Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my dad’s 82nd birthday. I still can’t believe he isn’t alive. He planned on living a long time. He never would have been ready to go I don’t think. In a way I’m glad his death was fast and he didn’t see it coming. Here then gone. 

I miss my dad and have grieved him plenty over this last tough year. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know how to navigate with him gone. It’s that loss of connection that leaves a hole.  That person I have never not known isn’t existent on this planet anymore. It’s still sometimes throws me for a loop. 

I think I’m to a point where I can sort through some of the boxes I was sent by my brother who went through his effects (aka stuff) and sent me things he thought I might want. That includes many photos. I have purchased albums for them and may sort through them in the fall. Some of his clothing was used to cushion the boxes and that was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I first opened the boxes. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Grief needs to be felt in order to move on I think. I don’t enjoy it. I lost three people who were very important to me in a short time. It’s been rocky. But I see that the only healthy way is to trudge through it. But we all deal with grief in our own way. We let a little in at a time. Otherwise it’s like a landslide that can knock us over and cover us and keep us from moving at all. 

I think when we lose someone we feel like we are the only ones who feel that loss. It’s because grief is a personal thing. It’s lonely.  We can talk out our feelings some and sit with others feeling the loss as welll but -for me at least -grief is deeply personal. Some days it’s lonely. But with my dad’s loss I’m processing it and I’m moving forward. 

In a tough year I have been blessed as well. I went from needing to be in bed bc of severe chronic pain to being able to move again. That thanks to a surgeon who listened and cared. I’ve been able to buy a beach house for my family. That thanks to my brother who agreed to buy me out of my dads Florida condo (and it is on Marco Island and it did survive Hurricane Irma ). My kids are doing pretty well. All working and one in community college and the other two getting ready to apply. Things are good. 

Amidst grief and loss there is so much sadness but there is joy. Lately I’ve struggled some with my feelings about many things and I’ve gone to see a threpist that I really like. This a safe place where I can open up about conflicted feelings and just vent about the last four years and get it all out. It’s a process. 

I’m sitting on the beach as I wrote this.  Something my dad would have done today I’m sure. I’m looking at the Atlantic and he likely would have been looking at the Gulf of Mexico. But we both shared a huge love of the beach. 

I think about the up and downs of our relationship and the hurts. It was quite a ride. You always want your dad to get you and if doesn’t get you then he supports your dreams. My dad didn’t always get me. I think it was easier with him to relate to guys. He was a guys guy. 

When I began my love of baseball we had lots of conversations about our teams. It was a way to bond more with him. I’m glad for that added bonus of baseball becoming my go to sport. It helped when conversations became awkward or tense. 

I began the process of forgiving my dad years ago. We were always waxing and waning. I always wanted him to just see me for me. And maybe finally he did. 

He became enamored with my photography a couple years ago after I gave him a canvas of a little mountain called Sugarloaf that was near our home in Maryland. We hiked there a few times. I think he even went there alone sometimes. I’m so glad he thought I had talent. No matter your age most of us want our parents to be proud of us. 

There are many things about my dad I don’t know. He struggled with alcohol use and it seemed he was happiest when he was buzzed. Well maybe we all are. But he loved his alcohol too much and he would never admit that it had a hold on him and as he got older I decided maybe it didn’t really matter. Let him just have fun. 

And he did have fun. He had friends and he travelled. I’m so glad for that. He even married his long time love a few years ago. That didn’t end well and it’s not a story I choose to tell now. 

My dad is buried about 45 minutes from my home. In a Catholic cemetery- next to his second wife Jean.   She passed away from Cancer in 1994 at the age of 51. His first wife is my mom. She lives with me now. He definitely wanted to have a partner. I’m not sure he ever mastered being a great husband but I know he loved all of his spouses. I’ve found my dad loved people the best way he knew how. Don’t we all try to love the best way we know how? I think it’s never perfect because we aren’t God. 

Everyone has a story. I know my dads story is deeper than I’ll ever know here on earth. But as conflicted as our relationship could be at times I am so glad he was part of my life.  He was funny and charming. He cared and I know he loved me.

 Since he has been gone I come to see how much alike we really are. My impatience and tendcies toward moodiness and my quick temper are all him.  Though I don’t often show my temper like he could. 

My dad was as big as life itself. A huge precense when he was in a room not only in stature (he was 6’4″) but also in personality.  He was more outgoing than I am and he kept up with friends better than i did. Though I am trying to be better at that.

 Stan Wilson was something. And he was my dad. 

So I’m sitting here in the beach on a beautiful day on Sept 23 remembering my dad on his birthday. I thought I could get through this without tears. But I am not. And that is ok. I cry because I loved. 

