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Throwing a Party, Trader Joe’s, and The Beatles

April 2, 2015

Everyone is one of a kind, but some folks are a little extra so.  My hairdresser falls in the extra so category.  Today is her late dad’s birthday, and she will be taking the day off and doing something special, something fun.   Having lost her father a few years ago, and her mom more than a decade ago, this has become a time-honored personal tradition.  Always, on each of their birthdays, she takes a holiday from work. 

I think anyone that knows Lori, knows that she knows how to throw a party.  If I need a good recipe, with fresh ingredients, I know who to ask.  But not everyone that knows her, knows that she has these very set-aside days.    It hit me yesterday, when she was telling me her day’s plans of selecting and planting herbs and lettuces, that she knows how to throw a party for herself.  It’s in the setting aside, the enjoying.  What a way to remember.  What a way to honor.  Truly beautiful.


Southern Living

So yesterday, while flipping through a magazine at the salon, I found a recipe for a coconut cake that looked divine.  Perfect for Easter, I thought.  My mom will love it.  Which meant that this morning, I headed to Trader Joe’s to get some ingredients.  I’m pushing my cart, gathering things, trying to feel hip as I search for coconut and a sympathy card I want to send.  I find the cards, but there are no sympathy cards.  Birthdays, Congratulations, Thank Yous, but no Sympathy.  Maybe they were out, or maybe they would be too party-kill in the land of the Hawaiian shirts and the happy chalk fonts.  So then I proceed with the coconut search, until I have to ask where’s the coconut?  And do you by chance also have coconut extract?  But there has been something at the docks and there are no coconut products.  Alas.

So I finish my shopping by returning to the entrance to pick up some tulips for my mom.  It takes me awhile amidst the rainbow to settle on a color, but I finally decide on pale pink with strong stems, for that combination just seems so like my mom.  Then I turn, and I see her.  Looking at the flowers, the big bouquets.   I know she is a caregiver.  I know when I speak to her that she will speak back with an accent and kindness.   And it goes as I knew it would.  She’s looking wistful, and a bit overwhelmed and asks my help in selecting a bouquet for the lady she cares for.  I just want to get her something.  For her children have come, but now they have gone.   I know that her purse is small, so I suggest the tulips, for they cost less.  And while I may have gauged correctly on the size of her purse, I grossly underestimated the size of her heart.  I want them to be beautiful, she says.  So we select two compatible big beautiful bouquets. 

And then I thank her for the work she does, and I am ambushed by grief.  Tears begin to stream down my face.  I have lost it, right there in the entrance of Trader Joe’s with the rainbow of flowers, with all of the a-comings.  She and I are the most un-hip pair in the store.  I feel eyes upon us, everyone’s it seems. 

I simply say my dad had a caregiver.  I don’t speak the rapid-fire snippets of memory. 

 Daddy, God had to look the world over to find the right person to care for you, and He found her in Jamaica.  His grin and adamant agreement.  Clover, his caregiver’s, return grin.  An emergency room visit, the doctor shows me an x-ray.   I’ll see you tomorrow.  We know this drill, we’ve been doing it for a year, hospital stay – things get a bit worse – but always, return home.  I wash his dentures in the washing machine, by accident of course.  Oh, Dad and I will have a great laugh over this.  But then, I show up at the hospital and we do not get to laugh for this is the day my dad will die.  There is no laughter, no words, the sound of a breathing machine, quiet phone calls and I sit by my dad’s bedside for 10 hours alone.  Twice, he looks at me, and squeezes my hand.  I call my brother, and say I think it’s time. He brings my mother and Clover.  My nephew comes.  I say in my Dad’s ear,  my oft-repeated good-bye phrase,  you are the best and I rush out in a blur of tearsWhen my husband takes me home, I crawl in the bed because I think my head is going to explode from the constant torturous sound of the breathing machine.  But really, though I can not comprehend it or even articulate it, my head is going to explode because my daddy is dying.  At midnight, we go back to the hospital.  We see my dad’s sister leaving in the parking lot.  It still does not register.  My husband and I walk to his room.  Two people are rolling a gurney out with a body bag.  Their faces are simultaneously kind and horrified, when they see me.  No words are spoken.  They simply roll him back in the room, unzip the bag.  Surreal, and very, very quiet.  I’m not sure what is appropriate for me to do, because all I know is that my dad is not in this hospital, not in that body bag, not even in the beloved body.   The funeral has come and gone.   And on the back porch, Clover says to me, through uncharacteristic tears.  Thank you, thank you for letting me be there when your father passed.  I was in Atlanta and not with my mom when she passed in Jamaica.  It was one of my greatest gifts, getting to be with him when he died.    Because you were not there in those last two hours, I felt like I could be there in your place.  Thank you.  Thank you.  He smiled, June.  He smiled, when he was leaving.

Ah, but I digress.  And quite a digression, I know.  Back to today.  This caregiver beams with the bouquet selection, and I learn that she is from Nigeria, and I wonder silently at the curious prominent scar on her neck.  She apologizes for making me cry.  I smile, and say you did not make me cry.   She has been hugging me from the side, but then gets closer, looks in my face and asks my name.  June, I say.  My name is Blessing, she says.  Blessing, she repeats, because she can tell I’m not sure I heard her right.  Blessing is my name.  Of course.  Of course


Three things converged on this day of mine, and that is my Easter story.  No, wait there is one more piece, the third piece.  The Beatles.   Yesterday, the yahoo news was that Cynthia Lennon had died.   And then this morning, in my reluctance to come into wakefulness, I think I heard something from the early morning radio personalities about Ringo Starr having  allergies and how when The Beatles travelled to India, his suitcase was packed with cans of beans.  Let me reiterate, I think I heard this, but I’ve not checked my facts.  Anyway, it made me think of The Beatles and Hey Jude.  Growing up, I  did not like my name.   I wished it could have been something  like Rhonda.  I must have complained to my mom one day,  for I remember her saying there’s even a very popular Beatles’ song with it.  Hey June.  I remember then, having a sneaking suspicion that there was some consonant confusion. 

  hey jude2    Hey Jude

A particular line from the song has played in my head today,   Take a sad song and make it better.

Take a sad song and make it better.  That’s enough to start a revolution.


PS – Lori, at supper on the porch this evening, I doodled with my finger in the light faint coat of pollen on the table.  I smiled and thought of your dad.  Blessing.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Elaine permalink
    October 5, 2015 3:19 am

    “Hey June”….you make me glad….and sad….and tears are flowing. Love you!


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