Last week, I was in Florida working and extended my trip through the weekend to spend time with my friends. Taking a mini-vacation! Like super mini. We had things planned out pretty much, but a ride on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle to the beach totally turned my head.
It has been so long since I’ve ridden I can’t even recall the year. I just know it was with my dad. When I was a little bitty thing my parents put me on a bike in a diaper and a dew rag…favorite picture ever! The picture is gone thanks to a house fire when I was 15, but the memory lives on. That last time riding with my dad I remember I was finally tall enough and strong enough to hold his bike up. Well I still had to lean heavily to one side. Those short legs of mine and that Yamaha didn’t go together. He had more than one so he took one sister and I took the other! I was excited because I’d finally earned the right to ride by myself on one of his bikes. Dad would normally take two of us or one at a time. Off we went for a ride down the back roads enjoying our time together. As a kid of divorced parents sometimes it was tough, so I loved those times with him. I miss the opportunity to spend time with him but cancer is a real bastard.
I didn’t realize until we were tooling down the road how much I would be reminded of those times and would miss him in that moment. It about brought tears to my eyes and I didn’t want to ruin a happy time with sadness. I sucked it up and knew that it was going to be another awesome experience to go along with the times I spent riding with my dad. There was a huge grin that could NOT be wiped off my face…my joy was apparent cause my dimples were showing!
I’m on the controlling side so it says a lot when I have trust in the driver because I never worried or got anxious. There are people I’ve ridden with that I never wanted to get behind again, or I wanted to take over! He wasn’t one of those – because I got on that bike any time there was an opportunity. Cold as hell that last time out but totally worth it. Too bad for him I spent most of my time sight seeing, so I didn’t say a whole lot. I know my head was on a swivel. I had never been to the Tampa area and I was taking it all in. Lots of farm country – more than I expected. Well I did give notice to be prepared for my cold hands cause I tucked them anywhere I could. Lol No shame my fingers were freezing!
The tiki bar was fun and the music was interesting. Karaoke would’ve been way more entertaining. The views of Tampa Bay were exceptional. There was a cruise ship coming out of Port so the sun was an amazing backdrop. Food was good…my shrimp tacos were delicious. On another day we saw the manatees. I had never seen them in person or mangroves so that was fun. Check out the video of the manatees swimming around by the coal plant. They like the warm water this time of year…it’s about 20 degrees warmer.
The horticulturalist in me was excited to see and touch the mangroves. I did not remove any since that’s against the law fyi. I’m a bird watching enthusiast – my nerdiness knows no bounds. Really. Did a little bird watching, saw a sea turtle and some huge redfish. Ummm just hand me a rod and reel cause redfish are good eating! I’ll just need someone to bait it and remove the fish. Yes I have high expectations when it comes to fishing, but I will catch a ton if they’re biting! After some wildlife adventures we were off to the Hot Tomato. Holy cow the BLT has 10 pieces of bacon on it. Excellent little hole in the wall. Highly recommend that place. Sorry I ate the sandwich and never thought about taking a pic. Just trust me on this one.
So the weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was what I needed and didn’t even know it. It was relaxing and I enjoyed the people I was with and the places we went. Obviously I need to do this more often – find that work/life balance. Don’t get me wrong I would’ve had a great time with the original plan this was a fabulous alternative. Go for a ride on a Harley with a fantastic person or just tool down the road on your own!
We don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on death, anyway I don’t. I’m more of pursue happiness and live life to the fullest kind of chick. It’s a theme in my family cause I’m not the only one…you know the odd ball.
At this moment in my family we are coming to terms with the approaching death of my grandmother. It feels like a marathon, but I know when the moment arrives I will be winded and feel like I’ve sprinted the entire time.
Life is precious and oh so fleeting. It’s obviously more apparent when you’re right in the middle of dealing with it. All the love you have for the individual and the love you have for friends and family make it more bearable. One of the interesting things I’ve realized with my grandmother is the extent of her impact on other people.
Despite her Alzheimer’s she has welcomed in a whole family of caregivers that love her dearly. They have made their way either to the hospital or to her room at the nursing home where she is in hospice. It’s so touching it brings tears to my eyes every time. Even though I may never get their name I know that we both love this woman to the bottom of our hearts…it bonds us.
My grandmother is a strong Christian woman that has instilled those same beliefs in Jesus in her children and especially this grandchild. She was my influencer. She was never ashamed to share her testament, pray or ask for prayer. She willingly offered comfort and support. Drug my sisters and I to church plenty…not that it was a hardship. I loved sitting next to her on the pew as we sang and listened to the sermon. She wouldn’t let me wear her ring, but I could mess with it while I held her hand.
