Semi-Adult Children – Oh My!

dscf0394I have two children closer to thirty now that son number two turned twenty-five in August. Outrageous! I am not old enough to have children that old am I?  I certainly don’t feel it and on a good hair day may even get away with not quite looking it (at least that is what my magic mirror tells me).  While I am not quite presiding over an empty nest yet because son one doesn’t live too far away and spends some afternoons foraging for food in our refrigerator and son two lives over the garage, the boys are rearing to go and I am anxious, eager and confident all at once!

My first two children were an unplanned – let’s say -“surprise” .  Mid-way through my first year of architecture I fell for a handsome guy at a bar and lost my good sense. We did the “right thing” getting married six months before our first son was born and then it all went to hell. Thankfully, he and his TV disappeared one day about a year later leaving me with an empty wall, an infant son and another on the way. I have no regrets for how it all began because the universe in its infinite wisdom gave me boys knowing that girl drama would be too much and that my future husband would be the best father and friend they both could have.

When the boys were small, before I understood that I was more of a tour guide than director, I allowed myself to imagine a single aspect of their future.  Although I dared not determine an actual career path because I did not want to be that kind of controlling mother, I did assume that one day I’d be dropping them off at university, (preferably Ivy League) festooned with academic and athletic scholarships. I reasoned that since I had been a good student, I could easily produce even better ones.  My dreams of academic genius where further buoyed when my now husband of twenty years joined us forever on my oldest son’s third birthday.  He too was academically gifted and disciplined and together our boys would have access to the best education and enrichment activities within a construct of positive reinforcement we could afford.  I could not have been more delusional.

It turned out that son number one was dyslexic with some sort of processing disorder, a fact that would take years and a long list of “specialists” to uncover.  By then he was floundering in school with reading torture and writing a near impossibility.  Son number two, eighteen months his junior did not share his brother’s “processing” limitation but he had his own, he loved to socialize far more than he liked to compete against his peers. Between a child who couldn’t and child who wouldn’t we spent a good number years exhausting all manner of tests, psychologists, tutors, bribery, achievement charts and even punishment to achieve less than mediocre grades and a chaotic household.

By the time Gus was born, ten years after son number two, I had begun to put aside the ill conceived notion that the greatest measure of our children was their academic and/or athletic success.  One day it occurred to me that I was driving myself and our boys crazy trying to turn them into little clones of ourselves for the worst possible reason – approval and acceptance from other parents.  I finally recognized that I although I claimed that they should fit the mold “for their own good”, I was embarrassed by their academic failures as my own parenting failure. What would my peers think if I did not get them into the “right” high school followed by a prestigious college?

I decided to trade the pressures of academics and athletics for a happy home and Gus’ short but well lived life would prove that I had done so at just the right time.  Instead of all academics all the time, we would choose a couple of days in the year for movie day, vacations over summer school, joy over stress. Gus had battled cancer and won, or so we thought when the older boys were graduating from high school. As a family we refused to make that final year more stressful than necessary and skipped the SAT, college application rat race.  Instead on a random day in January we signed them up for the local community college that best suited their interests and declared them “college” students. Gus was only the fourth grade when he passed away and ironically had expressed more interest in doing well academically than either of his brothers, I no longer cared I only wanted him to live.

In retrospect, I am forever grateful that the boys never went away to college.  Perhaps it was the universe’s way of keeping the brothers together for that final year, the three of them playing X-box until the very end.  In the four years since, they have each started to embark on the path that was their own from the very beginning; son number one an extremely honest and helpful automotive technician and son number two a recent graduate from a state university in finance and waiting to see where his love of speaking will take him.  They are both kind, generous, patient, loving, funny, creative, helpful and so many wonderful things that I can only stand back and marvel.  So far so good….

 

A Christmas Miracle

DSC_0087I try to be used to it by now – Gus’ persistent absence, the silence, the ache but I am not and the pain still creeps up on me when I least expect it.  Most days, the daily routine blunts the sharp edges of his loss so I can’t dwell on it. I focus on being present and looking forward more times or at least as many times as I look back.   Lately, I had even been able to talk about him without welling up (so fast), but this holiday season was brutal and it took all of Gus’ angelic power to save Christmas.

