Today it has been one year since Mom took her last breath on this earth. So much has changed, and so much is the same. I still haven’t gone through all of her stuff, but I did finally manage to do her laundry about a month ago. I was sort of stunned to see it still sitting there in her closet. I figured she would appreciate me washing the clothes and putting them up, even though she’ll never wear them again.

Gaylon, Kendall, Abby and I went to the cemetery this afternoon. Kendall brought a dozen yellow roses, and we all just sort of stood there stupidly. I mean, what do you do? I honestly don’t know what to do at a grave site!  Do you tell them you’re there? Seems sort of silly, since they are not there! Do you say some sort of prayer? Do you have a moment of silence? I talk to Mom all the time, so it seems surreal that I’d have to go all the way out to the cemetery to talk to her. And yet, it seemed very necessary that we should go. Pay our respects. Somewhere, somehow, I think it mattered. Probably to us more than to her. It was cold and dreary, which also seemed fitting.

The last year has been a blur, and I don’t really remember a lot of it. At least not off the top of my head. If someone asks me about something in particular, I can usually recall it, but no guarantees. I’ve been really focusing on my midwifery studies, and that has been a Godsend. I think without my studies, I might not have gotten out of bed. But instead, I’ve attended 10 births and almost 100 prenatals! I’ve gone to three workshops. I am now certified in Neonatal Resuscitation and have started learning venipuncture! And, in experiencing birth again, I’ve realized that birth and death are both very much alike, in that they are both journeys that, once begun, must be completed. No matter how painful or terrifying, one must finish. There is not other way out but to go through it.

The holidays are over, and we’ve gone through our year of ‘firsts’ without Mom. Without Nana. We’ve all hung on to each other, and we are moving forward. We didn’t want to, but here we all are, a year later, still living and loving and laughing. It’s what she would have wanted for us. While the pain will never fully subside, I know it will never be as searing as it was at first. We’ve all learned to live again in a world without her.

I miss her more than I can ever express, and I know that will never change. But I no longer cry myself to sleep every night. As Abby said, I’m now able to talk more about her life than her death, to remember her living, not dying. That’s huge. So many people have tried to be helpful and tell me how to feel. I can tell within a few words whether or not they’ve ever lost someone really, really close to them. Whether or not they’ve lost their mother.  My friend, Rebecca, said that she, too, is a ‘motherless child’. Yes. I am an adult, I have my own (grown) children. Yet I am now a member of that special, secret club of motherless children. It is a bittersweet hazing, and while I don’t wish it on anyone, it’s apparently unavoidable. But there are so many precious people in that club, who have reached out to me, held me, supported me, and gently guided me through this first year. My debt to them is incalculable.

My husband and children have been beyond amazing, and without them I don’t know where I’d be. Gaylon has been so good to just hold me and love me and let me just BE. He was, without question, closer to my mother than to his own, and yet he’s stood strong for me. Kendall, Alex and Abby have all walked through this with me, while painfully journeying through their own grief. I have a very special place in my heart for my beautiful and tender daughter-in-law, Alicia, who manage to transcend her crippling pain and grief and be there not only for my son, but for my mother, and, for me. My extended family has also been there for me in so many tiny little ways that mean so much. My friends are amazing, still calling and texting me and checking on me. I pray that I will someday be as faithful and true as they are. And mom’s friends have been checking on me, too!

So, yes. Life does go on. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine it. And somehow, it seems more vivid, more colorful, more. . . real. Maybe that’s because I am so much more aware of how very fleeting it is. We had no idea that we were going to lose Mom so soon or so quickly. I have learned, a little bit more, to savor every moment. I want to make every word count, and to say it in love. I want to take risks and have adventures. Because, as trite as it sounds, it’s true: we really are never guaranteed tomorrow.

Alex moved out just over two weeks ago. Today he came by the house and gathered up a little bit more of his stuff to take over to his new apartment. He has a new job that he is very excited about, he’s started his 3rd semester of classes at Austin Community College, and is considering trying out some of the local Open Mic Nights here in town. In short, he’s grown up.

I knew he would, eventually.  After all, that was the goal! To raise our children to become responsible adults who would go out and live their own lives. So why am I so sad when it happens?  I look in his closet, which used to be just teeming with all of his stuff, and it seems so. . . empty.  There is plenty of evidence that Alex was here, not the least of which is a Storm Trooper Helmet and three Nutcrackers. Star Wars and Ballet. Yep. That’s my boy!

