The Introverted Thinker deals with death

When my introverted thinker daughter was two and a half, we took care of her maternal grandmother at home in hospice for nearly six weeks. Her maternal grandmother died at home.

Two and a half year olds can’t process death, right?

When she was four she came to me.
“How old was grandmother when she died?”
“She was sixty-one years old.” I could anticipate the next question.
“How old are you?”
“I am forty-one.”
“When will you die?”
“I don’t know. No one knows. But, great grandmother K lived until she was 93 so I am hoping to be more like her than like grandmother H, but I don’t know. I don’t think I am going to die any time soon.”
She studied me very carefully. It felt like she was checking to be sure that I was telling her the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Apparently she was satisfied, because she toddled off to do something else.

And that is how the introverted thinker processed death.

Fierce woman

Ok, who is this fierce woman?

It is not me.

It is not my daughter.

It is a relative.

It is not my mother.

It is not my grandmother.

I have pictures of all of these women with that expression.

This is Mary Robbins White, my grandmother’s mother.

This is the line of women: mother to daughter all the way down.

What is passed from mother to daughter and mother to son? Besides the fierce expression?

Mitochondria. The mitochondria are only in the egg, not in the sperm. My grandparents, had three children, two boys and my mother. My mother passed the mitochondria to me and my sister, but the men would not contribute mitochondria to their sons or daughters. It is amazing to look at that serious face with intensity and concentration and see that passed down to my daughter, my son and my niece….

Guess who is who in the following photographs. I took two of them.

practicing grandmother

My sister sends me a t-shirt years ago.

It says, “I don’t know if I am the good witch or the bad witch.”

I burst into tears and put it in the trunk of my car. I never wear it. I am the designated bad witch for half my family. We won’t go into that.

She gets a shirt too. Hers is the green one. Mine is black.

She is dead, in 2012, breast cancer. It’s hard to describe the fallout. Toxic and radioactive. But… I have decided not to be a witch.

Instead, I am a practicing grandmother.

Really I’ve been one for a while. There was a young couple who lived down the street with two children. This was in 2014. I am a Facebutt friend, so sometimes noted what was happening. The father has to travel for his job. The mother is trying to care for two kids and work and so on… been there.

In 2014 I am recovering from my third round of pneumonia. This third round it takes six months before I can return to work. Short of breath and coughed if I talked. The state medical watch doctors want to disable me but I fight them tooth and nail. I win. In retroscope, oops, I mean retrospect, they were probably right.

Anyhow, I wander down to the neighbor and offer my services. She already knows me. She is instantly grateful and two year old T is introduced to me, again. He doesn’t really remember me. She explains that he is coming to my house for a little while and then back home.

T and I walk towards my house.

A nuthatch calls.

I stop and reply. In college I took ornithology and the teaching assistant could do a barn owl call so well that the barn owls would do a territorial fly over at night to see who had the weird accent. Marvelous.

The nuthatch and I went “enh” back and forth. T is amazed. This woman talks to birds. Then we see the nuthatch! I point out how nuthatches come down a tree head first. “If you hear that call, it’s a nuthatch. Look for it.” The nuthatch is very cooperative. Magic.

We get to my house. T is clutching a book. “He’s taking it everywhere,” sighs his mother. “I’m not sure why.”

So first we read the book. It is a board book about a farm. Each page has a central picture and then there are pictures around the edges with the word under each picture. On one page T says, “Haaaaay.”

“Oh!” I say, delighted. “You can read HAY!”

His face lights up. An adult who gets it! Yes! He can read HAY!

On another page he says HAY. “Oh,” I say, “That is straw. Straw is a lot like hay but it’s not exactly the same.”

He is very serious absorbing that information.

I show him my closet. There is a stick horse. Only it isn’t a horse: it’s a unicorn dragon, with a forehead horn and wings. When you press a button it’s eyes flash and it roars.

Ok, that’s pretty scary. He wants the closet door closed and he does NOT want to play with the dragon.

