Selfish reflections on myself – Lenten writing # 42

Camille and I getting ready to leave for my mothers funeral Denver Colorado 2014

Camille Evans Richards was my best friend since I was about age eight when they first moved in to Plum Grove Estates. We lost touch with each other for many of the years but reconnected several years ago and have kept up since.   

One thing I could always count on with Camille was that she would tell me the truth. Like it or not, and I came up with some pretty crazy schemes back then like let’s jump on the sled triple, one laying on top of another and go down the steepest hill at night without lights!!  Yikes that was brilliant. Like the Times I suggested we walk miles in the woods with no clear idea where we were. We were lucky we were never killed. Couple of years ago when my mother died Camille spontaneously decided to show up at my mother’s funeral in Colorado. My daughters thought I was nuts to have just invited someone that I hadn’t  seen for 30 or 40 years to stay at the house with us but I knew it would be OK and it was. She was the first one to see Betty Sue, riding along with me bringing some sunshine to Colorado in the horribly dark days of my mother’s death. 

And this morning I got a message from Camille. I thought I would share with you. Here it is.
Hi!

So I have read all of your Lenten posts. Lots of soul searching going on. Your cruise seems like it became an opportunity for your girls to love you and be “helpful” by pointing out your flaws and life errors. Our adult children like to do that… I think they feel that talking about our errors of the past, will get fixed in conversation. No. Stop beating yourself up. Do you know what I admire about you? You have raised three girls into lovely women, almost singlehandedly! You have followed your dreams. You have horses and animals and a home. You are extremely successful at your job. You are not afraid to share some of your innermost fears do feelings and analyze yourself in a public forum. I couldn’t do that.
Ok, so you had to stop having boarders. I know a big disappointment, but you can only do so much, especially when you are alone. Good decision, but a tough one, I’m sure.
Your health issues have me concerned… medication, blood pressure… your thumbs, your back. Please take care of yourself and stop doing too much. I plan on our friendship continuing to last a very long time!

So today as the days of Lent come to a close I pray for the sanity to listen to Camille and all those that wish me well. I am, I know, my own worst enemy.

Thank you for riding along. You all mean the world to me.  God bless. 

Kid, my poodle and I circa 2013

Colorado

imageI had a last-minute opportunity to head off to Colorado with my granddaughter Jordyn to spend the weekend celebrating the birthdays of my Denver grandchildren, Riley and Lexi.

I am a Denver native and a lover of the Rockies. While I have not lived in Denver for over 35 years I have always made several trips a year “home”.  Until these last years, when I moved my mom to Texas and now with her gone, I have not been here since my mother’s funeral last August.

It was with some apprehension I agreed to join the celebration of the birthdays of Riley (6) and Lexi (4).  I wanted to see my Colorado grandkids but was already reeling a bit from the first anniversary of my mother’s death and I knew a visit to my mountain home would emphasize not minimize my memories of my family.

Jordyn and I headed off yesterday afternoon.  Arriving at my daughter Amber’s home, while things had changed it all felt so familiar.  Much of my mother’s furniture makes it home now at Amber’s house.  I was greeted by the sight of our family dining room table with the oil painting from Brussels placed prominently upon the navy wall.  So many memories of holiday meals and family gatherings filled my mind.

  The sight of Nellie, the current Irish Wolfhound in residence at Amber’s, brought memories of our big dogs from before.  Jim always loved posing for pictures with the noble dogs. Nellie is a big girl with one of the best temperaments I have seen.

It was nice to sit down to a family dinner or pork roast and pasta.  It has been a long time since Lauren and I have bothered with a real meal.  I had forgotten how nice it was to enjoy great food and lively conversation.

Today preparations for the party started early (although not feed the horses at 4:30 early).  The giant bouncy house arrived, then the caterers and then the guests.  It was a beautiful day filled with fun, friends and family.

   

  

 I guess returning home means starting new memories.  Memories I will have to cherish in the future.  Colorado said “welcome home”.

Reflections

The two plates, numerous screws, two large incisions and the first of at least six casts.  It is bleak.

The two plates, numerous screws, two large incisions and the first cast. It is bleak.

