I called my mother and asked if I could visit her in the spring. She was greatly surprised I wanted to travel to wherever she was to see her. I had no idea where she moved to. After I purchased their house in 1996 (God is so good; I bought my inheritance!), my parents traveled the country looking for where they wanted to live. They even went to Hawaii! I purchase their home so my father would move far, far away from me, and it worked. The casualty of that act was I didn't get to see or speak to my mom much. We grew up together and she's always been my best friend. She'd call every few months and we talked for 10-20 minutes, but she never said much about herself or what she was doing. She used to come once a year and stay with us for about 4-6 weeks after we first adopted our girls, but she can't drive anymore and travel just isn't possible for her these days. It had been eleven years since the last time she visited and I missed her.
I had no idea where they decided to call home, so I didn't know where I'd be going, but I was prepared to travel anywhere. I purchased my tickets for Amtrak and a flight on an 8 passenger Cessna airplane. Yea! Like put wings on my Toyota Sequoia — that size plane. My mother asked, "When did you become so brave?" I replied, "Mom, if you lived on the moon, I'd get on the Space Shuttle." What bothered me most is it would be a three hour flight — without a bathroom. Obviously, I couldn't take much luggage either.
I purchased a new horse in February 2016 but was determined not to ride it until after my trip because I didn't want anything to happen to me that would prevent me from going to see my mother in May, the week before Mother's Day. It was tough, but I didn't ride him. My bags were packed on the living room floor for weeks before my trip, and I repacked them several times trying to figure out how to take only what I absolutely needed for 5 days.
Two weeks before my trip, I started to feel anxiety about seeing my father again. I saw him briefly in 2001, when he came to my home to see my mother during one of her visits. I didn't know he'd come with her. He was staying somewhere else. I thought, 'How would it be to stay in his house again, talk to him, and feel his energy?' I caught myself going into right brain, emotion driven fight or flight thinking and stopped allowing myself to entertain those thoughts any longer. I made the conscious decision to get into my left brain, where logical, creative, wise, authentic mindset is and think through this without attaching emotion to it. My mother told me anxiety was building in him too, anticipating being with me again. I remembered things I learned in college and began to apply those principles to this situation.
In college, my instructor said something that really resonated with me, "Every generation is called upon to heal the wounds of past generations they could not heal." My father was abused as a child by his mother and she was abused by her mother. At nineteen years old, I decided the family curse would end with me and I had my tubes tied. I didn't want to have children until I got my head straight. I would rather not have children than to take a chance I'd do to them what was done to me. That healing took 20 years. I realized, however long you endure something, that's at least how long it will take to recover emotionally from it. We adopted children when I was 39. We never understand our parents better than after we become parents. Despite how much I wanted a relationship with my father, as any daughter would, I found it impossible to have a conversation with him, much less a relationship.
My father hadn't changed much, but I'd changed enough for the both of us. I thought to myself, "I can do this!" The purpose of this trip started out just to see my mom, but turned into bringing healing to my dad. I hadn't thought of or referred to him as "dad" since very early childhood. God was working on my heart and I was overwhelmed with compassion for him, but I wasn't fully sure why.
The day finally came! I left my home with one focus. I would visualize what I wanted to have happen on my trip, step into my personal power, project that positive vision and energy into the world and make it contagious. What you project is what comes back to you. I would be a blessing to every person who crossed my path from the time I left home, until I returned. It was Monday and my train would leave at 4:05 p.m. I arrived at Union Station in Washington D.C. and learned about a freight train derailment on the tracks between D.C. and Pittsburg, PA. They almost canceled the train, but decided to put everyone on 6 motor coach buses and drive us 6 hours to the station in Pittsburg.
