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mom now

Carolyn Ruth Cook was born on January 5th, 1931 and her heart beat for the last time, exactly 85 years later on January 5th, 2016. Our Mother, our Friend, our Nana…our hearts are broken once again by our enemy…Death.

Followers of our blog have noticed our absence as years have gone by with no updates since the year anniversary of my father’s death. I apologize for our lapse and hope you will accept my excuse. It was just too hard to write about another parent slipping away.

You read about my excitement about Mom & Teri moving to Ventura and getting Mom’s home remodeled and ready for her…a place we thought she would enjoy the remainder of her life.  You read about her visits to the doctor and hospital with mini-strokes. Mom had been suffering memory loss a few years before my father’s death.  I know that is why Dad struggled to stay alive…he hated that he would not be around to take care of her and keep her safe.

Initially, there was no diagnosis…but everyone who knew Mom could see the rapid changes in the way that she behaved. Eventually, it was confirmed that she was suffering with Advanced Alzheimer’s, that steadily progressed with more and more disturbing symptoms.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that truly changes a person. It unhooks the wiring in the brain, changes personality and robs one of their identity so that they can’t even remember themselves and sink into their past as a child looking for their parents and feeling lost. So despite my joy at having my mother live so close by; this  was not the Mom that I had known. That woman, my mother began fading away, and then slipped away faster when Dad was diagnosed with cancer and then turned off when he died.

This woman who had moved to Ventura, was not like the mother that had raised me and my siblings. I got another woman. She was sweet and kind, agreeable to any suggestions and smiled most of the time; but I could only see remnants of the Carol Cook that had been my mother. My heart ached as I watched her disease keep snatching pieces of her away, bit by bit, leaving a woman who was constantly confused and bewildered, walking around the room looking for a picture or a clue to help her figure out whose house she was in. You could often see the fear in her eyes as she struggled to remember where she was….and sadly at times, even who was sitting in the same room with her…her daughters.

So now…my mother has closed her eyes and I am left wiping mine as tears keep welling and spilling down my face. I thought I was ready for this since I had basically lost Mom when she shut down before Dad’s death.  I was not ready! I am NOT ready!

So as I sit here typing in the wee hours of the morning…it is January 9th, 2016, the day of my mothers memorial, I hurt and I am mad. I am angry that death has once again snatched away someone that I depend on to be ALIVE in my life. I want my parents back and I don’t care that I am a grown woman with children and grandchildren of my own. I WANT MY MOM!

As one of five children, I know that we each have our own experiences and memories that belong exclusively to each of us. Roger, the oldest, and the only son, got the inexperienced young Carolyn, who was eager to be a mother and absolutely adored him…a feeling that never went away. I saw it in her smile when he visited her during the last month of her life. Marta, the youngest, got the experienced, older, and tired Mom. She had given birth to 4 babies that came year after year…and then received Marta 4 years and 1 day after giving birth to me.  Through the years, we each experienced the same and yet different versions of Carolyn Cook…and we all came away with our own recall of what she means in our life.

So these are just a few of my memories, my story, my version of the Carolyn Cook that I claim as MY mom. Sorry siblings…I mean no disrespect or insult. You are free to write your own memories of Mom. I look forward to reading them…because I know that it is impossible for just one of her children to capture the true essence of her entirely without the stories of her other 4 children. Just as she formed us, loved and cared for all us … each of us helped to define her as MOM.

This is way too long…and just a tiny, tiny snapshot of the multitude of memories that are flooding my mind and then my eyes. I am sorry. Kinda sorry.

I feel sorry for the people in Ventura who only knew the sweet little Grandma, with her quirky smile…they did not get to see all of her, the real Carolyn Cook. So how do I use my words to paint a picture that truly portrays her…and remember, this is my version, because my siblings might paint her differently. Here it goes:

My mother was a beautiful and passionate woman, caring and kind, stubborn and fiercely independent, and she was self-admittedly concerned about appearances. As a woman from the South, she had certain sensibilities and expectations of what she thought life should look like. Look at Moms pictures…Amazing!  She had a handsome husband and five young children and she made sure that we were also dressed well and presentable…at least most of the time. Remember…there were five of us. [Somehow my hair never looks like she finished combing it before pictures were snapped.]