Later today I will take some of his ashes and scatter them in the bay just near our beach cottage. I want to release him into the water which he so loved. Later when the gardens are done being put in at our cottage I will scatter some of his ashes there- so he is part of Cool Breeze Cottage. I can just hear him saying “Cool Breeze! Here comes Cool Breeze!”  My high school nickname -he loved nicknames. I hated that name then but now I have three teens and I so get it! 

So happy Birthday Dad. I’d like to think you are with loved ones -your dad, Nana, Jean , keenie. And Ernie , the haleys,and mr Deveraux, mr Vogelsinger and many more. 

Happy Birthday. Your daughter here on  earth misses you so much and will love you always. 

Little signs 

I have been so sad about the flooding in Texas. My brother lives in Austin. He had lots of rain and wind but no flooding. He is safe. His family is safe. But so many others are not. It’s really so sad we can’t put words to it. 

I’ve wanted to write this week but I wanted it so be something that might bring joy or a smile or warmth. So many people are suffering and don’t we suffer just a little when we see our fellow man in such peril? So I have a little story that will maybe bring you some joy -or you might shake your head and laugh. 

Because I got a sign. Not a sign but a SIGN!

The other day I was talking to my mother in law. She’s in heaven -or the great beyond. Whatever you want to call it. To me it’s heaven. We lost her just over a month ago. My heart still hurts and it will for a while -she was my good good friend for almost 20 years. 

Anyway I talk to her. I feel her so near to me. I can’t explain it. But maybe it’s the way she felt her husband near her after he passed away in 2015. She felt him in bed on his side next to her every night.  Oh and he made visits to us too. I’ve written about the time he was sitting watching kevin build our chicken coop. Kevin saw him out of the corner of his eye -twice. Dad would have loved being part of building that coop!  

So she’s gone and the hours long conversations on the phone are gone too. Often I’d talk to her then hang up and dial my mother. Those days are gone. But my mom lives here so the chats can continue in person.  But there is a hole left where mom sweeney once was. I feel her close but it’s not the same. 

So I talk. She’d want that.  The other day while I was talking to her I asked her to send me a sign she was ok. 

I said ” maybe you could put a white rose on my pink rose bush or put flowers where they wouldn’t really grow.”

I went on with my day and didn’t think about it again until a day or two later I saw this. 


This was a pot of weeds on my deck. I hadn’t planted in there in two or three years because my dogs would tear up the pot and eat the flowers. Last spring I pulled weeds out but weeds kept growing. This year a big stalk grew out of it and the boys removed that a month ago or more – and the pot was supposed to go into the big dumpster we have out front now as we clean things out from a basement flood and the junk that accumulates when three generations are living in a house. 

But now there are flowers in the pot! There weren’t any all summer. Just weeds. 

I take this as a sign. 

I’m not sure what others think but all I know is it brought me joy in a week with a lot of sad stuff going on. 

I’ll take it. 

Hope this made you smile or laugh – it’s all good. 

Finding new roads or currents 

The thought I might never ride a horse again had crossed my mind from time to time this last year. I am pretty sure my own horses don’t really mind that-but it has been hard for me to concede to that fact that my riding days are over. So I’m not really going there yet. But right now I am not supposed to ride a horse. Not only my horse – any horse – no can ride.  This has to do with the fact I have had two major nerve surgeries on my arm and chest wall and a fall off a horse would definitely not be good for me.  

Had I known my riding days were limited I would have ridden more when I had the chance.  There really isn’t any sense in those regrets but that is how I feel much of the time. 

I am a very active person or I was. Since laying in bed with chronic pain for many months I am basically starting all over trying to get myself back into shape. It’s not easy when you have physical limitations and chronic pain. 

I have a whole list of can’t do’s:

  • Can’t ride a horse. 
  • Can’t lift weights with upper body. 
  • Can’t bear weight on my right side using arm. 
  • Can’t paddle anything. Like a kayak or stand-up paddle board. 
  • And you get my drift. 

So I’ve been trying to figure out what I can physically do because focusing on what I can’t do is just depressing and not productive.  And there are many more things I can do than can’t. 

So far I can

  • Walk. 
  • Ride a bike 
  • Ride in the front seat of car again. 
  • Drive a car
  • I can lift weights with my lower body 
  • I can feed animals 
  • I can brush animals with my good arm. 
  • You get the picture. 

The fact I want to ride a horse again is a good sign anyway. The fact that I can’t -for now – is just a hinderance. 

With our traveling back and forth to our beach cottage I’ve been trying to figure out what I could do for activity on the water. Kevin and the kids got stand up paddleboards and they are so cool! I can sit on one while Kevin paddles and that’s fun. We got a two man inflatable kayak and that’s fun too – but I have been just a passenger bc I can’t paddle it. Passengering is ok. It’s fun sometimes – but I don’t want to be the passenger all the time. 