Next is pouring. I get out a towel and put it on the kitchen floor. I get out a rather nice expresso set. Bright colors. Orange and green and yellow and blue. I fill the coffee pot with water and invite him to sit on the towel. “You can pour the tea.”

He looks at me with surprise. He picks up the coffee pot. He looks at me again. “Go ahead. It’s ok.” He starts pouring into a cup. He pours until the cup overflows and the saucer overflows and he keeps pouring. The coffee pot is empty. He looks at me a little warily. This is technically spilling and he knows it.

“Would you like more in the teapot?”

He nods.

I refill the coffee pot with water and he starts again, with a different cup.

When I return him to mom, after two hours, he’s damp. “Sorry, he got a little wet, but it’s just water,” I say cheerfully. Mom is too harried to do much more than look resigned at a change of clothes. I tell her about him being able to read the word hay.

Next time he comes with a change of clothes and his large stroller, in case he goes down for a nap.

And first off, he goes to the closet. Time to hear that dragon roar again.

Ottaway back porch

My parents’ time warp Beatnik household, 1978, before I went to be an exchange student in Denmark.

We had a German exchange student living with us. She had been placed with a couple with no children, a military family, and was unhappy. My parents agreed that she could move in with us for the rest of her year. I decided to apply as an exchange student. I have not heard from her in years. Blessings, where ever she is.

My father’s mother’s father

The eldest gentleman in this picture is Fred Bayers, my father’s mother’s father. And his family.

My father’s mother’s mother is present as well. Let me not overlook the women.
Gertrude Bayers.

My father is there and his two sisters. Their spouses and children are present.

My mother is there. My father’s mother and my grandfather and my grandmother’s siblings are present.

I am there. So is my little sister.

Look at all the love there. We need our families so much during this pandemic.

Sending love out.

All love comes back to me.

I hope it comes back to you too.

The Brewer’s Big Horses

This is one of the Songs to Raise Girls, songs that I learned before Kindergarten. A very weird list of songs.

This song comes from my maternal grandfather. My mother said that it was a Congregationalist temperance song….

The photograph is Morris D. Temple and his grandson, F. Temple Burling. F. Temple Burling is my maternal grandfather. I am related to Temple Pumps. According to my mother’s stories, Morris Temple was more interested in Japanese art than in Temple Pumps and the company eventually folded. I don’t know if that is true, or if it was a different Temple then Morris. However, my middle name is Temple.

This song is one that I don’t have memorized, though I know the tune. I have my mother’s handwritten lyrics, with her drawings framing it. There is a tape of my grandfather singing it in the Library of Congress, according to my mother. I would like to go listen to it some time.

I’ve copied it just how my mother wrote it out. There might be an issue about political correctness, but I have a picture of Morris Temple in the 1860s, in his civil war uniform, with a sword. You will have to wait for that post to see which side he fought for….. I presume that my mother wrote it down as she was taught it. I am not sure who talked like this in Iowa in the 1880s, but maybe it was most people.

The Brewers’ Big Horses

O, the brewer’s big horses, comin’ down de road
A totin’ along old Lucifer’s load
Dey step so high and dey step so free
But them big horses can’t run over me

Chorus:
O no! boys O no!
De turnpike’s free where ever I go
I’m a temperance ingine don’t you see
So them big horses can’t run ovah me
Repeat with “toot toot toots”

O de liquo’ men been actin lak de own de place
A livin’ off de sweat o’ de po’ man’s face
Dey’s fat and sassy as dey can be
But deir big horses can’t run ovah me

Chorus

I’ll harness dem horses to de temperance cart
I’ll hit ’em with the gad fo’ to give ’em a start
I’ll teach ’em how fo’ to haw an’ gee
So them big horses can’t run ovah me

Chorus

It took me a while to find this song on the internet. It is listed in temperance songs in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_songs and is mentioned in The Christian Advocate under lyrics: The Brewers Big Horses. It is listed as written in 1913 by JB Herbert and HS Taylor. Isn’t it interesting that Budweiser still uses the Brewer’s Big Horses in advertising?