I remember a fun-loving mother who made sure to provide good experiences and memories. We lived in a cul-de-sac and it was the early Sixties. We had a carefree life, playing with our friends, running through sprinklers, riding our bikes and just being kids. My mom had a group of friends that would gather at each others houses and play cards. In the summer, we had swimming lessons and trips to the beach. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and our neighbor showing us his Bomb Shelter. A normal life? But I felt secure and happy and loved. I remember her cooking, cleaning, playing, and laughing. We laughed a lot. She was a happy young mother.

As a teenager…things had changed. We had learned the truth about what the Bible taught and our family were now Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mom had found her faith and she became a spiritual woman who had found an anchor for her family. She tried to instill her love for Jehovah into our hearts and Dad had joined her in that endeavor. Now memories were being made of spending time in telling others the Good News of God’s Kingdom, attending meetings, and conventions and a whole new world of friends…lots and lots of friends. Really GOOD friends. Lots of good memories. She was happy to have found hope for the future and enjoyed these new chapters in her life.

Our home was open to all and we always seemed to have extra people at our table eating food, not always cooked by Mom…but usually prepared by Tonja or Teri. It seems to me that as soon as those two got tall enough to look down into the pot… they were the ones cooking dinner. Mom knew how to delegate…and she had a lot to delegate. Five teenagers make for a lot of laundry. Mom was crafty and artistic and she always seemed to have some type of project going…painting, gardening, raising chickens, planning parties….the list goes on and on and I love all of those memories.

And then….the other shoe dropped. She was raising teenagers, full of life and eager to spread our wings and fly. That freedom was not granted eagerly and I watch Mom’s angst as we all went through growing pains. Bad decisions were made by her five inexperienced and foolish children, consequences were paid and the years of joy became infused with some horrible and heartbreaking times for Mom. Some of her children’s lives seemed to be in danger of shipwreck and in the midst of all of that, Mom got the news that she had Breast Cancer. However, she was spunky, determined, resilient and she would rise up to each occasion and try to muster through…after all, this was a Southern Woman…a woman who relied on Jehovah and had a good husband supporting her, and she came through it all! Stronger and tired. Very tired!

I must admit…and I have apologized earnestly and heartfelt to Mom, but I did not like her very much from the age of 15 to 18. You know…the stupid years. The years when parents cannot possibly know what they were talking about and please do not give advice to me because I know better years. Truthfully, I was acting out because Mother’s attention was focused on the woes in front of her. I truly thought she was unfair and showed favoritism and what about ME ME ME.  I am sorry, I was a jerk. When you are one of five and life is spinning out of control, one or two is bound to feel unimportant and overlooked. Remember…I have apologized.

After a while, things settled down and Mom got us all out of the house. She and Dad settled into a comfortable routine and life was good and going pretty smooth. She loved where the two of them settled in Oregon. She swore she would never leave and that she had never lived in a place where she felt happier. They had good friends in their congregation and loved their surroundings. They had a multitude of Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren that they welcomed anytime one would show up at their door. Life was good!

She and Dad would come down from Oregon every summer to attend our annual Conventions and it was a joy and privilege to worship Jehovah with them. Mom and Dad were a constant touchstone, a refuge, a place to turn to for advice and love. My boys loved visiting Oregon and being loved by Nana and Poppy. Those were truly their golden years as they loved each other, their family and their friends and I loved seeing them thrive.

And now…they are gone. Both of them…gone.  I know and I will be reminded again today at Mom’s Memorial Service that her faith and mine…is sure and true. Mom wholeheartedly believed what the Bible said about the condition of the dead and the resurrection. So I will see both Mom and Dad again when those promises are realized. I know I will.