I thought there must be a water device that has pedals.  So I looked up kayaks with pedals and they exist! I found out fisherman use them as it makes it easier to maneuver while fishing.  

So we found a kayak outfitter in Lewes ,DE about 40 minutes from our cottage. We worked with one of the salesmen and he gave us the lowdown on different types of pedal kayaks. We selected a Hobie kayak. The price was fairly high (I may have gasped) but I really wanted independence. I wanted an “I Can” that I could do with my family on the water and I wanted something that gave me independence like the bike did. The price was worth it. 

The feeling of being on the water is amazing. I love the serenity and the exercise. 

I love the freedom and independence. 

I’m glad I found another “I can”

——

Link to the paddle sport shop Facebook page where they posted our picture. 

Here’s some info about the Hobie Mirage kayak I got. 

The little ceramic tree

mom’s tree in the window of her assisted-living apartment

I don’t know how long ago my mother in law (now 91) and I got talking about how much I liked her little green ceramic Christmas tree that lit up. It reminded me of the ceramic trees my dad had and that his mother (my nana) had. I always loved those trees. 

When I think of them I think of so many christmas’s in the deep past of my life.  My Nana had the ceramic tree but it was white and she placed in one of her condo front windows and I also recall she  had the little Swedish angel carousel that would spin around and around when you lit the candles under them. I loved when she had them out over the holidays and she would light them for me. We’d turn out the lights and light the candles. I can still feel the warmth and the tinkling sound of the bells. 

angel tree like my nanas. photo cred: angelcimes.com


My dad’s ceramic tree came to him well after he married my stepmother Jean. It too was white and would sit in our living room on a table -(the living room was the forbidden room unless we had company). I’d admire it from afar. 

Then it followed them to a new home and I was allowed to admire it close up BC by then I was an adult and a guest in the house by then too so I was allowed in the living room. It may have followed my dad to Florida after my stepmother died – and perhaps it will surface as my brother goes through some of my dads items. Maybe my nanas is there too. I can’t remember where that tree went after she died. Perhaps the one my dad had was hers.  That’s a thought that just came to me. This is where the memories blur for me. 

As a young adult years ago -before my marriage – I got to thinking about those trees and I really wanted one of my own.  I did ask my dad if he used his and he said he did.  It was his only tree as he had given up tree decorating some years prior when he sent me a huge box of Christmas decorations from my childhood. I still have many but they are beat  up. 

I couldn’t find a ceramic tree anywhere. They must have gone out of style. I may have even looked on eBay for them a time or two over the years but I never bit the bullet and got one. I’m not sure why. Maybe cost. Maybe I never found one there. Again memory blur. 

But sometime over the last 18 years that I’ve been part of the Sweeney family Christmas I must have begun the dialogue about my love of my mother in laws( mom sweeney)  little green ceramic tree. I would tell mom Sweeney about my family memories with the ceramic trees. One year a while back she mentioned to me that she was going to leave me that tree. I just laughed uncomfortably because to think I’d lose her wasn’t anything I could consider. She’s been such a friend to me – it’s hard to think of her not being here. 

Last Christmas Eve my Father in law died. How we all got through Christmas is beyond me. Not long after that mom sweeney began to get rid of things in her house. And when I say rid I don’t mean that in a bad sense. She carefully chose recipients of her most important items and she began giving them away to each of us. I wrote back last spring that she gave me my father in laws camera. A beautiful old Zeis. It meant so much to me that she would gift me that. It’s a beautiful piece and she knows what photography means to me. 

I think on that same day she also wanted me to take her little green  ceramic Christmas tree.   She said she wouldn’t be around to use it next Christmas – I declined. I wasn’t ready to take that yet. But eventually not long after that things were going at a fast pace out of the house – now some was even going to goodwill.  So my husband and I were over to her home for a visit and I asked her if I could take it but my taking came with a condition proposed by me ” if you are alive next Christmas I am bringing you the tree back.”  

She agreed but I think she was sure she’d be gone by her next Christmas. Then spring became summer and she moved to assisted living. She didn’t think she’d be in there very long- and it’s been a hard transition. And as this holiday has loomed she’s been feeling worse physically -and mentally she’s sad. She misses her husband of almost 70 years. She’s not living in the place she had Christmas for well over 50 years – her home not far down the road from her assisted living. A house mostly empty now and set to go on the market in January. She’s lonely. 

So one day a couple weeks ago Kevin and I made a surprise visit to see Mom Sweeney and we brought her that little tree and placed it on her window ledge.  

“You are still here ” I said. ” I told you I’d bring it back. ” 

She smiled. Her voice is so soft now we can’t always here her. She reminded me that it was my tree now.  I’ll take stewardship of it but it will always be hers. 

I told her , “If you are still here next Christmas I’m bringing it back.” 

We smiled at eachother.

That’s a promise I intend to keep. Oh how I love that lady.