By the way -- who’s getting married?
It’s nothing new. It’s been done before. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s all about the bride. The Mother of the bride is the Supreme Guest. Woo Hoo! It’s the bride’s day. Girl’s just want to have fun. I’ll never wear it again. Does my butt look big in this? What if it rains? What if it’s Death Valley hot? Nobody RSVP’s these days. Look at how many people RSVP’d! What do you mean I was in charge of the cake? I thought you were in charge of the cake.?We wanted Hydrangeas? When did we decide on Hydrangeas? Umbrella insurance. Why do we need umbrella insurance? It’s not going to rain. I’m allergic to chocolate. Who’s getting the ice? Who’s the bride, anyway? Where do we park? Did you get the marriage license? What marriage license; where do we get a marriage license? Gifts? Do we need gifts? House, we need a house. Panty hose or spray tan? Do I want to be orange for the big day? Nails - pedicure. How many airport trips are we making? Should we open a Shuttle Service? Auntie Crabtree’s coming. Where’s Auntie Crabtree going to stay? She’s not staying with me. I thought the dresses were going to be blue. No, they are going to be Neon orange. What kind of Salsa we having? Salsa, your’e thinking about Salsa when I have to nail down the Bouncy House? Bounce House? 250 drunks in a bounce house? Bounce House! Why don’t we just combine that with the Photo booth and see if we don’t end up onThe Ellen Show? Photo-booth - 250 drunks in a photo-booth? S’mores....mmm s’mores!!! What kind of salsa are we having? Dancing...Salsa Dancing with a Salsa Band. Spicy, fun, woo hoo kind of Salsa! Lighting, who got the lights? Lights? Who put out the lights? Very funny. Is there electricity? Maybe. Permits..who got the permits? What permits? We gonna have some tables? Do not put Auntie Crabtree with her own family. Put her at the table with the one’s who’ve never known her and will never remember her. What’s on the tables? Where’s everyone sitting? Just relax, its’ supposed to be fun. Relax? relax? Who’s in charge? Who’s in charge? Charge it! Charge the candles, charge the flowers, charge the dress. Dress????? Where’s my dress? Did you get the veil too? What if it rains? It won’t. What if...? it won’t! Sure there’s enough food? What food? Aacckk... What’s the name of the Elvis Chapel in Vegas? If you post your bachelor party pictures on Facebook they’d better be tame. Girl’s night out.. oooo, leopard..... Can’t see the bride before the wedding. No peeking. Where are 250 drunks going to stay that night? Do we need a permit to parade downtown at the end of the reception? How many brothers does it take to hang the lights? How many aunties does it take to show the brothers how to hang the lights? Something old - does Mother of the Bride count? Something borrowed -- I don’t have twenty bucks. Something blue - alright, alright, I’ll forget my anti-depressant that day. Remember your grandparents and father will be right by your side -- even though they’e gone. Your parents love you, no matter what. All the frilly stuff is just a representation of celebration. We are celebrating a once in a lifetime event. Love, fidelity, compassion, companions, commitment, exploration, teamwork, health, sickness, faith, hope and love, love, love. Love is not just looking into one another’s eyes, but looking together in the same direction. A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime.
By the way -- who’s getting married?
Norma & Jerry Mealey-1947
This column is in honor of Tami Mealey, my beloved sister-in-law and in memory of her parents Roberta and Walter. Tami just became and orphan.
I was going to wait until June 30th, the 20th anniversary of my Mother’s death, before I republished this column from 1994, the year after Mom died. It was a lonely time then, trying to figure out how to live with the fact my parents were gone and gone way too soon. Now, 20 years later, I am watching my peers deal with the heart-wrenching ordeal of caretaking their aging, dementing and ailing parents; becoming parents to their own parents. Some of them are still parenting their own children. No matter how old we are, we become an orphan when our parents leave us and it is a transition we must face.
This column was first published in September 1994 when I entered a “Replace the Columnist For A Day” contest in my local newspaper, The Davis Enterprise -- a brilliant way for our beloved columnist, Bob Dunning to get his summer vacation! Bob, along with Erma Bombeck and Marjorie Holmes have been my secret writing mentors for years. Thanks for giving me the nudge, Bob!