As I entered the crowded bus, I noticed a very large man sitting in the front seat behind the wall where the steps came into the bus. He was wearing oxygen and looked very unwell. I asked if I could sit with him. He smiled and said "yes" as he sized me up and decided I would fit. I told him I used to drive these busses, but I've never been a passenger before. About 10 minutes into our trip I asked him, "Your legs are very likely cramping up behind the wall. Would you like to change places so you can stretch your legs out in the isle?" He was happy and grateful I made the suggestion, and it was a great relief for him.
Across the isle behind the driver sat two Amish ladies. As we came into Pittsburg, it was almost midnight and raining. I noticed the driver made a wrong turn and I immediately got on my cell phone to locate the station on GPS. I directed the driver and we arrived at the station within five minutes. The two Amish ladies turned to me and said, "We got here thanks to your technology." It was precious. As everyone on the bus was getting off, I suddenly realized I had a "fan club". As we were collecting our luggage, I overheard people saying, "Follow the lady in the pink sweater." Having been the social outcast in school and most of my adult life, this was a totally foreign experience for me. How wonderful it would have been to experience this social interaction as a child, but as an adult I wasn't comfortable with it. They followed me into the station and I looked to see when my train would be leaving and from where, as I got my boarding pass. Seeking to remove myself from the unfamiliar social situation I found myself in, I looked around the station for somewhere to sit. In the corner sat several Amish people, so I went over to them. I noticed a woman sitting beside her teenage daughter with Downs Syndrome holding her doll and decided to show some love to them. As I folded a sheet of paper into an origami frog, I told the mother about my two adopted daughters with Downs Syndrome and she told me about her daughter, Rebecca. As I handed Rebecca the paper frog and showed her how it hops, I felt I'd been a blessing to her mom. I took a seat near the back of that section, satisfied that I'd been forgotten by my fellow passengers on the bus, but thankful to have experienced the love they showed me.
It was very late and I just wanted to get some sleep, but the man on the other side of the isle from me in the handicap accessible train car wanted to talk. He was an older man who entered the train car in his own personal scooter. His energy was stagnant and he complained about every little thing. He was living in his own "pitty-party" and wanted us to join him. I tried to be polite and ask that he let me sleep, but it was as if he didn't hear me. Somehow I managed to tune him out and sleep. I awoke early to blissful silence and then the man across from me woke up a couple hours later. As I ate the homemade blueberry pancakes I'd packed, he began to tell me his life story. I was very interested in what he had to say, but asked him to please stop using bad language. His speech was filled with "f" and "s" words. I insisted he stop using those words if he wanted to talk to me because I have standards for how I accept being talked to. He said, "I have standards too!" I replied, "Then raise them please, sir." I respected myself and him to much to allow him to continue talking that way. Then the most surprising thing happened. The other ladies seated behind him said, "Yes, your language is very offensive." The man made the adjustment and was much easier to listen to after that. 'How awesome it would have been if my peers had supported me like this when I was a child,' I thought. I appreciated the experience, if only once in my life. He and I had a nice conversation after that and I learned a lot about his journey. Some of us are chosen to have a rough life filled with trials, but it's what we choose to do with those experiences that determines if we become better or bitter. I believe I was a blessing to him, to some extent. I consider each encounter as a potential — Divine appointment, when God puts me in someone's day for a few minutes or hours to show them love.
When I learned of the delay resulting from the train derailment and subsequent later departure time for the connecting train in Pittsburg, I began to worry about being late for my flight. Then I caught myself and mentally created spaciousness, living as if there was enough time. My mom had been trying frantically to reach me on my cell phone all morning. My husband called and said, "Call your mom." She said, "What ever it costs, please take a cab from the train station to the airport and don't get on the subway train, because you may make it to the airport but your luggage will not." Even though my train arrived one hour late, I ended up arriving 1 hour before my scheduled departure on the tiny plane.