This tale begins last January when in the midst of replacing our deteriorated driveway we decided to build the two story garage/office/recreation room we dreamed of when we bought our house nearly twenty years ago.  Despite my many years in construction, I allowed myself to plan for an unrealistic mid-fall completion. Cramming the contents of three storage sheds into two, as though it was a life-sized game of Tetris, I placed the holiday decor at the very back convinced the garage would be done well before I needed to get to them. Unfortunately, due to rules governing the “historic” zone in which we live, construction did not start until August and we would be lucky to be done by late January (so far so good).  Since it did not make much sense to empty the sheds in an effort to get a few trinkets out, I decided to forgo the “decorative” part of Christmas altogether.  What a mistake!

Thanksgiving weekend was spent pouring over construction budgets and completion schedules instead of swathing the house in holiday cheer while watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” as was my custom. Without a single thing pointing to the impending holiday except for the dying wreath I had picked up on a whim at Costco, all I could do was dwell on what I wouldn’t have this Christmas.  No twinkling lights, no tree, no million presents, no older boy (working), no middle boy (in Hawaii with his girlfriend) and especially no baby boy (even though he would have been fourteen). My house felt particularly empty and cold (no heating either).

Just days before Christmas, although we’d managed to find inspirational gifts for the nieces and nephews (“smile” socks and sweaters), my holiday “spirit” was still nowhere in sight. I attempted to focus on how organized I would be when the garage was finished but that only made me think about whether I should store all of Gus’ things or start giving them away. I was in the midst of considering getting stickers made to place in his books before donating them (see below) –

Fina1- Gus Logo Label

when the idea that I needed to ask my extremely busy husband to draw a picture of a hummingbird came to me. I had no specific reason for wanting it, I just felt I had to ask.

Sadness took over when I arrived home however, and I could do nothing but miss Gus. Four years had passed since our last Christmas morning together and it broke my heart that he’d only gotten to ride the bike he’d received that year once before passing on. By the time my husband got home, I was lying in a heap of misery watching Purple Rain, a poor holiday movie choice made worse by how terrible the movie actually is (why I loved it as a teenager is lost on my adult self). With eyes swollen from crying and nothing to say, I forgot about the drawing and went to bed.

Christmas Eve morning, I summoned a modicum of seasonal cheer by tossing a poinsettia here and there to make the house seem more festive. When my husband returned from work about mid-day, even before he could set the bundle he was carrying down, I requested my drawing. When he said nothing, I quickly added that he did not have to feel pressure to do it any time soon because it wasn’t urgent and I was aware of his load at work. Nodding in relief (or so I thought) he shuffled away while I got ready for the rest of the day which included visiting Gus’ niche, having lunch, and watching football games before heading off to Christmas mass and dinner.

The next morning – he gave me my present.

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As it happens, the same day I’d been inspired to ask for the drawing, he’d been inspired to draw it. He was actually carrying it in his arms having just framed it when I made my request. There is no explanation other than we’d each heard Gus’ whisper, his way of letting us know that he is always with us.  Thanks you Gus for this Christmas miracle, it made an otherwise miserable day very special.

 

 

 

Living is… Participation

I made it to Paris Abuelita!

I made it to Paris Abuelita!

Except for the three years we lived in Puerto Rico for my dad’s job, my parents did not take us on any exotic vacations over-seas, extended road trips around the country or even a few miles from our Southern California home unless they were taking us to the movies.  Then and only then would we travel north to the San Fernando Valley, east towards San Gabriel or even as far south as Torrance from our mid-LA home in search of the perfect double feature.  My siblings and I would dutifully sit through two whole movies with only a ten minute bathroom/popcorn break in between in the venue of their choosing and nothing was out of the question. A top of the line drive-in theater with multiple screens that projected the sound through the car radio was just as good as the gravel pit whose car mounds were ground down with use and whose window mounted speakers produced only static; and the brand new state of the art movie theater with Dolby surround sound was easily substituted by a musty theater with sticky seats.  I did not really mind this singular form of diversion because it was a way of making a mental note of where I’d like to visit one day.

If there is a “travel bug” I must have caught it from my grandmother with whom I journeyed each summer to visit the family in Mexico City.  I never thought of these trips as actual “excursions” because I’d been going there since I was a baby and it seemed so commonplace.  Even my grandmother must not have considered the yearly trek a “vacation” as she spent much of the time listing the many places she’d like to visit one day.  She most wanted to visit Paris, France because she suspected she was French deep down although I never knew why.  She suggested that I become a flight attendant (stewardess back then) when I graduated from high school because she’d heard family traveled for free.  When I told her I hoped to go to college, she patted my hand and asked me to give my future more “serious” thought.

