“A Walk in the Woods” with Mom

Every night before she goes to sleep, I read to Mom. Sometimes it’s a devotional like Jesus Calling or a chapter from her Bible. Sometimes I give her a “sneak preview” of one of the books I’m editing. (She particularly liked Forgiveness Makes You Free, by Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga.

If you liked the movie, read the book … Heck, even if you DIDN’T, read it anyway!

This weeks’ book du jour is from my favorites shelf, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. For those who haven’t yet stumbled on this one (and who missed the movie), it’s a delightful romp about two middle-aged men who set put one spring to walk the two-thousand something miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Now, my mother and I have some history with this particular trail. When I was a Junior in Girl Scouts, and my mom was the troop leader, she and her friend decided to take a group of us to High Point State Park to practice our trail marking skills. She divided us into three groups: The first group was to mark the trail, second to follow the marks, and the third (also presumably following) would clean up as they went. We would all meet back at the car for Smores before heading back to the school parking lot to our parents.

Our third group fared best. When the second group managed to erase the trail marks in their eagerness to read the signs, the third group merely followed the path back to the car. An hour later, when the other two groups didn’t show up, the leader decided to take her group back to the school so their parents wouldn’t worry. Meanwhile, the first group had missed the park’s markings, and took a “shortcut” that put us on the Appalachian Trail. Two hours later, my mother was standing on the side of the road with eight middle-schoolers (group two had caught up with her), miles away from where we should have been.

This was long before cell phones (or Amber Alerts). As dusk fell, we emerged from the woods and found ourselves on the side of a (relatively) busy highway. And so, when a bearded gentlemen in a Volkswagen bus pulled up and offered us a lift back to the park … I guess some angels do wear flannel.

I don’t remember what happened after that, other than (a) we arrived back in the school parking lot three hours after we said we’d be there and (b) it was the last troop outing I remember my mother leading. Apart from missing the smores (the greedy guts in the first group ate them all), we were none the worse for wear. It had been an adventure, and one of the few clear memories I still have of my scouting experiences. Not all bad, right?

So … this week as Mom and I read this Appalachian Trail adventure,  and laugh over the antics of Bill and Katz, I’m happy to find that Mom is alert and seems to be enjoying it more than some of the other books I’ve tried. “I just love the Appalachian Trail,” she murmurs.

So do I, Mom. So do I.

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Like Deckchairs on the Titanic … a Time for Comfort

stepping-stonesI’ve never visited anyone in a place like this before, let alone a loved one. It wasn’t until dad grabbed my hand that I realized my fists were clenched. His touch also prompted me to take a deep breath — turns out I wasn’t breathing, either. Odd.

Inside, a small scattering of residents were camped out in the common room, some sleeping, some watching T.V. Mom was sleeping on a sofa, and when I touched her shoulder, she opened her eyes, focused … and smiled. Quickly she sat up and hugged me, and I waited for her to say something.

For two hours, I waited. We communicated with an improvised game of charades. I stink at charades. It was painful, seeing her life reduced to a single room with a colorless bedcovering and bare walls. And in that moment, I knew what my task this week was going to be: a bit of beauty.

Now, I don’t kid myself that this is going to materially change the outcome of her situation. My other sisters have labored tirelessly to support my parents, helping them to make the medical and other decisions necessary to keep them afloat. This is the first time this year I’ve been able to make it down, for a variety of reasons. And though I’ll admit it may be a bit like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, at least it’s in my power to make sure those chairs go down spit-shined.

Her mother’s quilt. A lunch of homemade soup and bread. A good book (I chose one of mine, and another favorite, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.) And after lunch, we go back to the common room and sit at the piano, and she turns the pages in the old hymnal while I play song after song.

“She’s having a good day,” Dad said. “That’s two in a row.”

Please, God. Make it a week.

This is not your typical “Fun Friday” post, but somehow it seems appropriate to be publishing this in the typical timeslot. Because when it comes to family, “fun” isn’t always measured in roller coaster rides … and when it is, those coasters aren’t always the kind you find at Hershey Park.

The Liebster Award — thanks C.M. Crabtree!

liebsterAfter taking up blogging again (after a two-year hiatus), I was delighted to hear from a new reader, C.M.Crabtree, who said she was nominating me for “The Liebster Award” for bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

The way it’s set up, it feels a bit like a meme, but still it’s a nice way to connect with some BlogHer writers and others I’ve encountered in my “31 Days to De-Stress Your Life” project. (If you happen to have more than 200 followers, chalk it up to my enthusiasm for your writing, rather than my lack of technical savvy.)

So here goes. I am nominating for the Liebster Award the following four bloggers:

4 Mothers

A Lovely Life Indeed

My Purple Dreams: 365 Days of Giving Thanks

Bee Home Soon

And here are my answers to Ms. Crabtree’s questions (which are the same I’d like my nominees to take):

1. What is your favorite city in the world? So far, Rome. But I haven’t been to Jerusalem or Sydney yet.

2. What is your favorite thing to do in the morning? Sleep in after a night of watching old movies.

3. If you could spend the day with one person (deceased), who would it be and why? Teresa of Avila. I’d love to kick back with a good bottle of wine and a plate of tapas.

4. What would you do for a living if money wasn’t an issue? Anything that would let me travel to the countries I haven’t been to yet.

5. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Put God in the White House (or at least let him take over for Jay Leno). The rest of the problems would take care of themselves.

6. If you had to choose, would you prefer the white-picket-fence life or absolute success at your dream job? I do like picket fences … could I work from home at my dream job?

7. If you could go back in time at any point during your life, would you change anything and if so, what? I’d tell myself to lighten up. Faith should draw people together, not divide them.

8. What is your favorite TV show or movie? Enjoying “Downton Abbey.”

9. What is your favorite book? A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. It’ll put a smile on my face any day.

10. What is your favorite quote? Some luck lies not in getting what you thought you wanted, but in wanting what you have. Which, once you have it, you might be smart enough to find it is what you would have wanted all along, had you only known. Garrison Keillor, “Lake Woebegon Days.”