Big, busy weekend

My sophomore college roommate came to visit yesterday, the first time we’ve seen each other since our 20th reunion 25 years ago. She lives in Chattanooga, TN, mother of 3 and grandmother of 10, and a retired nurse practitioner. Fifty years ago we sang together as freshmen in a group called The Master Key at the Baptist Student Union, and we were sorority sisters, too. We’ve stayed in touch with Christmas letters and occasional mid-year contact, but even so, we were able to pick up almost as though we talked every day, and it was wonderful. We stayed up and talked and talked last night, looking up people we remembered but weren’t quite sure about surnames. C’mon, it’s been a very long time. We were lucky to remember first names.

This morning we did two big things that were connected – for the first time in almost a year, I got in and out of a car and went to church. Carol cared for her father in his last years and he was also in a wheelchair with legs he couldn’t move. With that and her nursing background, she was the perfect person to help me navigate getting from the wheelchair to the front seat of the car. Fortunately for me, she was driving a Toyota Corollo, not an SUV, and the seat actually felt very low but at least I could get into it. Then we did it in reverse at the church giving me a chance to be in church for the first time in a year. It was wonderful and soul nourishing, and I was especially glad I was able to see Fr. Matt before he leaves Tyler for a new rectorship in Autin.

So now I know I can do it. SUV’s are probably still too tall for me to try and get into – I had enough trouble doing that when my legs were working properly. But if someone has a car instead, I think I can get into it with help. Not to mention dealing with the wheelchair, which fortunately is very lightweight. We just need to have a nice large trunk for it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out for some other activities soon.

I cooked for the visit, making a big pot of meat sauce in the crockpot with Italian sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and garlic, tossing in some egg noodles to cook in the sauce the last 30 minutes. We had salads from the dining room and fresh fruit with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. This morning we had my famous sour cream coffee cake with fresh fruit. Best part is that I have lots of leftovers, which will be wonderful. I really enjoy cooking and rarely do it now that I have a dining room for daily meals, so I was glad to have a reason to do it, and to have a chance to show myself that I can still do things I used to do all the time.

52 Ancestors – #18 Closeup on Aunt Jinx

My Aunt Jinx was family in every way but blood. She was my mom’s oldest and closest friend, although actually she was my aunt’s friend first; Mom was the youngest of the trio. Still, the three of them were thick as thieves and stayed close all their lives. Here they are about 1944 and again forty years later at my brother’s wedding:

JaneAnnFlanders, VirginiaWhite, PegFlanders
Jane Ann Flanders, Virginia Wight, Peg Flanders – Manasquan, NJ – c1944

Jane Anne, Peg, Jinny - August 15 1983
Jane Ann Helms, Peg Myers, Virginia King – Houston, August 1981

Virginia Wight King was passionate about her family, her faith, and her friends. She and my mom cleverly managed to live very close to each other as young married couples raising families in 1950’s New Jersey.  I grew up thinking that her daughters were blood relatives and was so happy to have girl cousins to play with. I still consider them to be family.

MYERS Anne Keel Baptismal Certificate 1954Aunt Jinx was my godmother, a responsibility she took seriously all her life. I was baptized in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Newark, the same church where my parents were married and my mom was both baptized and confirmed. Aunt Jinx pledged to see me make my confirmation before a bishop and never felt that my Presbyterian confirmation counted in quite the same way, so she was thrilled when I decided to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church during my senior year in college. She sent me a prayerbook and a long, thoughtful letter about how much her faith meant to her during hard times. I’ve kept it for 40 years because it really spoke to me about who she was as a spiritual person and my godmother, about what her faith meant to her and how she lived out her life.

She was passionate about education and taught English at Monmouth College for years.  Sometimes I would worry about grammar and punctuation when I wrote her, but being in touch was more important than being completely correct – I hoped.  She would remind all of us to “Be a Lady” or “Be a Gentleman” whenever she closed a conversation, especially in her wonderful letters. We still say it with a smile and remember her when we do.

Aunt Jinx also had a wicked sense of humor and a rich, wonderful, smoky laugh. I can picture her with my mom sitting over endless cups of coffee and cigarettes, talking and laughing for hours. Her daughter Carol and I did the same in England years later over cups of tea (and minus the cigarettes, at least for me).  We are a second generation of shared history and memories. I will remember her always, though, at Manasquan.

The last time I saw her was, at my grandfather’s funeral in 1983. She was local to him and proudly introduced me to her parish priest, who conducted the service, as the newly elected vestry member of my church. She had a wicked smile as she did so, knowing that Fr. Hulbert didn’t think women should have such a role. But she did. She was proud of me for just being me and she always let me know I was loved and supported.

Virginia King died in 1994 after a hard-fought battle with emphysema, a lady to the end. Her funeral brought family and friends together, including my parents who drove from Texas. We would not have missed this chance to support the family or say our goodbyes to someone who lives in our hearts.

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Reconnecting with Friends

While many of you were running around traveling or hosting family, I’ve been connecting with friends.  I spent Thanksgiving afternoon with a friend and work colleague I’ve known for over 20 years, who opened her home and her family to include me.  Today I caught up with another dear friend who lives in VT and was down in Connecticut visiting family for the holiday.  They’re splitting the visit between two sets of family and stopped here for a long lunch visit.

It’s been at least two years since we’ve seen each other and we just picked up where we left off.  Really, it’s remarkable how easy it is these days to stay connected using email and Facebook for contact, but there’s nothing like giving each other big hugs and having eye contact while talking and talking.  We went to a local Irish pub for lunch – a place I’ve driven past every day but never actually tried before.  Food was great and we had a nice relaxing time.

We are born into families, marry into other families, and build families of our own from our circle of friends. Sometimes those different groups overlap and other times, for other people, they are separate entities.  My family of friends means the world to me.  They are people I’ve forged a history with through the years and through shared experiences and adventures.  Reconnecting with them matters as much as reconnecting with my family of origin.

Good News from the Hospital

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and concerns. Knowing I have this web of community through the blogosphere is a great blessing and support.

My mom and dad holding handsMy mom is doing very well tonight. Last night at this time she was in the OR and tonight she’s resting comfortably in the ICU. The infection was not MRSA or the flesh-eating bacteria thing that sounds like it should be in a science fiction movie. Whatever kind it is, it’s controllable.

My brother and sister in law joined my dad at the hospital this morning and talked with the doctor, who answered their questions and really reassured them about Mom’s condition. But nothing reassured them as much as seeing her talking and being feisty and giving Dad a big long “to do” list. When they saw her tonight at 5pm she was looking even better than she did at the morning visiting time and there’s a chance she’ll be moved out of ICU tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

Mom had already prepared the Christmas sweet potato casserole (in the freezer) and baked a bunch of Christmas cookies for the grandchildren, and finished wrapping all the presents. My brother and sis in law are charged with taking the food and the presents for the Houston branch back with them tomorrow so they will be there for Christmas Day. They’re coming back the day after Christmas with a few grandchildren and hopefully will be able to see Mom back in the regular ward.

It’s hard to be 1400 miles away from everyone right now. I want to be sitting in waiting rooms or holding my mom’s hand, or giving my dad a hug, or doing SOMETHING. But here I sit in Connecticut while everyone else is in Texas, alone in my worry. Except I’m really not alone, I have this whole web of friends as family who have been there for support and distraction and reminding me that I’m part of more than just myself.

Although I haven’t been going to church much of late, I will find one for Christmas Eve to give thanks for all my family, that of blood and that of friendship, and to celebrate the birth of the Christ child with a full heart.