My grandparents moved back to Mexico City in the early eighties fulfilling a thirty year dream of returning to their beloved country.  It was then that our visits took on the aura of an actual “vacation”.   With summer the only time my mother could visit her parents and with our visit the only way my grandmother could get my grandfather to leave the limits of Mexico City, we suddenly had a reason to take bus trips to neighboring parts of Mexico like Puebla, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Acapulco.   IMG For my high school graduation in 1986, my grandmother cajoled my parents into sending them and me (and my younger sister last minute) to Hawaii for a week.  It was during that trip that the “bug” became a virus.  My grandmother and I had great time.  She’d donned on a grass skirt and danced on stage as I laughed and took pictures while my grandfather and sister looked on in dismay.  We went on a luau, a bus trip through the hills, we walked around town and drank mai tais (it was the last year the drinking age was eighteen).   I made friends, went dancing, and got a deep tan. It was the first time I could really understand that the movies kept me a spectator while traveling made me a participant.  I politely rejected the USC and LMU acceptances and scurried off to Mexico City after our jaunt that summer with the intention of never coming back to Los Angeles.  I was “seriously” thinking of becoming a stewardess.

By October of that year, three months into my self-imposed exile, I was working at an office in the nicest part of Mexico City.  I had new friends, gone on a few “interesting” dates and was just about to apply to a Mexican airline when I got a phone call.  My grandmother had fainted and was being rushed to urgent care.  When I arrived at the hospital she had regained consciousness but was very dizzy and nauseous.  I held her hand in the back seat of the car as we drove across town to a specialist for a diagnosis. She held smelling salts to her nose to keep from vomiting and I held a bucket in case they failed. The doctor told her she was lucky to be alive, an aneurysm had burst and she needed an emergency operation.  We were walking into the hospital to have her admitted as a large family burst into tears having gotten some terrible news.  I took it as a sign that I was about to lose my grandmother. The operation was postponed from Friday to Monday, confirmation that it was the end because it gave my mother time to get there and be with her.  I remember telling her to get better so that we could travel together.  She smiled and nodded as they wheeled her away. She never recovered from the surgery and passed away a few days later just seconds after my father arrived with my siblings.

Without my grandmother, the new life I was considering was no longer appealing.  I came back to LA, went to college, met someone, had two boys, got divorced, met another someone, fell in love (real love) and despite our recent loss have been happy together for nearly twenty-three years.  I look back on my life and realize that my grandmother has been right there all along.  Not only is this man, my saint, my best friend and the love of my life, we’ve been fortunate to travel together nearly everywhere my grandmother ever wanted to go.  I’ve made it to France, Spain (twice), England, Italy and Greece. We’ve visited many states within the US, gone on cruises, and been back to Mexico many times.  I don’t know where our next adventure may take us but I do know my grandmother (with Gus’ added help) is making it all possible.  Participate in your life don’t watch it go by.

The Fault In My Dreams

Fault lines

The “faults” that surround me.

The room is white and sparsely furnished. I don’t recognize it but it doesn’t seem strange or inhospitable. I get the sense that I am in this room with everyone I know.  It is only a sense though because as a look around I can’t focus on anyone in particular, people appear and disappear from my periphery in wisps like ghosts. I finally focus on someone I know, it is the one person I miss the most and want to be with. It’s Gus! I see the back of him, his hair is soft, straight and sways a little as walks.  He seems at ease but busy weaving through the room as though it is his job to take care of every body. I call to him and as he turns to look at me the earth begins to shake and I know that it is an earthquake.  We take cover in separate spaces and while I can see he is as safe as am I, a sense of panic overcomes me.  I feel an urgency because I realize that Gus is still sick and I don’t know how to cure him.  The earth stops shaking and as I reach out towards him I snap awake, breathless. I am disappointed and upset, he was inches away from me and yet I couldn’t reach him. I didn’t get a chance to hold him in my arms and they ache for him.

I read on-line that dreaming of an earthquake highlights your fears and sense of helplessness. It signifies a big shake up in your life (you think?). The on-line site asks “Is there something in your life you feel at fault for?” UM…YES!  I let Gus die!  My brain knows that it was not within my power to save him and that my only job was to love him BUT my ego just can’t seem to let go of the sense of responsibility.  Did I do something to cause the cancer? Did I fail to recognize it soon enough to make a difference? Did I fail to be more vigilant about what he ate and drank thereby allowing him to become septic unnecessarily? The dream stayed with me that day, it made me sad and anxious.  I asked the universe for a sign; for permission to bury the feeling of guilt that overtakes me every so often like a tectonic shift and rattles me to the core.

