I haven’t written in a while. I don’t know what to write. I keep waiting. ‘I just have to get through this month.’ And then another month goes by, and, ‘I just have to get through this month. It seems it’s always something. The house closing getting delayed time and again; learning my year’s lease will be only six months, which means a move around the holidays when all the snowbirds head back south. Big things. Little things. No sleep for me.
I rented a condo just inside Daytona Beach, the last place I really wanted to live. But it’s nice. Small; very small, but nice. And it’s right on the ICW, so the view is relaxing. Another move. That’ll make nine in 11 years. Then there’s the trouble with my credit union for well over a month. Changing banks. Address changes that don’t quite take. Cleaning out said condo, slowly re-packing this place. Trying to order/buy furniture for the new place without money. I signed our house sale contract in April. We were scheduled to close on the 8th of June with the possibility of an extension to the 23rd. Now, ‘We’ll close on July 5th” . . . Wait. “We’ll close on the 7th.” I’ve never experienced such a shoddy, unprofessional, debacle as this house sale.
If I try to sum up the last four months of my life, it needs to be done in bullet points. Oddly enough, 11 years ago I was enmeshed in a similar set of life-changing events that forced a move from Michigan to Florida. Between the years of 2007 and 2009 I lost my dad-my champion; I lost my little yarn shop to the big box Hobby Lobby; I lost my 30-year marriage, and I ultimately lost my home; life-changing events that nearly plunged me down the rabbit hole that is so difficult to climb out of. And now I find myself, 11 years later, in a similar situation.
My 95-year-old mother had been living with us over the past year and loving Florida. When January came around, we discovered we had major water damage to our home that involved a complete tear out of the master bathroom and laundry room. We were without hot water for four weeks. And then the insurance company pulled the plug (no pun intended) on our claim.
In less than four months:
With the water damage came a critical mold issue that seriously affected my health and my mother’s to the point where we were forced to very reluctantly move her back to Michigan the first week of February.
A month later I was at her bedside when she died.
While my mother lay dying, my husband never once asked how I was doing; he never even went to the funeral. I filed for divorce.
In April, while I helped my daughter move to New Mexico, he moved out and left me to deal with all the bills, the emptying and the sale of the house.
Mid-May my son’s family relocated from four miles away from me back to Michigan taking my two young granddaughters with them.
After finding a new place to live, the never-ending process of emptying the house began. Countless items were donated, tossed, or stored with the help of some incredible friends.
With the help of these same friends, I moved into a little rental, a wonderfully sweet bungalow on a canal where I am attempting, on my better days, to begin again at 67 years old.
I feel so extremely fragile right now. It takes very little to send me to the precipice of that darkness. I know I need to avoid any more stress; an online stress test revealed a 476 score. Anything over 300 raises my likelihood of illness in the near future to about 80%. So I know I need to surround myself with positivity, joyfulness, and gratitude. But I’m not sleeping. My stomach is constantly in knots. I dread phone calls because I’m tired of my own voice.
But I also know I’m my mother’s daughter. I am made of pretty sturdy stuff. I’ve been through a similar period before, albeit at 56 and not 67. I need to constantly remind myself to give it over to God, offer it up as a prayer and keep telling myself that with His help – and Mom’s – I can do anything. That rabbit hole will just have to wait.
I’ve been struggling trying to find a way to stay in my house after my divorce but have hit roadblock after roadblock until finally crying uncle and deciding the heck with it, I’m just gonna sell it, split the proceeds and be done with it all. Since that decision, I have been looking for a rental, preferably in the park I currently live, but I also like the 55+ park next to this one called Bulow Plantation.
This afternoon I went and looked at a darling 960 square foot furnished bungalow on a canal with a cozy shaded lanai that I will rent for at least six months, possibly longer. The owner is a travel nurse (similar to my daughter) and may extend her job into next June. It is quiet and peaceful and just what I think I need at this point in my life. Now to the interesting part:
The address is 65 Whitefeather. Just for fun, I thought I’d look up the spiritual meaning of “White Feather.”
“Many Christians believe the appearance of a white feather has an angelic connection. Some believe their guardian angel is communicating with them and offering a message of love, comfort, hope, and peace. There can also be a strong feeling of angelic energy associated with the presentation of a white feather, especially when it has no logical reason to be where the person finds it.”
“Finding a white feather could mean any of the following:
Angels are near: The first meaning is simply that angels are nearby. This could be someone they know who passed on or a patron saint.
Watching over you: The most common meaning is that a loved one is watching over you. If you’ve recently lost someone close to you, this is a source of comfort.
Peace: White feathers are also a symbol of peace, even if you’re not a religious person.
Everything is okay: Lastly, a white feather is a reminder to stay faithful. Everything is going to be okay with time.”
This past January, we discovered mold growing in the laundry room and master bathroom due to a slow but steady water heater leak that caused excessive damage to two rooms and triggered a wicked case of eczema in me that has lasted for months. With the tear-out and dry-out period, we were without hot water for weeks on end, eventually having to move my 95-year-old mother back to Michigan the first week of February. By the first week of March, she was dying, and my life has not been the same since.
Now it’s the end of April. It’s nearly eight weeks since mom died. Since then I have stayed with my cousin at Lake Huron, my brother in Fort Myers, with my daughter in New Mexico, or with a friend in Ormond Beach; anywhere but at my own home where my soon-to-be ex-husband has been holed up in his tv room busily packing up his 3,000 DVDs in preparation for his move to a new apartment 60 miles away. It finally happened on April 19th, and I still don’t feel like I can take a deep breath.