Too Young To Be An Orphan
I’ve heard many times that the worst tragedy anyone can suffer is losing a child. Not having gone through this myself, I struggle to completely understand how it really feels. I have compassion and sympathy for grief-stricken parents, but still I cannot truly comprehend the depth of their pain.
So it is, I imagine, for my friends, when I talk about the death of my parents. Few of my friends have suffered this loss, making me a pioneer among my peers. They listen and sympathize, but can’t really know.
My father died six years ago and my mom just a year ago. Daddy and Mommy never told me how hard it would be to go on without them. They never warned me of these new feelings of mine: abandonment, loneliness, and helplessness. They protected me, I guess.
I knew something about bereavement since I was there when my parents lost their parents. I remember hearing how they went to the cemetery together, held each other and wept. I listened to their indecision about money and retirement matters as they learned to make these decisions without the advice of their elders. I saw the sadness on their faces as they remembered their parents on the anniversary of their births, as well as their deaths. I felt the emptiness of the room at Christmas time and felt the chill as someone sat in Grandma’s chair. Our family still ate off Grandma’s china, but now it was stored in our hutch, not hers.
I remember clearly how my father and I confronted the death, together, when his mother died. Granny was 83 and I was 22, but we were close friends. Granny had cancer and I had just taken her back to New York to visit my cousin whom she had raised from a toddler. I knew this could very well be the last act of friendship I performed for her. She had never flown before and sat on the 747 with eyes sparkling, so characteristic of her adventuresome and sometimes ornery spirit.
Granny talked of many things on that five-hour flight; mostly about the changes in the world since her birth in 1893. I listened to her stories intently, knowing I would pass them down to my own children.
During our second week in New York, Granny died. I was alone with my cousin in a hospital 3,000 miles from home. Suddenly, I was making tremendous decisions about Granny’s life and death as she was rushed into surgery. I tried to keep her spirits up as we awaited the arrival of my father and aunt who were flying in from Oregon. Though they came immediately, it didn’t seem fast enough.
I had expected Granny to live. I didn’t know she was waiting for her children to arrive before she left this earth. When Dad arrived, I no longer had to be the adult. Daddy was here. He could be the boss. I never knew that when he arrived he became the child again, full of fear and anxiety.
We all left to go to my cousin’s home to plan a schedule of shifts with Granny. But, five minutes after we arrived there, the hospital called. Granny had died. Dad was strong, but I collapsed. The only consolation was that I still had my parents. I was still the little girl, and we could all go on. In my own comfort, I did not understand Daddy’s feelings – for he had just become an orphan.
Now, 20 years later, I’m the orphan. At times that fact overwhelms me. Daddy and Mommy never told me how empty the mailbox would seem on my birthday, or anniversary, or Christmas when it no longer held a card from them. They never told me how hard it would be to control the urge to call home during my worst times. They never told me how shrill the ring of the phone would sound when I knew as I answered; it would never again be them.
They never explained how hard it would be to go back to my family reunions in Oregon and see their eyes in the faces of families from a brother or sister or cousin. But even if they had told me, the comprehension would have been slight—like a childless woman listening to another woman’s childbirth story.
I have matured as an orphan. I have newfound confidence. I’ve inherited a parental and adult-like strength I never knew I had. Now I can straightforwardly tackle what previously seemed impossible, thanks to skills I learned from my parents. I am an elder of the family now, and my kids look up to me with confidence.
But I still waiver. I still call out for Mommy in times of pain. I still ask Dad which wrench to choose. I still start to dash to the phone to call them when I’m suddenly stopped by the reality of their deaths. I still want to share the joys of their grandchildren with them. I still need those comforting arms around me when nothing else will do.
At 42, I am still too young to be an orphan.
For the past few months, hubby and I have immersed ourselves in an emotional and spiritual journey by reading together: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
There is an abbreviated version of these four agreements that I have on my fridge and my smartphone. I visit these agreements everyday.
Briefly, The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don't Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don't Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
Everyday one of these agreements seems to be the theme of the day. I hear or experience something that immerses me into the practical application of these agreements Today I’m living “Don’t make assumptions.” My Genius son always says, “don’t make assumptions; it makes an ass out of you and umption.” That’s for another column.