All day I tried to focus on other things, my work, the plans for the weekend ahead but my mind kept drifting back to the dream.  After work, I vacillated between going to my spin class or walking up and down the one and half mile road that rises nearly five hundred feet to what is known as the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook near our house. I chose the road because even though it was hot and windy, I needed to feel my feet firmly beneath me, to take one emotional step forward and then another.  I had gone up and down twice lost in my music when I found myself walking behind two boys and girl from a local Catholic School’s track team (according to their t-shirts).  I normally would have just walked past them but something made me look at the back of one of the boy’s head.  He was a typical boy, long, lanky, talking animatedly with his friends.  He appeared to be about 13, Gus’s age today had he lived.  Aside from his age, nothing else would have struck me as “Gus-like” except for one glaring similarity – his bright blue hearing-aides.

I promise that part behind the ear is bright blue - like the young boy's.

I promise that part behind the ear is bright blue like that boy’s.

Thank you world for giving me this sign.  Was it enough for my ego to completely let go of the inappropriate sense of guilt? Likely not – but I am impressed with the immediate response to my emotional need. Through my tears (and two more times up and down the hill) I managed to “Smile” a little.

Too much time on my hands….

11150156_10204657625944707_3162760681542975889_nMy husband recently made an observation that I found profound and worthy of spurring a change to this site. He objected to my description of the many things we do (post Gus) as “diversions or distractions”.  He flat-out said “I don’t like those words, I prefer to say that we are keeping busy”.  He is right (but nobody tell him please), there is no real way to distract or divert ourselves away from Gus’ loss.

We had Gus ten years after our youngest son for a reason; as a couple we’d only ever known the “busy”-ness of parenting having had our first two when we were in our early (very early) twenties.  We anticipated that as “parenting” our older children was slowly reduced to moments of advice and spectator support, we’d need another child or two to fill up our time, command our attention, motivate us to work and plan for the future. When Gus was diagnosed with cancer at two and a second child never materialized, we focused on being grateful for just the one, our Gus.

Time seems to be in short supply for parents of school aged children but when Gus was abruptly gone, time appeared to multiply like Gremlins.  Suddenly, we had time to read, travel, exercise, dine, sleep, binge watch TV, walk, try new things or nothing at all. All this time however seems to come at a hefty price and we always experience it only in terms of what we’ve lost.  “We would have never done this if Gus was still here” (Our Camino) or “Gus would have loved this trip” (cruises through the Panama Canal and up and down the coast with his cousins).

I titled my blog “The Upside(s) of Grief, Diversion, Distractions & Motivations after a great loss” to highlight that activity and joy after loss is a choice; a choice between living with grief or living through grief.  The only mistake I made was thinking that the time we’d be occupying could be a distraction, diversion or even a motivation.  It is not, it just time that we choose to fill with activity. “We” find meaning in this activity because it bring us closer together as a family, as a couple and inspires us individually.  For this reason I’ve made a slight change in the title of my blog – it is still “The Upside(s) of Grief” with what we truly are doing – “keeping busy after a great loss”.  I hope you don’t mind….

Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Part Three

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Well – Hello Nana….

I left off just as AJ was about to bring in a new energy – my mother in law Robyn Anne Deppe. In transcribing the recording, I recognize that some of the information we readily forked over although there is still very specific information about dates and circumstances that he could not have known. What doesn’t come across in the transcripts, is the change in tenor in AJ.   While Gus’s energy was light and made him laugh, he seemed to struggle more with her Robyn’s energy, giving evidence to her strong personality.  She was exactly as he describes her, tough as nails, blunt, raw. Meet Robyn….


AJ:          They are also bringing up for me, where is the fourteenth significant at as well?

Us:         The fourteenth? Um.. my mom (Paul) passed away on the fourteenth. Ten days before he did.

AJ:          I was going to say, would your mom know your son… obviously right? So your son is bringing through your mother.  Often times we have the older energy that brings in those energies so I feel like it’s your mom stepping forward acknowledging it’s her way of coming through together.  The part with your mom’s energy is that she is being like… she is different from your grandmother (chuckles) so I feel like your mom’s energy is… unique… if you will (lots of laughter) And, there is a part of it that your mom wants to acknowledge that “I’m different”.  So, she wants to place herself separate from everyone and that is no disrespect to you guys, but I feel like it’s her way of acknowledging her type of energy.  I feel like your mom’s energy is like “tell it like it is”, you know what I mean?  I feel like she just wants to be blunt, and be open – free; and I don’t want to say like “I miss you – I love you”, but I feel like it’s more so acknowledging that she is still around you and she is also bringing up for you… did you say she passed away recently?