Even when she didn’t always know me she knew scripture and we could talk about our faith. It was a connection that we share and will always share. For my grandmother this time between the stroke and her passing is time for family and friends to say goodbye. I know she is ready to hit the streets of gold! Hopefully she’ll confirm there are rivers of chocolate. It’s not the end for her because our bodies are temporary and she will soon be stepping into her eternal home – it’s the beginning with her heavenly body and in a place that she will never feel pain, anxiety, loss or any other emotion that isn’t joyful.
I love her dearly and she WILL be missed but I know from my faith that we will meet again.
I grew up gathering on the porch to listen to stories, share in conversation, and in the summer eat watermelon. Every once in awhile we might have homemade ice cream…yum. Even though my great-grandparents have long since passed we still continue the tradition. Doesn’t matter whose home we’re gathered at if the weather is nice enough you’ll find us on a porch, patio, or deck.
It’s from those days on a porch that I dreamed big and knew I had family that would support those dreams. I still have big dreams, and I still sit on the porch despite the fact I’m in my forties. You can always dream! My great-grandparents had a swing on their porch and it’s something that I love! Even after I moved off and had a home of my own I had a swing. I’m on my third swing. It’s a big cedar monstrosity and I love it. It sits near the firepit, so when it’s cool enough for a fire I lay on the swing and watch the fire burn. On sunny days it’s the place I go to read a book or watch the clouds move across the sky…sometimes I take a nap.
Today we celebrated my grandmother’s 89th birthday. She is the epitome of a southern woman. Fine manners, gracious, Godly, hospitable and always put together. We couldn’t go feed cows until she had her make-up on and hair done. I’m not quite living up to that standard since I love my yoga pants. One thing she did was set the precedence that women are equal early on in our family. When she married my grandfather, the ladies in the family had to wait until the men had eaten before they could sit down to eat, because they served the men and children first. My Granny wasn’t having that she was sitting down at the same time to share a meal with my grandfather…you know that must’ve been a shocker when she bucked that tradition. I respect her gumption because in those days that wasn’t the norm, so I say thank you for paving the way and being the southern woman you are! Think ‘tawanda‘ from Fried Green Tomatoes…my Granny is a feisty one! I think I must’ve got a double dose of feisty from her but it serves me well.
This evening as I sat enjoying the conversation around me I couldn’t help but think of the past, and how all those experiences shaped me as a person. My values, love of family, friends that become your family, respect for a hard days work, love of siblings and cousins, and my faith that was nurtured by the family around me. I needed my village and fortunately I grew up in a rural area where I could run wild…well as wild as my parents let me. We had the screen door and I did hear ‘don’t come back in until I say you can‘. It’s funny now but we had so much freedom. I try to give my son freedom to learn and grow, but goodness it’s nothing like what I had. That’s probably due to the world we live in today in comparison to way back when…geez now I feel freaking old.
I’ve enjoyed my Labor Day weekend of family and friends, which is how it should be! Phones down and conversation flowing. Sharing of our lives and how we can find time to put some culture in it. Opera or ballet is in our future. Might be like the Beverly hillbillies come to town but we look pretty good all slicked up. It will be an adventure.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday…I’m planning to hit the lake for some fun in the sun!!
It’s ironic how out of the blue you can be hit with a memory that strikes grief right to your soul. I had that happen to me this morning, the memory of my dad and his last day. It’s been 2 years since that day my sister and I made that 2.5 hour drive to the hospital. An eternity was wrapped up in that drive and it just carried on when we had to make that grief stricken drive back knowing he was gone forever.
Life does go on, but it is changed and in ways you never expect. One way for me was my writing, at work I wrote a blog on our internal communication site…a little like facebook but not, and it was always something positive and upbeat. Once I wrote my dad’s eulogy that was it nothing else seemed to flow out of me again. It took well over a year before I felt that same internal connection I had to my thoughts and feelings, and be able to express them in written form. I don’t claim to be the greatest writer ever, but I find the creative process enjoyable.
Only thing was I didn’t want to write the work blog anymore I didn’t know what I wanted to do for sure. I really didn’t make the mental connection until I posted the first blog on this site and then wham I knew this was it. I know people talk about writers block and how to push through I’ve done that, but you want that connection or at least I do to my work. When I have that connection or flow I know that it’s the good stuff and rarely do I need to edit….maybe I should but the creative side of me says no. Recently I was researching ‘flow state’ or ‘in the zone’ and how you reach inside of yourself and get to that spot. Ultimately it comes down to quieting your mind – for those of us with busy minds that’s a challenge!
Along with learning about flow states I found an article that really helped me to figure out and explain how I was creative. I didn’t really associate that word with myself because my sister is the artist and that’s what I think of as creative. My brother is musically talented and that’s creative. I was not any of those things. If you struggle with that same thought check this article out ‘18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently‘ and see if any of it relates to you. I realized I am creative in my own way and I need to stop thinking I’m not.
Be creative and know when the memories are tough they are still sweet because we have them.
*Photo taken by Brandy Still and used with her permission.