have had similar challenges.

Donetta wrote about her mom's agoraphobia. I want Donetta to know that the very popular TV cook Paula Deen of Paula's Home Cooking was agoraphobic for a few years. In fact she spent most of her days and nights cooped up in her bedroom. This was when she was a lot younger than now. Then one day she decided she had had enough. She got out of bed, dressed herself up, and began to work on establishing a food service business for herself and her two sons who must have been in their teens at the time. She called it "The Bag Lady." She sold bag lunches to her clients. The business took off and soon she opened a restaurant. It, too, was a big success. The rest is history. There is always,always hope.

Keep up with your wonderful writing, Tom. Your mom is proud of you, I am sure of that.

27/1/09 11:11 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for sharing that. I know for a fact of two other readers (sisters) who have shared with me that their mother is agoraphobic much as you've described and about the same age as my mom. Last year, they told me the story of the Duncan Phyfe helped their mother open up a little. It's easy to see how such "fears" feed on themselves, but like you said, the loving, creative, caring people are still inside.

I love that picture, too. It was taken by Bob, the high school friend who made Mom and Dad's wedding cake and later reacquainted with Mom at their class's 50th reunion. They married and had nearly 7 happy years together. In the uncropped picture she is listening to someone to her right. There are so many people who had no idea she ever went through such a time, but our nearest and dearest friends are those who "remember when" and loved her just the same through it all. During those same years, she would sit on the front porch for hours visiting with kids in the neighborhood. Some of those "kids" came to her funeral. One drove 10 hours from northern Wisconsin. One spoke at the service.

Like a good sit-com, her life had countless "spin-off" stories.

Thank you, SQ.

28/1/09 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Hello, my brother!
I wanted to take this time to tell you how much I respect you and admire your gift of writing. From the time that you were very young I have watched with pleasure as you carefully and passionately honed your skills of poetry and prose. I read your reflections appreciatively. They are full of delicious detail! Your love of words, artistic expression, and keen insight into life and people are assets you draw upon instinctively. I have especially enjoyed your creative and vivid memories of our past. They transport me back in time. I find myself smiling, laughing, and crying as your words describe events so strikingly that they create clear images of people and scenarios in my mind...I truly can see and hear them again. Other memories that have laid dormant for a long time were "quickened" as I read your post. Thank you for honoring Mom and Dad as well as so many others with your gift of words and story.
I love you, Kathy

28/1/09 10:59 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Your love and respect for your mother echoes though every word. How could your reader possibly disrespect her when it is clear that you love her so very much?

29/1/09 2:50 AM  

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