I have to give him credit. He has made the extra effort to call and come by to see us.  He even called Gaylon and invited him over to watch a movie while I was in Boston. I remember inviting my dad to come to my first apartment. I guess it’s a rite of passage. 🙂

Gaylon and I are slowly relocating our home office into Alex’s old bedroom. In fact, I am typing this blog post where his Roland Keyboard used to sit. I’m glad for his success. I’m happy that he is making such a good start of things. I just need to not look at that closet again for a little while, I think.

After we got somewhat settled in here in Austin, I got with a couple of the moms who are in charge of our homeschool support group and offered to create a yearbook. They thought it was a great idea, and the Teen Board did, too, so, we dug in, and created a yearbook. That was in October or November, I think. We got a pretty slow start, but for the past couple of months, I’e pretty much not done anything but work on the yearbook.  Yesterday, it was finally finished! I have a call in to the printer, and expect to send the file to him early next week. By the middle of the month, we should be able to have a yearbook signing party! Yay! It has been absolutely delightful getting to work with the kids, and to get to know them and their families better. This is an amazing bunch, and they are so gifted and motivated. I have been so very blessed by them!

So that leaves me with a little free time before we start up with our homeschooling in August. I have some cross stitch projects I’m working on, (can’t tell what they are . . . other than it’s for Christmas!) and I also have some sewing to finish up as well. But, what I think I will spend the most time on is Genealogy! It’s been such a long time since I’ve gotten to do anything with it, and I was really inspired last weekend.

The Golden Anniversary Couple

Let me explain.  Last weekend, a lot of us got together up in Ft. Worth at my cousin’s home to celebrate his parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  It was a lot of fun, especially because I got to see family that I don’t see very often, like the Guests of Honor, my uncle Harvey and Aunt Enid; my cousin Ronnie and his son Don; my cousin Jamie and his family (they hosted this shindig) my cousin Phyllis from Albuquerque, and best of all, Kendall!  (Especially Kendall!!) And it was awesome to eat real Texas Barbeque, which Jamie stayed up most of Friday night smoking.  We had an absolute blast!

Without question, one of my favorite parts was getting to see Phyllis and getting to compare notes on the Family History.  She is LDS, and has done quite a bit of research on our family tree.  I was able to glean quite a bit from her records, and was able to share some family photos with her, as well as a bit of data.  Isn’t the digital age amazing?  Anyway, she really inspired me to get off of my cyber-butt and start really re-organizing all of my files, which I have really been meaning to do since the fire (umm. . . 6 years ago!) And now that I live just up the road from the Texas State Archives, well, I have no excuses!

We also got to go see my cousin, Branden, his beautiful wife, Laura, and their family, on my Mom’s side.  This included getting to meet his brand new baby boy, Reid, and  his 2 year-old little girl, Lily, and his brother’s son, Garrett!  So, that was awesome.  I am posting a picture of all the kids together.  We were missing Spencer’s other three kiddos and Branden’s 3 stepchildren, but it was still a nice photo-op. 😉

Granny & Grandad Would Have Been So Proud!

I don’t want to forget to mention that Mom’s friend, Janet, let us stay at her lovely home in Grapevine, just minutes from my cousin’s home, so that was really nice. She is a wonderful hostess.  I think she should have been Polish! 😉

So, I know I’ve been pretty spotty at keeping this blog up, and I read such wonderful blogs maintained by women who have far more to do and many more children than I, but somehow I can’t begin to keep up with them.  (You people know who you are!!)  So, for now, suffice it to say, even though I am going to have some free time on my hands for a few weeks, I plan to spend it ‘documenting the dead’, and still may not get to this blog regularly for a while.  Oh, and I have a couple of movies I plan to go see, too!  The final Harry Potter movie, and Cowboys and Aliens.  (Seriously, how could I NOT go see that last one??)


So we got into Arlington Friday afternoon, and spent time with our friends, the Bakers.  Cathy and I have been friends since 7th grade, and it is always wonderful to get to hang out with her!  Her sister, Lola, came over for a while, and that was wonderful.  I don’t get to see them nearly enough.  The kids had fun playing Wii and bashing pine cones with tennis rackets. (Don’t ask!!)