A year ago today, I sat in the waiting room as Lauren went through surgery to repair her crushed arm.  The day she finally got out of the hospital we received the news my mother’s death was immenient.

Fifteen years ago today, Ally, Lauren and I moved from Florida to Texas. I clearly remember the drive and the Kenny Chesney CD that played over and over. The three of us started a new life here with three dogs, two cats and a fancy Rugged Lark mare.

These times here have taken their toll yet developed us into the people we are today. We have struggled emotionally, financially and physically. I would have never dreamt as we slept that first night on the floor in our rented Sugar Land house in the sweltering July heat (our furniture was en route and Reliant Energy had not gotten our electric service started) where we would all be today.  Life certainly is crazy ride.

Still as I reflect on all of this, my throat catching and eyes brimming with tears I know deeply and intuitively we have survived, grown and even conquered.  The events of this past weekend, although simple family things, just make it clear to me.

Ryan, Lexi, Riley and Amber

Ryan, Lexi, Riley and Amber

My daughter, Amber, who was in college in Florida when we moved to Texas, just completed a wonderful vacation with her husband’s family.  They enjoyed sun-lit days and evenings as a big family, bonding as you can only do, when daily duties and responsibilities melt away with the southern sun. I delighted to see so many terrific pictures with this family and grandchildren who are so dear to me. They are happy. They are healthy. They are blessed.

Ally and her family are nearby.  I regularly get to see them and feel their joy in life. Ally had some hard road to walk.  It has not come easy for her at all. But she is now close to college graduation.  She supports her amazing girls and husband, finding a domestic peace that evaded me.

Kendyll and Jordyn spent the night with Lauren and I this weekend.  It is always a time filled with laughter, nonsense and animals. Sunday morning we went over to help our friend who just got out of the hospital.  She has a daughter Jordyn’s age and the girls have known each other since they were little.  Kendyll feel in love with their tiny (heightwise) pony.  I don’t think Kendyll has ever been so thrilled.

Kendyll being taken for a ride by Abby.  Oh, my goodness she was pleased with herself!

Kendyll being taken for a ride by Abby. Oh, my goodness she was pleased with herself!

Jordyn, Kendyll and Abby.

Jordyn, Kendyll and Abby.


Our cleaning team surrounding the estactic Kendyll.

Our cleaning team surrounding the ecstatic Kendyll.

Lauren and I had one of our rare weekends when we were both home.  The heat index was sky-rocketing and we were hanging out in the house with a gaggle of dogs.  But it was a rewarding time as Lauren is finally able physically (after her arm) to get back to college this semester.  We were discussing her future and it is going to be just fine. A year ago we would not have imagined that it would take this long to get her back to normal.

Reflection is an important tool for assessing where we were, where we are and where we might go.  It is also important to maintain as life catches us unaware or unprepared or unwilling to move forward.  Sometimes reflection invites perspective that we may not have done what we wanted to do but we have done so much more.

___________________________________________

Thank you to all you who journey along with us, thanks for riding along.

 

 

The final chapter

From the court house steps on a gloomy March day as the case was closed.

From the court-house steps on another dreary March day as the case was closed. The trees behind the flags were covered in brilliant white blossoms but I guess the gloom covered up their beauty  as well.

I had my long-awaited court date to send my mother’s will to Probate.  Apparently the calendar is full and it takes months to get your case heard by the judge.  My mother died the sixth of August and her court case took place in March.  A long time passed as I waited for this day to come.

I don’t know what it is about my life that invites complexity.  I plan well.  I am good at organization.  I make my bed each day and have a closet that is divided by color and type of garment.  You would think these traits would lead to my life going more smoothly.  Perhaps as I plan and organize, I do so to rebel against the chaos that surrounds my life.  I guess the good news is that I organize as well as I do, because if I did not, my life would simply crumble around me.

My mother’s will was written in 2002.  I had recently been divorced and lived with the girls here in Texas.  My mother did her will in Colorado with her longtime attorney, Bill Kemp.  He was to be the executor of her estate, and if he could not be then my former brother-in-law, Sean, was named as an alternate.