The technological progressive world we are living in is making us increasingly vulnerable to living from assumption. Take, for example, the almighty mobile phone and the power it wields over the insecure souls who rely on them. You call your mom. She doesn’t answer. You text your friend. It takes him days to get back. Oh, if I could count the times I’ve heard someone say, “MY mom!” Her phone is probably off again or lying in the bottom of the car.” Mom might be totally savvy with technology and boundaries and is sitting in her massage chair getting a pedi-mani. “Oh! Mom is ignoring me again.” Well…chances are it isn’t the first time! Afterall, every Mom has to go to the bathroom alone once in awhile. Mom may be busy, or have friends, or a LIFE. Or how about the times your friends do not answer your text immediately?? I hear things like, “She’s probably pissed again.” “He’s with the guys and ignoring me.” Ahhh! All assumptions, they are!!!
Then, there is the annoying action of texting itself. It’s annoying to me because after all my correcting of auto-correcting, my fat thumbs get really tired and decide it’s better to use one of those thumbs to speed dial and use my fat lips and my fat head to chew the fat and get the danged conversation over with. Besides, I have been profane, insane and a pain to understand when fat-fingering and am trying hard to rise out of the self-imposed humiliation of texting naughty words by mistake. It seems some of my friends wait in anticipation for the next fumble finger text from me to brighten their day. It’s not the message (it’s usually not understandable) it’s the thrill of trying to decipher it and then laughing in giddy glee when they figure out what I was really trying say. Oh happy day. May your dljljf vji on the top of your ajd -- is what I say to that!!!
Most of us don’t regularly think about the inflection we use when we talk. It’s hard enough not to read in to people’s words when they are speaking, let alone what they might be saying in a one dimensional text. Words not meant to be snarky can be read as snarky, depending on who’s reading it and what insanity may be going on in their brain at the time. If one assumes the text is negative rather than a joking comment, the assumptions again start flying, defensive walls go up and before you know it you’re texting something you usually only think. You’ve just banned your best friend to hell because she said, “I don’t think I can go shopping with you…” She thinks she’s texted in a bilious whiny voice because she’s sick and has PMS. You hear it as, “I wouldn’t be seen dead with you at the mall.” Before she texts her next line, “because I’m sick,” you defensively tell her to go to hell, unfriend her from StupidBook and turn off your phone. No assumptions there. (that was meant to be snarky and I’d use an emoticon but they are so little I would choose the wrong one and then you would assume I’m mad, wry or asleep) See how many words it takes to explain myself so you won’t assume I’m serious? Pffft!
Assumptions can be a good thing. If I am in a cast, on crutches and walk up to a grocery store door, I hope you can assume I could use some help opening the door. Sound basic? Sound like a life-DUH? Well no! Lately, in that very circumstance, I’ve experienced that most people assume I have an extra hand or a mutant paw that will pop out and get me through the door. It’s easier for me to assume they are blind, or have bad manners, but I’m trying not to assume. From there my assumptions make an ass out of me and…well you know the rest.
Don Miguel Ruiz writes:
When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling. We believe we know their point of view, their dream. We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel.
I try to remember that assuming someone is going to respond or react to today’s situation is based on their past and my experience in that past is as unproductive as building a brick wall between myself and them. It’s true that a person’s actions show who they are. It’s true what Maya Angelou says: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” But, never assume they haven’t changed – even if you just talked to them yesterday. Your assumptions can be barriers to another’s growth. I don’t mean you need to stay in the land of “enabling” either. One just needs to remember: You are not them. (my auto-correct says they. I’ll assume it’s wrong.) You do not have their facts. You do not live in in the moments of growth and awareness that help them to progress. We take in so much information in a day. You never know when one more drop of information will overflow the “Aha” bucket. You don’t know it for yourself and you certainly don’t know it for anyone else.
Assuming nothing makes you ask the questions before you speak out loud. Assuming nothing lets you be in the present with the person -- just as they are in that particular moment. Assuming nothing keeps the heart and brain a clean canvas to paint with the new information you receive. Simply remember that when you assume anything about anyone you have put up a hurdle that neither of you may want to jump. It’s a tall order to be automatic in this “no-assumption living.” Just be aware, live in the present and remember:
.You are not them. They are not you and I am not you. Thank God for that.
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I'm a Spiritual Director, Artist, Mom of six and grandmother of five. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up but I know I'm happiest when I'm making someone smile and laugh and am honored to companion those seeking their soul stories.