Sleep? TV? Sunrise?
Got up. Chose now. Chose live. Went
For the new. Found gold!
Sleep? TV? Sunrise?
Got up. Chose now. Chose live. Went
For the new. Found gold!
What lasts forever?
Nothing. Life happens. Good. Bad.
Extra! Extra read
All about it! Day begins.
Hope’s alive again!
Walk. You’ll see more than
Those who hurry by. Time’s the
Same for all. Enjoy!
Nothing to see here?
Same old. … No. NEW! Only … you
CAN change what you see.
Sun doesn’t care if
I’m late. Rises on its time …
Not mine. I’ll adjust.
Do you see gators?
Heron? Egret? Life? Sunrise?
Be here now. See. Breathe.
Walking to sunrises.
Watching all around me. … Birds.
Plants. Bugs. Silence. Peace.
A friend asked me why I care so much about saving the USPS. It’s in my genes. Grandfather O’Connell, who was an eye surgeon in the US Army, would travel the world, sending his son, my father, stamps from places he traveled or wanted to see. In the beginning, it was just stamps commemorating events in the USA. My dad did not use the stamps for correspondence. He saved them. Yes, my father was a big stamp collector, but the only stamps that went into his stamp album were the canceled stamps. He placed the uncanceled stamps in his safe deposit box. That was where Grandfather O’Connell kept his, and he assured my father that they would continue to increase in value. So they kept saving stamps. And writing letters.
Grandfather O’Connell wrote my dad in August 1947, enclosing stamps that he said had come from his safe deposit box. In his letter, and through the years they wrote each other many letters, he told my dad that their value “was enhanced.” Dad had two kids then – my sister and brother – and thought of the stamps as an investment for the children’s future. These stamps were from British colonies, in denominations of two to five cents. They all looked similar, with two sovereigns on each stamp, but a different colony under the faces. Dad kept them in his safe deposit box until 1998. He needed money to care for mom and himself, and asked me to retrieve them, as well as the USA stamps. I tried to sell them, to no avail. They were worth just what was printed on each USA stamp, and the British stamps had no value. Did I tell him that? I can’t recall. I only remember giving him a check for whatever he needed – an amount that we could afford to give.
When I was in elementary school, my father tried to get me interested in his collection, and I did enjoy looking at the stamps and learning the history behind them. He encouraged me to collect them, too. It was an easy and inexpensive way to become familiar with the world. I should have paid more attention. By looking at the stamps, and discovering their origins, I might have done better in World Geography classes. But I was not as ardent a collector as he was. I kept his album, adding stamps to it whenever I got a different one from friends with whom I corresponded. Then I set it aside, and forgot about it. I did enjoy using my stamps – writing letters and postcards to people that I loved or wanted to know better. Each time a commemorative stamp came out, I bought it and used it. I still had his album when I taught at River Ridge High school for twenty years. Some students would show an interest, and flip through the pages. The album of canceled stamps was on one of my shelves at River Ridge High School when I retired after a 35 year career in education. I don’t know it is there or if it was discarded.
The uncanceled USA commemorative stamps that my father collected are still in my possession, as well as those from the British colonies from the early 20th Century. As far as I know, none have increased in value. When I brought them to a local Stamp Expo, several exhibitors told me that they were worth only their face value. If I use them on letters or postcards, I will need a lot of stamps for today’s postage. An envelope large enough to accommodate 30-55 stamps would require more than the normal fifty-five cents postage. As for the British colony stamps, they can not be used for USA postage. Once in awhile, if I need one or two cents more in postage, I use stamps from the O’Connell collection. Each one reminds me of my dad, who passed away in 2008. Using his stamps on snail mail makes me happy.
So that’s why I am obsessed with saving the Postal Service. The love of stamps is in my blood. The love of writing is also in my blood. I enjoy writing letters, cards and postcards and I’ll keep writing until my handwriting is no longer decipherable. Then I can do what Grandfather O’Connell and my dad did – use a typewriter. Oh, wait. We don’t have those anymore. I guess I’ll use my computer and print out my letters.
In 1995, my mother fell. She didn’t break anything, but she couldn’t get up. My dad couldn’t lift her up, even with my help. My husband was able to help her up, with Dad & I assisting She was not a big woman – 5’2”, 145 pounds. The next day, she fell again, and my husband and I could not drive the 45 minutes to their home to help. They called 911, and an ambulance transported her to the hospital. That was the day that everything changed between my mom and me, and my mom and the rest of the family.
Mom was never diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But gradually, over the next two years, she forgot how to do the most elementary tasks. She wasn’t brushing or flossing her teeth – a daily ritual she thought essential. Her clothes didn’t change, and it seemed that she wasn’t undressing and dressing herself. She was just living in the same clothes. Her bathing habits changed, and she looked at eating utensils as if they were foreign objects. She didn’t know what day of the week it was or the time. So many other daily rituals were forgotten and abandoned. The final straw was when she hallucinated loud, out of control parties in the backyard, and called 911. She could no longer live at home. By April 1998, she flew to California to live in a nursing home’s memory unit near my two sisters and my dad. They said she had dementia.
Mom was still my mom, even though she no longer knew who I was when I flew to California twice a year to see her. Every morning I would arrive at her room to be with her for the day. We’d watch television together – programs that did not require much thought, like PBS children’s programs and game shows. Sometimes I would read to her. When her food was delivered, I’d feed her. If one of the staff asked her about me, she’d say I was her mom, or her sister, and then she might remember and say I was her daughter. After awhile, she no longer spoke. Our roles were reversed, and she was like my child.
Instead of sitting with me when I was sick, holding my hand and telling me everything would be better in the morning, I was sitting with her, holding her hand, and praying tomorrow would be better. She loved writing letters to Dad when he was serving in the Army during World War II. She taught me to love writing letters to friends and family to let them know how my life was going. Now I was writing letters to anyone interested in her progress. Her hands could no longer hold a pen, or create legible sentences. She didn’t tell me what to say. I made it up as I went along. She loved to sing, and taught all of us to appreciate all kinds of music. Opera was her favorite. My sisters were better singers than I, but sometimes, I would sing softly to her, and she would smile. Books were also important to her, and we always had books to read. When I visited, I brought several books, reading to her until she lost interest, and fell sleep. Then I’d sit quietly and read to myself.
The last year of her life, she was in and out of hospitals every other month for respiratory infections. For my last two trips to CA, I visited her in intensive care units. I used hand sanitizer before suiting up in an isolation gown, gloves, shoe covers, and mask. My visits were short since she slept most of the day. Instead of staying with her all day, I spent time with my father, my sisters, or I drove around Los Angeles. In January 2006, she passed away in her sleep. I always wondered if she forgot how to breathe. No autopsy was performed, so we never knew if she had Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Doesn’t matter – she was and always will be my mom, even if she forgot me in her last eight years on this earth.
It’s Mother’s Day, and while I’m remembering the last ten years of her life, I’m also remembering the prior 44 years of her life when she knew me and raised me to be the woman I am today. She taught me so many lessons, but the best lesson she taught me was gratitude. She’d be proud of me as I always show gratitude for every act of kindness, great or small. With each act of gratitude, I think of her. She taught me that gratitude could be as simple as a written note or a phone call, or something bigger, like a gift certificate for dinner or a favorite store. This is my act of gratitude today, on a day I always called, or wrote, or sent her flowers, or took her out to dinner. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to be grateful for everything and everyone in my life. I will never forget you.