Of course, my mother never dreamed she would die in Texas or in the tiny county of Wharton.  But things change.  By the time my momma got here it was too late to change her will to the laws of the state of Texas, as she was not of sound mind as the lawyers say.

After my mother’s death, I had the will but was not in any particular hurry to settle things.  I just really couldn’t deal with much else and thought it would be very straightforward and quick.  It might have been in the fall when I started to hunt down the phone number for the Denver lawyer my mother had used for her will.  As my mother’s only surviving child, there was not anyone else to be effected by this will.  I thought I would call the attorney, there would be some court thing and I would get a check for the assets left in my mother’s estate.  It works like that on television.

I guess my television show would have been characterized as a legal drama with death (and not just my mom’s), inter-state judicial wars, and unscrupulous attorneys.

I quickly got the phone number of the attorney and waited until 9:00 am Mountain time when they opened to call.  A very pleasant women named Rose answered the phone.  I asked to speak to Mr. Kemp.  Her voice got guarded as she proceeded to quiz me on who I was and what I wanted with her attorney.

Turns out that tragically that week, Mr. Kemp had been diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer.  The office was closing and all the files were being transferred out. I was stunned.  Bill Kemp, always referred to as my mother’s attorney Bill Kemp, had been a regular feature in our conversations for years. I could not believe that his office was closing and his health so critical.

Mr. Kemp called me shortly thereafter.  He told me he could not serve as executor and it would be preferable to have an executor in Texas, such as myself to handle this with a Texas attorney.  Okay, I was very sorry but totally understood.  I went on an internet search for a Probate attorney.  That may not have been my smartest approach to finding someone to handle such an important issue.  I read online reviews and chose a female Probate attorney with an office nearby.  I was told she would call me.  She did not.  After several follow-ups with her office, I finally reached her and explained the Colorado will with the dying executor problem.  She quoted me a fee of $10,000 and told me to get Mr. Kemp and my brother-in-law to sign away their executor rights.

I called my now best friend Rose at Mr. Kemp’s office and she assured me that was a ridiculous amount to handle this will.  The Texas attorney wanted $9000 upfront and the balance before the court date.

What finally settled the issue of this being the wrong attorney for me was when Mr. Kemp called after his session of chemo to tell me another attorney from Texas had called him asking him for all the documents on the case.

I had never even met the female attorney in person nor agreed that she represent me but she had asked an attorney friend to take over the case and sent my mother’s will to him.  Mr. Kemp told me if I had not released those files to this new attorney that it was a breach of confidentiality at best.  He advised I find another attorney.

This time I chose another method to pick a good attorney.  I drove around my little town and looked at their offices.  Pretty Scientific.  But this new attorney was a winner.  He represented me for a fraction of the cost and worked to get all the paperwork in order.  He established a March court date.

In the meantime, Mr. Kemp passed away as did my step-father Jim.  So much change.  I met my new attorney at the courthouse Monday on yet another dreary, rainy, south Texas winter day.  It fit my mood exactly.  Of course, I was last on the docket but found the process to be quite straightforward.  I was asked some questions, the judge told me he was sorry for my loss and good luck.  I was officially appointed “Administratrix” of the will.  I guess that word is the feminine version of the word administrator, but it scared me so I did not ask.

The next day at the post office, I sent off the paperwork to Wells Fargo and hoped to God that I was done with all of this.  I asked for a book of stamps and was given the ones below.  My mom was an avid rose gardener in both Chicago and Denver.  She always said that the white rose called the John F. Kennedy was my dad’s all time favorite.  It was a fitting close and reminder of the fragile beauty of life.  Thank you for riding along and being part of my journey.

The stamps I bought as I sent my mother's stock certificate away. My father's favorite rose was the John F. Kennedy rose and this is it. Wierd.

The stamps I bought as I sent my mother’s stock certificate away. My father’s favorite rose was the John F. Kennedy rose and this is it. Wierd.

GG Jim-A Life Well Lived

My mom and Jim-2012

My mom and Jim-2012

My step-father, Jim Foust, died yesterday at age 97 and three/quarters.  I know you probably think that is not surprising but believe me this was one person for whom advancing age never seemed to touch.  My grandkids, his great grandkids, called him GG Jim, great-grandpa Jim after Jordyn first coined that name for him.