Us:         Yeah- last June.

AJ:          Is there… your name is Paul though right? Is there like a C or K name connected here? Like Christopher or Cathy connected here?

Us:         Cameron [Yes, I know we offered up this name before.]

AJ:          Who is that?

Us:         Cameron

AJ:          Is that her?

Us:         No her grandson, my nephew.

AJ:          Would she know that newer energy?

Us:         Yes – that was the fourth – the birthday on the first.

AJ:          Ok, so I feel like your loved ones want to acknowledge that energy.  So, I don’t know if there is something going on with Cameron, or something going on with that energy, or  to talk about its intuitive ability, but I feel like your mom want to send love to that energy as well and to acknowledge you guys.  I feel like when your mom steps forward there is a part of it that she makes me feel like “I’ve done this before, I’ve witnessed it before” and there is part of it that she wants to acknowledge like “I’m over the situation, I’m over the passing”.  So I feel like in some sense like I don’t feel like with her, again this was not a tragic event.  I feel like with her, it’s like your son’s energy.  They are making me feel like there are parallels in what happened; of how they deteriorated and how their body passed over, do you understand that?  And there is a part…was there something neurologically going on with your mom?

Us:         Uh she had…

AJ:          Was it Alzheimer’s, stroke, something like that?

Us:         No. She had cancer all over the place.

AJ:          Ok. There is a part that she makes me feel like “I’m aware” and “I remember”.  So I don’t know if she was going in and out of consciousness but there is a part it like, “I’m remembering and I’m aware of what’s going on here” because she is making me feel like I need to pay attention to the things around me but also acknowledge you guys as well. And is there two girls, two sisters?

Us:         Not on her side, I have a sister (Paul).

AJ:          You have a sister?

Us:         There are just two of us.

AJ:          There is only the two of you? Ok because she is bringing the two, the two. [There are two girls.  Paul’s sister and her daughter.  Another “Duh” moment] Don’t take this the wrong way, but were you close with your mom?

Us:         Yeah.

AJ:          There is part that it’s almost like I have to bring up like “man up”.  So it’s almost kind of like “take charge – take charge of your life”, kind of like “do what you need to do”, because the part of it  is that she is like placing you on the same level, but she wants to kind of like put you higher than your sister. So I don’t know if there is a difference between you guys.   If it’s like how you guys have your life style or what your situation is, but she wants me to put you higher than what you are.  So, if you feel like you are not good enough, if like things are not going well for you, there is a part that she wants to let you know “I want to put you up”.  Same thing with your grandfather, there is the same kind of energy of how they come through for you as well.  They are also telling me, is there also like an Anthony or an Angie connected here?

Us:         Not that we can think of.

AJ:          Connect that to your mom’s side of the family.  There is definitely an “A.N” name.  So, there is going to be like an Andrew, like an Angela.

Us:         (Long Pause) her middle name is Anne.

AJ:          Ok. That would probably be her way of just acknowledging herself. So, there is not another Anne still living or passed over?

Us:         No she was an only child.

AJ:          Just making sure. I want to make sure they are not bringing through a separate energy. I need to acknowledge then it’s just your mom identifying herself.  So simple yes or no. Did you guys already say your mom’s name? Did you already tell me?

Us:         No.

AJ:          Ok. The only reason why they would give me their middle name… this is why… if there is someone who has first name – first name, or two that again, either of you guys already mentioned it to me. So is there any reason why your mom would not go by her first name?

Us:         Not that we can think of.

AJ:          I am just trying to understand why she wouldn’t give me her first name. It’s very rare when they give me the middle name

Us:         Because she is different. That would be her.

AJ:          Put it is this way, your mom is the type of lady for me that would make me…that would try to tell me how to do my job.  You know what I mean?  It’s like…

Us:         I (Paul) was just going to say she’d make you work for it.