The idea of not having a bathroom on the plane for 3 hours almost terrified me. In anxious anticipation of not being able to hold my bladder for more than an hour, I decided not to drink fluids that morning. On the plane, I was so dehydrated it gave me motion sickness. Determined not to use the barf-bags provided in the back of the seat in front of me, I fixed my eyes on a smudge on the wing support outside my window. I'd packed an apple, not sure why at the time, but thankful it was there. It had just enough moisture to rehydrate me and the motion sickness subsided. Take-off was rough until we reached 7,000 feet and coming in for a landing was rougher. As a large plane experiences turbulence, it can be a little unnerving. In this little plane, it was down right frightening. In my mind, I visualized an eagle or large hawk, wings outstretched, soaring over a valley. Its body twisted and wings adjusted as turbulence passed by. 'I was in a slightly larger bird and it's just adjusting to the wind. No big deal,' I told myself. The mind is so powerful, and in college I learned to no longer allow my mind to overpower my will or frighten me into inactivity. I would step out of my comfort zone and experience life. My college instructor said, "If you're not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space."
I arrived in the tiny airport 30 minutes earlier than expected and waited for my parents to pick me up. The entire building was not much bigger than my house. My mom stepped in the front door of the airport and I was the only person seated there. She always gives great hugs! We walked out to see my father standing by the car they'd borrowed, because their small two person pick-up truck wouldn't accommodate the three of us. I could feel his energy. A couple weeks before my trip my mother told me, "Your father has decided to give us space and just let us have a nice visit." That's the energy I felt from him, but my energy reached him before I did. I dropped my luggage, opened my arms wide and embraced him like never before. "Hi Dad," I said. I could tell he noticed — I said, "Dad." I was taught in college that we resonate with each other's energy, and in that moment I felt his energy was influenced by mine; it shifted. It was 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday.
We went to their home where he'd put together a bed in the living room. I thought it was for me, but he gave me his bed upstairs with my mother. They've always had two twin size beds, like you see on tv shows from the 1960's. I didn't know until Saturday morning that the whole time we were at their home, I'd been sitting in his favorite chair in the kitchen, and he didn't mind. He treated me like an honored guest.
The next morning they drove me 110 miles to meet people who wanted to meet me. 'Obviously, they must have been talking about me,' I thought. While we were there, I stopped at Whole Foods to buy food for my stay. They drove me around their small town and told me about its history. In my mind, I made time almost stand still as I stayed in the present and absorbed everything, because I may never get to come back here again.
Thursday, Dad went to work in his pick-up truck and I drove my mom around in the borrowed car. We visited antique shops on Main Street and collected colorful stones on the beach of Lake Superior. We stopped at her home for lunch and then headed to the consignment shop, where she worked in a 125 year old building. We were two entrepreneurs sharing ideas and talking about being in business.
She was standing on the top step of the staircase made of thick, rough-cut lumber. A natural stone and mortar wall was behind her and she held the banister in front of her as she flipped on a switch for the basement lights. "I want your opinion about how I can organize the basement," she said. In the second that followed the end of that sentence, she yelled and fell backward down the steps. I'd been walking toward her from about 20 feet away when she fell. As I ran to the top of the staircase and then down the steps, I remembered the memo, "Go see your mother or you may never see her again." I would never be ready to lose her, especially not now. As I came to her, laying on her back with her legs laying straight and about shoulder width apart up the first few steps, I noticed a river of blood running from the back of her head across the filthy concrete floor. She opened her eyes and looked up at the rough cut, thick beams holding the wood plank floor above. She asked, "What happened? Why am I on the floor?" Her world was spinning.