Glenn Taylor Foust (Jim), was born in 1917.  And has remained all 97 of these years pretty much aware and remembering the details of his great life.  My mother met Jim first as Dr. Foust.  He was her OB-GYN in the 1950’s as she was pregnant with first my sister and then I.  In essence I have known Jim all my life since he cared for my mother and delivered me into this world.  Pretty crazy.  And while he was part of bringing me into this life, Jim saved my life once, literally, as well.

My family moved off to Chicago for many years as Jim continued to have a thriving practice in Denver.  When my family returned to Denver in the 1970s,  my mother was once again a patient of Jim.  My dad died in 1991 and as my mom embarked on a life of her own, Jim was doing the same having lost his wife as well.  They met again walking in a Denver park.  Before any of us had time to think about it, the two of them were heavy into a relationship.

I remember Jim and mom coming to visit my family in Florida in the mid-1990’s.  Ally was taking horseback riding lessons and Jim went along with me to watch.  He filled the time telling us stories of being in the cavalry.  Have you ever met anyone that served in the U.S. Cavalry?  Jim was an excellent horseback rider and had pictures of himself jumping four-foot or larger jumps on huge thoroughbreds.  My dad was a horseman but Jim actually had done the things that Ally and subsequently Lauren would compete in.

I was an avid swimmer, competing for over ten years.  Jim had been an outstanding swimmer and diver as well (not something I did well).  It was another thing we had in common.  As the relationship deepened between Jim and my mom, I was very happy for her to have found such a love again. They were married in 1997.  I think they both made each other very happy.  Not many of us get such second chances.

Jim had a place in Tucson and I remember so many terrific times with the family there.  Over dinners he would tell us stories of his hunting adventures in Alaska.  To this day, I believe there are still trophy animals in one of the Denver museums that Jim hunted, killed and had shipped back to Colorado for display.  He had amazing times hunting on horseback in wild, completely untamed country. Jim was great golfer as well and won tournaments at Cherry Hills in Colorado along with many in Arizona and other locations. He was still swinging a golf club even in recent years.

I realized a little late in Jim’s life that I had missed a tremendous opportunity in my journalistic endeavours.  I wish I had been able to devote some time to Jim  and to hearing his life story, from birth to the war, to medical school and training, to his wild adventures in some of the real frontiers of America. I think his story would be one from which we could all learn a little something.

For my children, especially Lauren and Ally, Jim was the grandfather they knew best.  I do not say that to disrespect their other grandfathers, but because of my mother, Jim was so much more involved in their lives.  Jim cheered all the girls on from childhood and as they grew into adults.  I am sure even today the kid’s pictures still grace the walls (and refrigerator) of his home in Tucson.

Jim, Jordyn and Bruno.  95 year old Jim wanted to ride him.  I said no.

Jim, Jordyn and Bruno. 95-year-old Jim wanted to ride him. I said no.

 

When Jordyn came along both mom and Jim were her biggest fans.  Jordyn made a lot of trips to Denver and there was a deep and special love between the three of them. Jim was great with all the great-grand kids and seemed to have a special rapport with them.  Maybe it was from having delivered so many babies, he appreciated how special they were.  He carried a little book which held all the names and birth dates of his family from young to old.  He would read the roster off for me, telling me a little about each one.

Jim with young Riley.

Jim with young Riley.

Jim was my step-father.  He loved my mother and I.  He cared about my children and grandchildren.  In many ways, I feel he was one of the last of his breed, of the tough, but wiry and resilient type that met challenges head-on with his usual surgeon like decisiveness.  It is the end of era for me. It is the last part of my momma that was left.  I think it is ironic that he died on Valentine’s Day-he was such romantic and blessed my mother with flowers so often.

God Speed, Jim.  You were one of a kind and brought so much love to my mother and my family.  I would tell you to rest now in peace but I doubt you are slowing down even for a moment as you embark on Heaven and all its delights.

Glenn Taylor Foust, Jr

May 18, 1917-Feb.14, 2014

A life well lived

 

 

Merry Christmas

Momma and I enjoying our last Christmas.