BUT…right now I am mad at DEATH.  I want her back now. I want my MOM! I want my siblings to have Mom! I am dreading today, because the slight scab that has been forming ever so slowly since January 5th will be ripped away and the bleeding will be profuse as I witness the pain in the faces of my brother, my sisters and our children and grandchildren as we gather to honor this beautiful woman we called MOM and NANA.

Until we meet again Mom….I will remember. I promise I will remember. You are loved!

 

 

 

 

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Rayford Ennis Cook

Yesterday, May 17, 2012, marked a year on the calendar since my Dad, Rayford Cook, passed away in his sleep.

If you are reading this post, you most likely have noticed that it’s been a little quiet on these pages for months.  I haven’t felt like writing, something has been preventing me from releasing the words that have been swirling in my head or giving air to the emotions that somehow still exist despite my heart being cracked and broken. I would guess that my siblings feel the same way. Yes?

Teresa said that grief is self-indulgent and I totally agree and understand…but grief is also powerful and manipulative and unreasonable. Grief is definitely not a quitter. It raises its ugly head and sticks out its tongue sporadically without any forewarning.

In the past, people would wear black garb for a year to signify to the world that they were grieving.  I think that it was probably a good idea. It gave them some latitude and breathing room. People saw their black outfits and knew that they should handle with care and not to expect too much. In this enlightened age, we pull up our big girl panties and go out and face the world. We don’t expect people to give us a wide berth, to acknowledge that we have been damaged, and to tread lightly with their comments.  Instead we paint on our “Public Face”, paste on a smile and pretend that we are whole; however, inside we are doing our best to keep our emotions in check, act properly and make no one uncomfortable. Suffer in silence and just keep moving forward. Maybe we should bring back the tradition of wearing black. It might be easier. Is a year long enough? Is grieving supposed to be gone by now?

Dad has been gone for 365 days. 8760 hours. A Year.  Day by day has passed.

I struggle with writing this…it feels all wrong. I have deleted it several times now…but for some reason…I feel like I cannot let this mark on the calendar go by without acknowledging it here after everything else that has been written on this blog. I must write.  This is not a cry for attention. I truly want none. This all seems in vain…what’s the use? What’s the purpose? I write and Dad is still gone. I write and there is still grief. I write and my Mom is still without her soulmate.What is the use? Why write?

Okay, that being said, thanks for letting me wallow…if Dad were reading this, he would scold me. Dad was anything but self-indulgent. He had such a down-to-earth attitude about absolutely everything, including his own death. So instead of counting all the ways and reasons I hurt from missing him and the void that he has left. I will honor his legacy by letting the memory of my Dad warm my heart. This is my feeble attempt, because, truth be told….there are no words to define him, no words adequate enough to sum up this man, so wonderfully complex and faceted. There just are no words elegant enough to capture his essence or sufficient enough to convey his legacy in its entirety.

So….

I close my eyes and I see him.

He is a regular visitor in my dreams.

I can hear his voice.

I can still smell him.

I can feel his love.

Sophia Remembering Poppy

I can play back hours upon hours of home movies in my mind. I see Dad playing with us, working in his garden, teaching us, and taking us to worship. I see him kissing my mother and touching her arm tenderly as he passes by. I see his head bent in prayer before our family dinners (yes, my eyes were open), and see his legs sticking out from underneath the Ford as he tweaks with the mechanics. I see him carrying his grand-children, teasing his wife, and holding our hands. I can feel his hand in mine as we stand side by side singing praises to our God at the Kingdom Hall. I see him sitting and doing crosswords, reading his Bible and napping on the couch. I see him at the beach and walking on the boardwalk, looking and coveting those fine boats in the harbor. I feel his silence as we sit in the boat and wait for that first bite. I smell his cooking. I hear him singing in the shower. I hear his laugh. I hear his laugh. Thank God, I can still hear his laugh.

This man died and yet he is so alive in my heart and my head and in my hopes.

I will love you always Dad. I will try to live my life in honor of all you believed and taught me. I will Remember. I will hope and I will have faith that I will have you back.

I will Remember.