Again, this is a song I was learning way before I know what a brewer or a turnpike was. My parents stopped singing a bunch of songs when they realized that I was memorizing all of them. They did not want me singing certain songs in Kindergarten.

They did not need to worry. I shut up when I got to school, because no one wanted to sing and no one knew the songs. They all talked about television and we didn’t have one.

I was very disappointed in school. Not enough singing and it was lonely.

Juxtaposition

The photograph in my Quimper Family Medicine home clinic and guest room is of my grandmother and my daughter, in 1988. I took the picture. My grandmother is Evelyn Ottaway. The other picture is one of my mother/baby or parent/child pictures. I like the juxtaposition.

It’s not just parent/child that is important. It is parent/child, grandparent/child, great grandparent/child.

I am reading a book that appeared in my little free library box, about grandmothering skills. It’s got some very interesting ideas and I am enjoying it! Radical, man.

My grandmother had amazing organizational skills. I think that my daughter got them from her.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: Radical.

kitchen window with cat

In the early morning before dawn
the orchids keep me company
cat and computer as I sit and write

I tried a desk but the sky doesn’t lighten
windows on three sides, the orchids and I
await the sun, cat now on my lap

this table was my grandmother’s
my mother loved flowers
my daughter says “The laptop’s in the way.”

Thank you orchids, cat and table
Thank you laptop, teacup, dawn
Thank you grandmother, mother, daughter

kitchen window blessing


containment in ceremony

This is for Taleweaver #147 – What brings you joy?

My minister talks about containment in ceremony.

That the ceremony can be a container for us to handle our worst selves and our best selves safely.

The Catholic mass is an example, particularly when it was in Latin. That it takes us through horror and suffering and death and then resurrection. This past weekend we performed the Mozart Requiem, from grief through joy.

My minister says that Western Civilization has lost the container for spirituality in the churches and instead holds the sacred in a love relationship. He says that the projection of one’s best self on the loved one can then flip into the projection of one’s worst, if we are not careful. We are attracted to people who have some of the aspects that we hide in our unconscious, so these are activated and projected. We magnify the talents and the beauty and wisdom of the love object. They are not real. True love is when we can slowly withdraw the projection and see the actual person who is there and then really love them.

I am taking a class where we are reading The Maiden Tsar. I am thinking of the chicken feet that Baba Yaga’s house stands on. We say that a person is chicken when they are afraid and won’t go forward, a coward. So Baba Yaga’s house on chicken feet: it is a house of fear, fear alive, terrifying. And what do we find in this most frightening place? We find that that our culture has most devalued: an old woman, not beautiful, not fertile. And she cares nothing for logic. In order to meet her challenge and not be destroyed, we must use our intuition, not our logic. No linear thinking, but a respect for magic and for humor.

I am thinking of the grandmother theory, that women have a dramatic menopause because they are the tribal memory. They have to survive the famine, raise the grandchildren, remember where there might be food, remember tricks and things forgotten. A useful man may remain fertile for the tribe, but a useful woman loses hers, because she is now a walking repository of knowledge. And western civilization has denigrated and ignored her: so she lives in the house with chicken feet.

My children are now adults but they do not have children yet. I am a practicing grandmother though. I am living alone for the first time in 28 years. I practice on other people’s children. A two year old loves my house: there is a stick dragon in the closet that roars if you press his throat. There are toys that he can’t take home. “That is mine. You may play with it while you are visiting.” I put a towel on the floor and get the espresso set out. I have never made espresso. He sits on the towel and pours water from the coffee pot until the cup overflows, the saucer overflows, the towel is soaked. He looks up at me, holding the coffee pot. “More?” I say. He hands it to me and I fill it with water again. His mother is surprised that he is wet from head to toe when she picks him up. By then the towel is cleared, the coffee set is drying, and he and I share a glance, our secrets safe. Until the next visit.