Momma and I enjoying our last Christmas.

Honestly, I tried to upload six other pictures but they all errored out.  I guess this was the one I was meant to post.  I am sure missing my momma on this first Christmas without her.

It is day 23 on my post surgical confinement.  My hip replacement turned out to be a little more invasive than thought.  They took out five inches of my leg and hip while replacing it with seven inches of titanium. Ow!  I mean seriously.

I have spent most days in my room, surrounded by my dogs and cat.  I have not even been out to the barn in over ten days, the gravel driveway proving to be my foe.

I have only left the house once in all this time except when visiting the hospital or doctor.  I have had plenty of time to think, to grieve my losses of this year and rewind the moments of celebration and happiness. I have given some serious thought to my life and my job  and bettering my commitment to both. I am going to be paring down and working harder. I am establishing new goals.

Of course, my first goal is to walk again, by myself.  And just manage some simple things like making my bed or feeding the animals.  From there I can step (get it, step?) right into filling other goals.

God gives us time to think and time to plan.  This quiet time is important to me. But expect to see some new photos soon and my return to life.

May you all enjoy a Merry Christmas tonight.  I wish you seasons of Joy.

 

True Friends

It has been a trying time but the one thing that has made it all better has been the laughter (and tears) that I have shared with family and friends. It has been gratifying to learn that I have people I can really count on in my life (I feel like a loner most of the time).

From doing unsavory chores like mucking stalls to cleaning my dog’s blood off the concrete last night (just a flesh wound!), my terrific unit of supporters has gotten me (and us) through the worst of times.

The biggest and best surprise in all this was when my very best friend from childhood, Camille, messaged me that she was coming to the funeral. I immediately invited her to stay at my daughter Amber’s house, although I knew beds would be scarce. The real kicker? We had not seen each other in 40 years. Really.

20140814-185411.jpgThat is Camille in the blue jacket and I in the yellow.  That is one ugly little cat but I didn’t think so at the time.

Camille and I were back lot neighbors. She  lived in the house up the hill from me.  We did everything together from ice skating miles and miles down Salt Creek, building tree houses and forts and riding any horse we could.

My dad rigged some way for us to go to horse camp in Wisconsin supposedly as sisters.  Here is an awesome picture of the two of us dressed as Native Americans huddling over the camp dog (of course!).

I am in the blue leotard.  What great costumes!

I am in the blue leotard. What great costumes!

We ran free most of the time. Spending winters sledding and ice skating and the summers swimming and riding. It was a great way to grow up.  We had some usual (unusual) parent angst but got through it all.  College Camille headed east and me, west, back to Colorado.  Although sporadically in touch, we had not seen each other in all these years.

I think my daughters were a little panic-stricken when I casually let them know some stranger was spending several days with us.  As we discussed where everyone would sleep, they kept calling Camille, “your friend”.  I would correct them with her name, which they didn’t remember and kept calling her “Clarice” in that tone that Anthony Hopkins uses in Silence of the Lambs.  Amber told me, no offense, but a random stranger was not sleeping in the room with her son.  I get that.  I think they were all a peeved that I had invited someone into our inner circle.

On Camille’s behalf, as she tells the story, she doesn’t frequently travel.  Her husband was out-of-town and she just decided she was going to go to Denver for the funeral and started making flight arrangements.

Camille and I before the funeral.

Camille and I before the funeral.

The minute she pulled in Amber’s driveway with a big smile and wave, Immediately we were off to see the filly, Betty Sue, and Camille was smashed in the back seat between my suddenly quiet grandkids.

Camille and I chatted like the old friends we were.  My kids loved her and said she was good for me.  We settled the whole sleeping arrangement thing with Camille and I sharing a room just like old times.  Funny how the years fall away.

At the funeral it must have been a little disconcerting to suddenly face my family, my step-sister, her husband and my nephew along with my former brother-in-law Sean, all aged forward 40 years.  How weird would that be?  But I am so glad she came.  I would have never asked and it meant the world to me.

Thanks to all of you who have been so kind in so many ways, my family, my old friends and many new friends who really have stepped up to aid me at a time of grief.  May God Bless you!