Up in Oregon, Mom and Teresa are busy prepping for their move by having their second yard sale. (I will be there tomorrow to join the fun.) Teri is lamenting over arranging all the odds and ends that are now ready to belong to someone else. We had giggled together over what Mom would sell and what she would want to absolutely hang onto and wondered how much stuff that we would need to haul down to Ventura. Much to my surprise, Mom is clearly ready to let go and move on. She actually is selling her huge cup collection as well as her dolls that she spent so many years collecting. In Mom’s case, I believed that she enjoyed the hunt, more than the ownership of things.

Have you watched that show, Hoarders?  It’s like a train wreck that you can just not avert your eyes from. I am so glad that we do not have to deal with that disease. ARGH… Dad was a frugal man and did not buy a whole lot of stuff…which is a very good thing; because he probably had everything he ever bought in the garage….tools and such. Fortunately, most of that stash is gone Teri reports, thanks to men who probably got the what-for from their wives when they took it home. Hee-hee, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and a thorn in the butt of that man’s wife.

Sweet Relief — No hoarders in the Cook Clan.

While sorting through things, Teri had asked what we wanted from Dad’s possessions. There were a few items, none of cash value, just sentimental. I heard that Tonja got some ties for Jason, Marta took a few items for Skye & Shae, and Brandon took Dad’s work boots…stuff like that. When she asked me, I told her that the boys would like the harmonicas they had given Dad when they were kids. I think it is so sweet that they will find comfort in those items and I think Dad would have been touched by that. Dad was a man who was rich in love, rich in experience and he had a wealth of knowledge. He was not a land baron, did not have a magnificent stock portfolio, or millions to divide among his progeny. He gave us the gift of family…and harmonicas, boots and ties.

There is one object that Dad kept and must have loved, a possession that Dad has had since the early sixties, (in addition to the tools and stuff in the garage) and that is the FORD truck.  There are too many Ford stories to tell now…let’s just say that it has been a fixture in the Cook kids lives FOREVER. We all have memories that include this now rusty hunk of junk truck that has been sitting in their driveway for eons and has probably been a thorn in Mom’s butt all these years.

Dad and my son Chris made a pact many years ago when Chris was a wee young lad, that one day  the Ford would go to Chris. For some reason, Chris has always loved the truck, even though it was already old and rusty when he was little.

Fishing with Poppy

When Chris got his license, Dad discussed giving the truck to him then. After weighing the pros and cons, he decided to wait. He thought it would be a great project for Chris to fix it up and a good way for Chris to learn his way around engines. Yet he worried that it would take all of Chris’ time and money that should be spent in better endeavors. He went back and forth, but decided that it wasn’t the right time…and at that time, he was still using it to tow his boat to the lake. Dad loved that truck.

Poppy Showing Chris the Ford Woes

Chris is now older and somewhat wiser… the kid is no dummy. He understands what is involved in possessing and fixing up the Ford. On visits to Oregon, Poppy schooled Chris as to what it needs…and Dad tried to tell Chris he did not have to take it and assured him he would not be offended if he refused the keys. Still, Chris wants it … and even got Liz to agree that it could go in their driveway. It’s not worth anything other than what it could get at the scrap yard…but to Chris it is so very valuable and desirable…It was Poppy’s. When he looks at it, I imagine him replaying a video of his memories of Poppy, fishing, and the Ford. Those are Some Truly Precious memories.

Conner, Chris & Poppy & RUST

The rusty, hunk of junk Ford from Poppy, is a treasured object, a token of love and worth so much in the eyes and heart of his Grandson. It warms my heart to know how loved our Poppy is by all of our children.

I think about all Dads’ family and try to visualize each ones memories. We had so many great times with that man. I wish there was a way to transfer those memories to DVDs so we could all watch them together.

If Chris ever does get that Ford shiny and bright again, that will truly be a vehicle full of Poppy love. There is no doubt that memories are definitely more important than objects; yet sometimes, certain objects can be the vehicles for recalling good times, good people and reminding us how good the bond of love can be. Poppy may be gone, but his lessons for us live on.

The Fords Future?

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