AJ:          You know she is. She is making me work for it. I mean, trust me, like she’s the type of lady that is being like “No, you are doing it all wrong.  This is how you are supposed to do it”.  Like, there’s that type of energy she wants to acknowledge that “this is my way of stepping forward, this is how I want to come through”.  It’s like… it’s not that she’s difficult… but she is. That is her energy, but I feel like a lot of it is just her being blunt, being raw. And,  I believe that her type of energy is that she just wants to step forward truly for you.  Now dad is still here which you’ve already acknowledged, correct?

Us:         Yes

AJ:          I need to acknowledge dad.  I don’t know if they were together or if they were separate.  It doesn’t matter to me.  But, she’s making me feel like I need to acknowledge her other half and let him know that I am still sending love to him as well.  I am also supposed to bring him the green light as well.  What the green light represents for him actually is moving more so emotionally on the situation.  So, it means like going out and dating, going out and living life.  I feel like there is something he needs to do and she wants to send the love and make sure things move in the right path for him as well.  She’s also telling me like…do you know?  And I don’t know if this is back over to your son … was your mom on morphine?

Us:         Uh.. yeah.

AJ:          Was your son on morphine, if you don’t mind me asking that?

Us:         Yeah, well but just a little bit, just one time.

AJ:          If it is was just one that would not make sense.

Us:         Oh ok then no.

AJ:          Was your mom like… treated…like “give it to me constantly”, I can’t say constantly but…?

Us:         At the end, because she was…. for the last month.

AJ:          I’m getting this nasty taste in my mouth and I feel like I’m very dry or dehydrated.  So there is a part of it that I feel like something  going in my pancreatic and that I need to bring up here… like “I’m good with this, I’m glad I left my body.”  So I feel like she left the body before anything really quite happened but, she makes like she was aware of it. So, if she was like in a state of mind of being in a coma, I need to acknowledge that she is making me feel like “I am aware and I remember what was going on here as well.” I am also supposed to bring up here and I don’t know if this directed to your mom, or directed to your son or directed to mom and this child but did you actually crawl into bed with your mom?

Us:         We both did in both situations actually.

AJ:          Ok. Here is a reference that I need to give to both of you guys then; because if it’s individually or with the kid or what not, they are bringing up for me that I have to acknowledge that it’s almost as if you guys took a beat and took a moment and said even though they were still physically here, it’s like “I’ve got to remember this, I’ve got to take this all in, I’ve got to take this energy in, I’ve got to know this moment.” It’s like you remember the beat and there is a part that they want to let you know, “don’t remember that moment”. So don’t remember like the bad times, remember more so the moments that you had with them because I feel like we kind of attach ourselves with that negative emotion saying you know what “what if I had the last chance, what if we could have done this.” They are making me feel like they don’t want you to remember this in how they step forward and how they want to acknowledge you guys. You know what I mean? When these energies step forward, it truly is for your guys, to assist you and help you guys grow in the right way as well. They are also showing to me, like they are bringing up my brother’s birthday, so you already validated June though, right? You already said June though right? [When Gus took his last breath and slipped away he looked so beautiful we wanted to keep that moment forever.  The fact that he said this was particularly poignant]

Us:         Yes, we said June.

AJ:          Is there another June connection or another “six” connection that I am actually supposed to bring up here?

Us:         On Paul’s side?  Um well – we have a niece born in June.

AJ:          Going to be born right?

Us:         No.  We have two nieces born in June and one will be four in June actually.

AJ:          Did that happen last year? Then it wouldn’t be it.

Us:         No.

AJ:          I feel like I have to go with last year or go like a year back.

Us:         Well, they both passed away in June. Both our son and his mom passed away in June.

AJ:          Your son passed away in June?  That would make sense because I think you said mom is June right? You said someone is in June.

Us:         Both of them passed away in June.

AJ:          Ok.  I have to acknowledge…but they are making me feel like there is another date that is significant, of another event that is connected here.  So, it’s just both of their passing’s they want to acknowledge as to how they are stepping forward here as well.  And I feel like the circle of energy of how they step forward it’s about like being like ambushed.  I don’t know if you ever want to be ambushed by like your mom, but there is a part of it that she wants to jump around and like “I want to ambush you.  I just want to come at you and throw information” but I feel like it’s more in the spiritual way to assist you in the right way.  But, I feel like with your mom’s energy is like a tough love type of thing. It’s like even though it wasn’t the right information, it would be like she would think she was right with the information.  So, there is a part of it that she wants to acknowledge is that she is still right.  So whatever you are doing that you would say like “mom would have said this” she makes like she still would have been right.  The thing with your mom’s energy in how she is stepping forward is that she’s still the same energy.  She is kind of being the dominant one if you will, because there is a very strong energy at how she comes through.   But, there is not anything she wants to stress on her passing.  So again, it is obviously someone who knew what was going on and had kind of lived their life if you will.  But I don’t think they lived their life to the fullest.  I feel like there is a part of it where it is like very nonchalant, like kind of just went with the flow of how things went but…… I might be switching or I might still be with you guys…. just switching to someone else or they are bringing through another energy for you guys…. Was your mom a smoker?