She told me where her homeopathic remedies were and I got them from a drawer behind the counter, upstairs. I gave her the remedies and went to get some ice for her head. I ran to one of the antique shops we'd visited that morning and they were closed. It wasn't until the lady inside saw my bloody hand waving through the glass shop window that she came and unlocked the door. She followed me to where my mother was and then went to get ice. When she returned, there were two paramedics and a police officer with her. My father also arrived. I slowed time down in my mind even more during those few minutes as I observed the paramedics assessing her condition. I expected my father to speak-up when she told the emergency medical team she didn't want to go to the hospital. 'He would know better than I what to do,' I thought. He seemed to fade into the background behind me. My mother sat up and the world started spinning again. I thought, 'Was this something I could handle or did she actually need to go to the emergency room?' I knew, from our many conversations on the phone over the past 25 years, she didn't want them to put a bunch of stuff in her veins and she's very self sufficient when it comes to managing her own health. Then the policeman, who was standing on the step above my mothers feet said, "As the officer on the scene I am making a judgement call and you are going to the hospital." At that moment I had to step up and advocate for my mother, "I'm her daughter and she says she doesn't want to go, so I will take care of her. However, I would greatly appreciate if you could help her get up the stairs. Thank you."
When Dad and I got her home, he retrieved a large tool box from the closet and disappeared. In it was all their medical supplies. Everything I could need, short of doing brain surgery, was in that box. As my mom was on her knees bent over the side of the bath tub, I explored the pancake of debris, hair and dried blood on the back of her head. I said, "Dad just disappeared. I'm going to take that as he thinks I can handle this." She replied, "It's very hard on him whenever something happens to me, and usually he's the only one who can help me, so he manages, but it's very difficult emotionally for him in the moment. It's good you were here." I had to cut the hair down to the scalp and close up the 3 inch horizontal gash in the back of her scalp. I wrapped her head with a gauze bandage and stayed up with her until midnight. Mom and I talked and we figured out what happened. She'd had a stroke. That's why she fell. She had bruises on her arms and back where you could see she tried to grab the stone wall on the way down and then landed on the front edge of each step. The front edge of the bottom step is what struck her head and then she slid onto the floor. She broke a rib, but considering her age she faired very well. Most older women would have broken a hip or something. She felt bad, "I'm sorry. I wanted us to have a good visit." I stopped her and told her about the "memo". "I was supposed to be here for this. It is an honor and privilege to get to take care of you," I said. She went to bed.
I wondered where my father went. I didn't care that it was after midnight and I was too wound up to think about going to sleep. I went down to the kitchen where I found him making something hot to drink. I asked, "Dad, are you okay?" This man who I remember as a child being so big and strong was softer and almost weary of life. I would have to say, I believe we talked more that evening than my mother and I did the whole time I was there. Not so much in words, really. It was the most honest conversation we've ever had. I intuited with him, read between the lines and learned his greatest concern. He watched how his aunts and uncles didn't respect the wishes of his grandmother, who died at 101, the last few years of her life. He observed how his older brothers didn't honor their mothers wishes during her last years. He was afraid I wouldn't honor their wishes when it was their time. I know he doesn't put any confidence in people's words, but he believes what he sees and expects their actions to back-up what they say. I think, seeing me back-up my mother earlier that day gave him confidence that as their oldest child, I would honor their wishes.
Friday morning we went to my mom's shop and she opened up for a day of business, as usual. She wore a hat to cover the bandage, but I could see her face looked more relaxed than the day before; almost sagging. Her memory and speech was fine, so I knew the homeopathic remedies had done their job and she was recovering well. We got to do everything we wanted to do during my visit. That afternoon, people came from as far as 80 miles away to meet me. I felt like a celebrity! As I was talking to one of the ladies who came to see me, my father entered and sat down at a table behind me to eat his lunch. The lady looked past me at him and said, "I bet you're proud of your daughter." As I turned my head to look at him he said words I never thought I would ever hear him say., "I am extremely proud of Johnna." For the first time since my younger sister was born, I felt like the apple of his eye and like I'm the only child.
That evening Dad made spaghetti while mom and I sat at the kitchen table. We talked about my daughters and my husband. I got to observe my fathers goofy side and remember his sense of humor. I could appreciate his humanity. I put together things I already knew and what I learned from my mother as we walked on the beach Thursday morning.
- President J. F. Kennedy had been assassinated November 1963, just after he and my 16 year old mother married on October 21st.