Saturday morning Gaylon picked Kendall and Joey up at the DFW Airport, and then they all spent the day at Cabella’s.  For those of you who like me, are ‘redneck challenged’, Cabella’s is a huge sporting store.  From what I heard, Gaylon and Joey had a blast, but Kendall and Alex were less than thrilled!

Saturday evening we went out for some good ol’ fashioned Tex-Mex, and then we headed on over to the ranch where Gaylon has been living on Saturday night.  The kids all stayed in one camper, and Gaylon and I stayed in the other.  Even in a really nice RV, I just don’t think I’m much of a “camper”, although I think if one was all stocked with my own stuff, it would be a lot better than staying in a motel.

Sunday we drove into Abilene to check out the church that we will probably be attending once we get moved out here: Holy Family.  Then, after church, we met up with Gaylon’s nephew, Joe (aka: Critter) and his wife, Candace,  to see their brand new baby boy!  Faith got a picture of me holding him.  He is so tiny!!  It’s amazing how quickly you forget how little they are at first.

Great-Aunt Val with Baby Colton James Brooks

Great-Aunt Val with Baby Colton James Brooks

Sunday afternoon we went over to Gaylon’s nephew James’ and his wife, Tammy’s, house and hung out over there until LATE!!  They live just outside of Merkel. The boys all spent the afternoon shooting skeet, and I even shot a few times, although I didn’t hit anything.  Faith took lots of pictures of this with James’ camera, but I haven’t figured out how to get them onto my computer yet.  However, when I do, I’ll post them. James grilled out, and it was really wonderful.  Mesquite grilled pork. . . yum!

Yesterday we went into Abilene on a “Fact-Finding Mission” and drove through several neighborhoods and checked out the mall.  Alex likes it, and Faith is okay with it.  It’s better than I expected, which is nice.  I have to say though that I love the people here.  There is no friendlier bunch of folks on this planet than Texans. Kendall and Joey stayed out on the ranch, hunting.  They are having a blast, apparently!

We spent the night at James and Tammy’s last night because there were thunderstorms rolling through.  Kendall and Joey stayed at the camper, and they were fine, although they did lose power at one point.  Alex had a rough night, though.  He got up in the middle of the night to find the bathroom, tripped, fell, and knocked himself out!  He said he woke up on the floor seeing stars!  We heard him, so Gaylon went up to check on him, and he had a really nasty gash on his eyebrow and a milder one across his eyelid! He’s okay, though, thank God!  It could have been so much worse.  Today he just has a mild black-eye, not nearly as bad as I thought it might be.

Today, Faith is driving Tammy’s Kubota all over the ranch and having the time of her life, and I heard a rumor that Tammy is going to take her fishing.  Faith is such a country girl!  Joey texted me to say he killed a rabbit this morning, and Faith is ready to go back over there and skin it and use the brains and fat to cure the hide.  Ummm. . . yeah. “Not my bag, baby!!”

Tomorrow we head over to Midland to see Gaylon’s brother, Chuck, and his wife, Anna, and my Aunt Bobbie.  Then Thursday we will drive over to Post to see Granny Lucille and Granny Dee.  Friday we are headed back into the Dallas area and will see Cathy one more time, then head over to spend the night at my cousin, James Westbrook’s house.  So, we are busy, and it’s going fast.  We will be back in North Carolina in no time.

So tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are headed out to Texas to spend Spring Break with Gaylon.  The kids are really excited, and I know I will be, too, once the driving part is over!  We are going to spend tomorrow night in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and might tour the Battleground Friday morning.  Then, Friday night we are going to stay with my dear friend, Cathy.  I am definitely looking forward to that!  Gaylon will meet us there, which makes it all that much better! 😉

Saturday night we are headed over to my cousin, James’ house.  He is a terrific host and an awesome cook, so that’s gonna be great, too!  Then, Sunday morning we are headed on over to Abilene and ultimately to the ranch where Gaylon has been living.  We are planning to stay with his nephew, James Paul, though, and not in an RV.  Although we may spend one night in the RV, because the kids think that would be really cool.

Kendall will be flying into DFW with his buddy, Joey, and we will pick them up at the airport Saturday morning.  So, we will all be together, and it will be a lot of fun.  I think one of the best parts is going to be the warmth!!!  I am so ready for some heat.  We are leaving 6 inches of snow behind here in North Carolina.  With any luck, it will all be gone by the time we get home.

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