Us:         Uh, hugh.

AJ:          Like not an occasional smoke but smoker.

Us:         Yes.

AJ:          She’s making me feel like she’s still smoking on the other side.  So she’s made like she’s enjoying what she’s doing, like she’s having a great old-time on the other side.  Like this is the type of lady and this may not be her, but her persona, what she is showing to me, this is the type of lady that would be sitting down smoking a cigarette and playing cards, you know what I mean?  That’s the type of energy – how she is coming across to me like “I’m doing what’s normal to me” this is normal.  And,  I don’t know if that was a cause towards her passing, but I feel like she should not have been smoking.  You know what I mean? But if she could have smoked in the hospital or a facility, she would have done it, even though she was not supposed to. That’s the type of lady, she is making me feel like I am beyond the boundaries.  There are no boundaries for me and I want you to know on the spiritual realm, there are no boundaries on the other side to come through and communicate with either one of you guys.  I feel like, how she is coming through, she wants to acknowledge” I want to bring through my grandson but I want you to know that I’m here for you as well”.  So, here is the unique part, I don’t know if your child and your mom is someone you want to link with, or that you wanted to know that they met up together.   They are making me feel like your son kind of like greeted each other.  Like your son also greeted your mom and your grandmother and your grandparents greeted the younger energy as well.  So I feel like the elders do bring that energy, but I do find it very unique, that your son brought in your mother, rather than your mother bringing through your son, you know what I mean? It is usually the opposite of how this process works for me and I feel like again, your son had to have been like an old soul.  He obviously had some sort of experience because… like how he is coming through to me, he was aware of the process.  But, he is making me feel like there is no responsibility that I need to worry about here as well. [In re-listening to this part, we think he was actually talking about Paul’s grandmother, Maureen.  This is more in keeping with her personality.  Smoking and playing cards was definitely her thing.]

 

Our Camino – Finisterre – April 11, 2013

Onward Pilgrim

Onward Pilgrim

We woke up this morning to dark menacing clouds threatening a downpour at any second.  Yesterday’s sun had been abducted by the force that insisted our walk be difficult to the end. It brought out our innate dispositions, with me tending toward optimism, insisting it would get sunny therefore going without my rain jacket and my husband tending towards pessimism going for the full rain armor.  We set out early after our final “pilgrim’s breakfast” of toast and Iberian ham and cheese.  Our legs and feet felt fresh for this final leg, we were sure we’d cover the next fifteen kilometers in record time.

The Camino continued to be a challenge, taking us through more mud, over bigger boulders, across swollen rivers and along partially washed out roads.  We thought that after the beautiful Cathedral in Santiago, the ocean-side finishing village of Finisterre would be a disappointment but we were wrong.  The sight of waves crashing against the beach as we made our way out of the mountains to walk along the shore was moving in ways we had not anticipated. Further ahead we caught a glimpse of our friends, Andrew and Chris, but they were walking too briskly and we could not catch up. That final ascent to the edge world was for us to walk alone.

As we neared town, we looked up towards the light house at the very edge of the peninsula, but it was barely visible. Like our journey without Gus, it was fitting that our final destination would be encased in fog. Mid-way up the final hill, just as we walked past the statue of a pilgrim appearing to lunge head first into the wind, a ferocious windstorm blew down the hill, pushing us back, but we persisted by taking on the statue’s stance to continue up the road.

The lighthouse was virtually deserted when we arrived, winds swirled and howled all around us, furious, as though we’d done something wrong.  To get to the very edge of the cliff where a bronze boot commemorated the pilgrim’s journey, we had to become more than penitent, we had to become beggars, crawling out on all fours just to take a look.  We had intended to leave our final offering there but were forced to double back to a sheltered ledge we’d seen near the 0 kilometer marker.  There protected from the wind, we pulled out a pair of Gus’ beloved basketball shoes from our packs, each of us having carried one shoe for 215 kilometers.  Through a mess of tears we scribbled our final messages to him, leaving one shoe on the ledge with his prayer card and a cross and keeping the other shoe to bring home as a reminder that we will always carry him with us.  We walked back to the 0 kilometer marker and left our final rocks – one for Gus’ Wito Juan, his Nana Robyn and one for Gus.  We’d just finished taking our final picture, when the heavens opened up, pelting us into seeking shelter at the souvenir kiosk.  For a second we thought we could walk back, but as the sheets of rain came down much heavier than any we’d experienced, it was clear to us that our Camino had ended.  God and Gus were saying it was time to stop walking and call a cab.