My hope has always been to stay in this house. I love this area, my neighbors, and this home, especially with half the furniture out of it. But it’s not to be. And aside from the dread of having to sell most everything in it, it’s just stuff, and stuff can be replaced. I’ll rent something furnished and lighten my load. It’s probably for the best in the long run. I don’t think I want to own a home anymore. Too many things can go wrong, and now it’s just me. And I really don’t want to have to think about all that.
It seems each of these past four months began with, “I just have to get through this month.” But today is May 1, and I just have to get through this next month. Hopefully, at the end of it, I will have sold this house, seen my ex-husband in the rear-view mirror, and found a new place to live. Maybe I can start to look forward to the beautiful days in this wonderful area that have been too long ignored. I want to enjoy short and long trips back to Michigan and Oklahoma, go kayaking again, meet up with friends for dinner or drinks, or perhaps just do nothing at all. I’m going to get past the stress from these last four months and remember to be grateful every day for the many, many blessings I have.
I know I’m standing in the middle of the forest. I’ve been standing in the middle of it for months. And with each event, I say, “I cannot see past this.” And yet it passes. So again, I cannot yet see past this. But I know the days will pass, the house will sell, the divorce will happen, and I will move on to be on my own once again to find my way out of the trees.
Last year I thought my mother was dying. We’d put her on hospice in June of 2021 and watched her decline over a few weeks. And then she rallied. She didn’t come back a hundred percent, but she did come back. She had lots of visitors between June and year’s end, and we celebrated her 95th birthday along with the rest of the world on New Year’s Eve. A month later we discovered a water leak had caused lots of damage and excessive mold in the house, and with that, my siblings decided it was time to bring mom back to Michigan. Within a very short time, we met my brother and his wife at the airport, and mom left us to go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to a very nice apartment in an assisted living facility where, at 95, she would live by herself for the first time in her life. Even with lots of family members nearby, it did not go well.
Confused, disoriented, looking for her family, she only seemed herself when one of us was with her. She had her walker on hand, but left alone, she would always push it to one side and then hold onto furniture as she made her way around her little place. She couldn’t remember what the SOS bracelet on her wrist was for. Day to day she could not seem to remember why she was there, saying she felt like she was just dropped off and left. Her forgetfulness grew even worse, and though she had visitors every single day, until they came, she was lost. My sister had cameras in place to check on her, but it was heartbreaking to see and hear her confusion at night, knowing there was little to be done but call in and ask someone to please check on her.
And finally she fell. Twice. The first was just a scraped knee. She was shook up but quickly forgot about it. A day later, in the early hours of the morning, either her bad leg gave out or she had a slight stroke. They found her on the floor in the hallway near the bathroom, her left shoulder dislocated. At the hospital, under sedation, they tried to put the shoulder back in, but due to a fractured humerus and her extremely fragile bones, all they could do was strap her in a brace and send her ‘home.’ That day, Monday, February 28th, was the beginning of the end.
I was already scheduled to fly up to see her the following weekend. But after my sister called on Wednesday and asked if I could come sooner, I got on a plane the next day to offer her some much needed relief. Mom was confined to her hospital bed. It took nearly 24 hours, but with Kindred Hospice’s help, we found the right medicinal cocktail to ease the pain and anxiety her ordeal had caused. She had difficulty forming words with enough breath to speak them. She’d stopped eating and drinking.
It was a fast decline from there. All my Michigan siblings came to see her along with many nieces and nephews. She would ask what was happening, and we tried to be honest with her. I slept on the couch in her living room not wanting to be too far away from her. On Friday she kept trying to get out of bed, pulling herself up, saying the word, ‘pee.’ I told her she was not able to get up, she had hurt her shoulder, but she was insistent. When she tried to move further, the pain in her left shoulder would stop her. I talked with my nurse friend back home who suggested she needed a foley catheter. I immediately called hospice, and within an hour a nurse came out to give her relief. She filled the bag, poor thing, but her agitation finally stopped. Friday evening I was sitting next to her bed, my head resting on my arm on the half rail combing her hair with my fingers the way she did when I was a child. She turned to look at me and said in her garbled speech, “I love you so, so much.” I said, “I love you more.” She smiled and said, “We could be sisters!” I laughed and told her, “That works for me!” Then she smiled and made a low, breathy, “Huh-huh” laugh. Saturday and Sunday there were lots of visitors, but mom was rarely alert enough to do more than squeeze a hand. Nurses and aides asked if she had said her goodbyes to everyone. We assured them that we had told mom repeatedly that we were all going to be okay and that she can go be with dad. “But has she heard from them all?” She had not.
So Sunday evening I contacted each of the three siblings in Florida and told them we would be calling them and putting the phone to mom’s ear so she could hear them. And this woman, this mother of 11 who had not moved for close to 36 hours, turned her head at the sound of her child’s voice and listened as each one said their separate goodbyes.
Everyone went home, and I eventually went and laid on the couch. I fell into a deep sleep only to awaken suddenly about 12:35 a.m. I quickly got up and went into mom’s room finding her in the same position, but not breathing. I sat down, put my fingers on either side of her throat and felt a faint pulse. I attempted to sing to her the same song she sang for dad before he died, “Goodnight sweetheart; well, it’s time to go…” In less than 10 minutes, her heart – her big, beautiful, loving heart – stopped beating, and she died at 12:45 a.m. I sat there with her, combing her hair back, so grateful for being woken to be with her at the end, smiling through my tears thinking about the glorious reunions happening in heaven.
How did I get so lucky, out of 11 kids, to be the one to be there when this sweet, wonderful woman left this earth?
Being one of 11 kids, I think I yearned for solitude all my life sometimes finding it in books, but more often on the back of my horse on walks through the fields across the street. As an adult living near the ocean, the beach at sunrise offers up its own flavor of sublime isolation. If I can’t get out of the house, I will find my latest knitting project and hide in my bedroom, losing myself in the mindless repetition of throwing string around a stick.