Sunday, August 14, 2022

The long trip home

Growing up, we lived “5 hours from anywhere”.  Obviously, that’s not exactly true, since where we lived was somewhere and that place was glorious and beautiful with the largest hospital locally, plus Kmart and JC Penny’s.  As far as remote small towns go, we were in the big leagues.  But, to get to a big city was 5 hours (with appropriate potty stops for us children).  But one year (1993? 1994?) we were “down south” (in the Los Angeles area) visiting my grandparents and getting ready for the 5 hour drive home.  It was my mom, my sister and me in my mother’s faux wood paneled station wagon. 


 We left Pasadena after breakfast and it was raining pretty hard.  My mom was driving on the freeway and the lanes were full (of cars and water) so she was pretty focused on staying in her lane when she couldn’t see the lines, when all of the sudden an Arrowhead water truck lost one of its empty 5 gallon bottles. My mom didn’t have any choice but to run it over and the bottle, being fairly large, got stuck under the station wagon. So she carefully pulled off to the side of the road.  It was the time before cell phones, so I imagine she walked to one of those yellow call boxes and called AAA.  It took them an hour to come and then just hit the bottle with a hammer and pulled it out so we could be on our way. 


We drove about an hour north before we got to Mojave, the last “real stop” before the long drive through the desert.  Despite being a real town, it was relatively small and you could normally drive from one end to the other in less than 5 minutes. Only this time, it was starting to snow (which it rarely did) and traffic dragged at a snail’s pace.  It took us 45 minutes to get to the other side of Mojave and as soon as we picked up the pace heading on the highway, we saw at least 4” of accumulated snow on the side of the road.  And we didn’t get to accelerate. She just made her way on yet another weather covered road where she couldn’t see the lines. 


My mom pressed on even as night drew and the snow continued to pile up, the roads became covered in white and we saw more and more big rigs parked on the side of the road.  My mom would drive what she could and stop where she could safely. It was slow driving with no chains and no plowed roads.  I’m sure my sister and I were in and out with sleep but there were parts I remember (like when we passed Coso Junction and she honked and honked at their lights and signs of life at the little rest stop).  I don’t know the exact time we arrived home, only that we did the math and it had taken us 14 hours to do that 5 hour trip and when I stepped out of the car there was snow up to my thighs.  


It was the trip that beat all trips in terms of hardships, challenges and time.  




Saturday, August 13, 2022

A memory of Uncle Jerry

 Over the years the Camphouse siblings would often share hosting opportunities for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The Langleys, Colemans and Camphouses lived within an hour of each other and Christmas dinner was sometimes a big shared meal.  One year when I was in 1st or second grade we hosted.  That meant cleaning and cooking and getting ready.  It also meant my mom (who was notorious for such things) came up with a special activity for everyone wherein we each drew a name of a family member and shared something kind that we appreciated about them.


That activity remains etched in by brain for how embarrassed I was when my mom helped me share with my older cousin.  It also stayed with me for later in that night when Uncle Jerry invited me to the living room where we sat on the big white couch and he told me how special I was to him, how valued and important.  I don’t remember the specific words. But I remember how he made me feel and it’s been a treasure I’ve picked up often over the years.  He gave me a great gift of love and encouragement and he fostered it when we saw each other for other reasons as I grew up.  


I remember him as someone who was always kind. He never raised his voice to me or around me.  He was gentle.  He was a story teller and a slow talker—a combination I was often impatient for as a child and grew to love as an adult.  


My heart broke at having to say goodbye, and yet I am forever grateful that the timing of our trip to California lined up with his time in the hospital so we could and say goodbye. I held his hand. I prayed for him. I anointed him with oil. I kissed his head and shared my love.  I am sad for his absence, and I am grateful for the ways his love and stories fill my heart.  

Grief Fatigue

 When I was pregnant I would experience periods of extreme fatigue where nearly every day, generally sometime in the afternoon, I would become so tired I could barely function. The only solution was to lie down and take a nap.  Now, I’m not pregnant. But a few times outside of pregnancy I’ve experienced that prolonged sense of fatigue and I haven’t been able to kick it or figure it out.  In January of 2017, I had that. It went on so long without reprieve I asked my prayer group to lift me up and a couple suggested I go see a doctor and maybe have my thyroid checked. My doctor checked me out and things looked normal. As she asked me questions I began to share and started talking about losing my mom 6 months earlier and my grief and then it burst. I just started crying and had this moment of clarity.  It wasn’t my thyroid. It was grief. With that awareness I started doing more to actively grieve (psa: grief isn’t just crying or being sad, there are lots of ways to actively grieve—things you can do—to help move through the emotions of your loss). And lo and behold with awareness and intentionality my state of being improved. 


And then it happened again. I was still a little slow on the uptake, but multiple days of that weighty fatigue I’d ask myself, “what is going on with me?” And then slowly it would come, “Maybe it’s grief.” I’d find it was around birthdays and anniversaries….my body was remembering even when my mind was not.  Again I’d engage some of those grieving practices and again I’d find relief.  


Over the years I’ve found the most effective practice for me is telling stories about the one I miss.  


Last month was a really hard month with lots of things coming to a head and a pretty extended illness (not covid). I thought I’d be able to regroup on vacation (and in many ways I did) and at the same time we said goodbye to my dear uncle, and we entered the anniversary month for my mother’s death.  


I’ve been so so tired.  I sleep at night. I eat well. I exercise. I drink water.  And still so much fatigue, sometimes where I simply can’t do anything other than lie down and try and nap.  I wonder how I might get better and then I remind myself…it’s likely grief. You need to tell some stories.  


So, in an effort to heal my heart and spirit I’ll be telling stories.  I’ll keep them on my blog (even though I hardly ever blog anymore) for myself and anyone else who might want to read some.