Final Destination encased in fog.

Final Destination encased in fog.

Bronze Pilgrim's boot.

Bronze Pilgrim’s boot.

Gus' shoes - he will always fill up the space between us.

Gus’ shoes – he will always fill the space between us.

Leaving one shoe behind

Leaving one shoe behind

We did it!

We did it!

Final Rocks.

Final Rocks.

Our Camino – Oliveiroa to Cee – April 10, 2013

 

To Finisterre

To Finisterre

We went to bed early yesterday, exhausted from our journey, with wind and rain continuing to pound against our hotel’s shutters as it had pounded on us all day.  We ached all over and dreaded the day to come.  We awoke preparing to battle nature once again.  We’d even had the line we’d use as we walked head first into a turbulent wind that kept us from advancing.  “Is that all you’ve got?” we’d cry like Lt. Dan in Forest Gump.  We put on all the layers of clothing we could and got on the road.  We’d been walking only a few feet when we heard some calling out to us from behind.  It was the Irishman Andrew and his new companion Chris. We gained new troops in our lonely battle, we ready for the next 20km.

The clouds that had been threatening us all morning, soon dissipated as though nature had never had any intention of engaging with us.  The sun warming our bodies as our new friends warmed out hearts.  Soon we were pealing off clothing, pausing for a brief time to have a nice lunch and marvel at the glorious landscape.  We emerged from the trail to a remarkable view of the ocean.  As we neared the end of the day’s journey, we realized that our legs were not cramped and our feet did not ache.  They felt as fresh and light as though they had not been used and abused for the last 10 days.  A miracle?

The sun is out.

The sun is out.

The view from our lunch spot just off the road

The view from our lunch spot just off the road

 A church along the Way.

A church along the Way.

A picture of Gus at a shrine.

A picture of Gus at a shrine.

The ocean is in sight!

The ocean is in sight!

 

Our Camino – Sarria to Portomarin – March 31, 2013

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Following other pilgrims on the Camino

Good Morning from Portomarin.  We hit the road in Sarria early yesterday with lots of other pilgrims. While they continued on, we stopped at a little church along the way.  It was quarter to eight and the church was practically deserted except for another couple of pilgrims and a handful of elderly locals. We were about to leave, thinking we’d arrived too late for the early mass or too early for the later mass, when a little red Peugeot raced around the corner pulling up across the street.  The priest jumped out fully robbed urging everyone to hurry behind him as though he had something more important to do than saying Easter Mass.  But perhaps it was just that he wanted to start on time and he knew he had to give his bell-ringer, a hunched over man in his mid to late eighties time to shuffle from his seat at the front of the church to the back to the ring the bell and to the front again before he could start. With the bell dutifully rung, he took a breath and finally looked around the room.  He seemed thrilled to discover that with the addition of the four pilgrims his audience had swelled to a full ten people and proceeded to give a funny and inspiring sermon.  Filled with new hope (at least I was since I understood the sermon and my translations for Paul were choppy and very behind), we started on the road.  For the next seven hours we went up and down hills, up and down stairs, trudged through mud, sludge and cow droppings, while trying to make sure we did not miss the yellow arrows or scalloped shells that pointed us along the path.  It was as beautiful as it was tiring.  This morning however we are refreshed and ready to go.  As we sit here having our breakfast of toast and cheese, what started off as a rain is dissolving into a beautiful bright blue day.  We read somewhere that when things go your way – in this case we’d asked for decent weather – it is by intervention of St. James.  So thank you St. James.  We will walk another 17 miles today.  See you on the other side.

Along the Camino from Sarria to Portomarin

Along the Camino from Sarria to Portomarin

Rocks are left at the kilometer posts, we will leave a Gus rock and cross

Pilgrims leave rocks at the kilometer signs.  We left a rock with Gus’ name and hung a cross.

Portomarin is just across that bridge!

Portomarin is just across that bridge!