- I was born in May 1964, when my father was a senior in high school. Before I was born, he stopped smoking and sold his car, so he could afford health insurance. It was he who noticed I was sick and rushed me to the hospital. The doctors said if I'd gotten there just a few hours later, I would have died. I almost died at two weeks old and needed medical care — that insurance paid for.
- I knew Pop (my grandfather) died when I was six months old. What I didn't know and learned during my trip, was that my father was very, very close to his father. It was devastating for him to loose his father at 18 years old. I can't imagine the depth of his grief.
- My father graduated high school, took a job sanding cabinets in a carpentry shop breathing that dust all day, and then attended drafting classes at night. He rode the bus everywhere because he had no car. He worked very hard to provide for his new family, and even though we qualified for public assistance, he wouldn't take it and paid the reduced rent in public housing without financial assistance.
- US forces became involved in ground combat operations in Vietnam in 1965. When they were drafting married men with no children, I was there. When they were drafting married men with one child, my sister had been born in 1967. American society was divided by the ultimately futile war and by anti-war and anti-draft protests. The US began withdrawing men from ground combat roles in the early 1970s. We just barely kept my father out of the war, but knowing the kind of man he is, who is willing to fight for justice and defend those he cares for with his life, my mother and I both agreed he wouldn’t have made it back.
- We landed on the Moon, July 20,1969.
- There was increased racial tension in the USA between 1964-1970.
- There was the recession of 1969-70, which then faltered under new foreign competition and the 1973 oil crisis.
- Then there was the shocking Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s, which revealed corruption and gross misconduct at the highest level of government.
I began packing my suitcase Saturday morning and overheard my father ask my mother, "Why is Johnna packing her suitcase?" I felt his heart sink when she told him my flight leaves at 11 a.m. He thought I was leaving on Monday. In that moment, I wished I wasn't leaving until Monday. As we were getting closer to the airport, I overheard them talking about how their day would go. Mom asked, "Do you want to drop Johnna off or go into the airport and see her off?" He said, "We will be opening the store late as it is, so I think we will be dropping her off." That's not what I wanted, so I began to visualize what I wanted to have happen and how I would create it.
I wanted my father to video tape me saying good bye to my mother, but I knew if I gave him the camera first, they'd leave right after and I wanted my mother to video tape me saying good-bye to my father. So, knowing him as well as I do, I decided to have my mother video tape he and I first. Then, he'd have to stay around to video tape she and I. When we got to the airport they helped me get my luggage inside. Then, as I visualized what I wanted and projected my vision out into the world, they not only stayed, but they watched me go through security. Then when I went out the back door of the "airport," which they could observe from the front waiting area, they walked out and around to the side of the building. They watched through a 12 foot high chain link fence as I got on the plane, and as my plane lifted off I could see them still standing there.
During the flight home, I watched the video. I could hear my father weeping as he held the camera. When my mother was recording I made sure he was facing her so I could see his expression as I said, "I love you dad" and I hugged him with all the love I wanted him to feel from me for the rest of his days. It was precious.
My mother and I talked every day on the phone for the next week after I left. It took her an entire week before she was able to keep her composure long enough to tell me, "Your father cried like a baby every day for a week after you left because he realized how much he missed you."
His 70th birthday was in June and my mother reminded me. I called and left a message on his phone, wishing him happy birthday. He wrote me a letter and said, "Your happy birthday wish really touched me deeply, especially when you said, 'I love you Dad.' I didn't think anything could pierce this suit of armor I've been wearing for so long."
Mom and I talk on the phone at least once a week for about an hour. Sometimes my father says, "Hi" to me in the background as he passes by her in the store. I can feel his love and that's all I've ever wanted.
IF YOU'RE NOT LIVING ON THE EDGE, YOU ARE TAKING UP TOO MUCH SPACE. 😁
I wish you many great adventures, optimal health, safe travels, and many blessings!