The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

Reflecting Takes Time (CANDISC)

I completed this bike ride of mine, the CANDISC (cycling across North Dakota in Sakakawea country).  There were many gratifying parts of the adventure; one of them was doing my live feeds, before and after, one feel had over 650 views!  I felt fueled by the interest and the support of many of the viewers, who took the time to comment.

I came home to a normal life, mail that needed to be sorted, a fridge that needed to be cleaned and errands that needed to be run.  I came home to normal.

On the 416 miles of the ride a weird thing happens; at first your brain runs like usual.  For me, that means hundreds of thoughts float through, as I pick which ones to dwell on and which ones to let go.  Eventually, I hashed over everything and my focus became paying attention to my surroundings; are there cars or riders behind me, is the shoulder wide enough to ride on, is that a rumble strip?  I can hear the other riders come up behind me, many of them riding in groups, visiting about whatever topic they are on that day. (Politics are rare, we are keeping our minds focused on fresher things, the sound of the wind, the smell of the roadkill.)  The sound of a semi-truck becomes distinct, deep, rumbling and menacing.  Will I hear the sound of the rumble strip as he-she moves over, to straddle the center line, or is there a steady sound, because I notice a car coming in the oncoming traffic lane, so I again survey the shoulder, the white line, the ditch……. I crest the top of a hill, to see another hill coming, and another…I didn’t know central ND had so many hills….how fast do I dare go down this hill, in order to gain enough speed to help me go up the next.  This was my ride, the steady drum of the wind, like white noise out of a machine, if I am riding against it; the fabulous quiet, when I am riding with the wind.

Many people asked me if I were riding alone, when I answered yes, there was surprise, “Really, will you be ok?, will you get lonely?”  Many people who know me would think that I have to have someone around all the time, and while it’s true, I love people, conversation, and most of what that entails, my alone time is important too.  Imagine a week of only speaking when you choose too, seeking out company when you want it, and avoiding people when you don’t.  I rode alone most of the 416 miles, I relished the time. If someone pulled up to join me, we would visit for a while, but if they lingered too long, I found myself giving a reason to stop, to slow down, or to speed up, to enjoy my solitude, but also to be able to focus on what was around me.   I would ride, stop and check mileage, give my bottom, hands, shoulders etc. a rest and then move on, at my own pace, on my own time.  I set up my chair in Ft. Totten, opened a book and read it.  I wandered off to do my live feeds, but joined in and enjoyed conversation at the rest stops and meals.  When you are riding alone, you have the chance to meet others in bits and fits of conversations, giving you more time to reflect on them and the conversations.  I always had my cell phone with me, fully charged, so I could update my family on my safety and where-abouts.  Their sporadic responses reminded me they were only a phone call away.

I always felt safe in the campgrounds.  My bike was always right next to my tent; my gear was always stowed safely inside the tent next to me.  I was self-contained in my little tent.  The soft snoring, that came from some of the tents around me, helped me to sleep; It sounded like my husband was always close by.  When you are in your tent, you have an invisibility; life goes on around outside, conversations, body sounds, trains, rustling in the grass.. it’s a peek into the world.

I am so glad I rode in the CANDISC; I have proven to myself that I have the determination and dedication to still achieve.  Stepping outside the box is so important for all of us; stretch out of our routines; let us see ourselves a little differently; allow others to see us differently.

Peace…..

Feminism? or Survivalist…

Helen Reddy’s song was released in 1971..  I was 12 and have been singing ever since.  I didn’t always understand every nuance of what it meant, but I loved the rhythm and it felt like a powerful song for a woman even at 12.

It’s sometimes easy for me to write personal things about myself; I have few secrets, although every woman needs a couple…  What I do struggle with, is writing and including anyone else in my stories.  The responsibility to write about any one else, in a way, that totally depicts my thoughts can be overwhelming.  I have spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking how I could tell this story..

I tend to be strong willed, there was a period of my life where I had my control taken away from me, then I over compensated by seeking more and more control (another blog 🙂   My parents would tell stories of me jumping off the barn, of arguing so much my Dad was sure I should be a lawyer, of wanting things to be black and white.  I didn’t try out for anything in high school, unless I felt like I could win, and if I thought I would lose, I wouldn’t try. My mom always encouraged me to do things, that she felt like she had missed out on, but she had little experience to share with me.  She was a woman of her generation, as I am a woman of mine, and even Mom sometimes thought I was too independent.

One dictionary definition of independent:Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting.

Relying on others; whoa that is a scary thought, one even now I don’t entertain very seriously.  Years of training to not rely on people, because of disappointments, that I bear part of the responsibility for, have taught me to rely on myself and to encourage others to rely on themselves.  Stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility, flip the switch.   Ok, so I’m stalling..  🙂

Mom and I were standing in the kitchen, of the old farmhouse; she was doing dishes and I was standing 12 feet away.  We were talking about “what had happened to me.”  “Mom, did you know?”  She turned and looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t, but even if I would have, what could I have done?”  My heart broke in a million pieces.

It didn’t break just for me; but it broke for Mom too.  She thought she was powerless; it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, because she loved her children, was loyal and steadfast.  She was raised in a time, when few woman, stood their ground, especially in rural North Dakota.  If any woman was to divorce?  You were a hussy!  Create a scene? You were crazy! Deal with your own trauma? Unheard of!  Go to the police?  Mom was raised by strong Baptist parents, you worked hard to raise your family, buried your head and survived.  She survived, but I choose to survive in a different way.  The shame is not mine, it is not yours.  We survive.. we thrive.. “to make a difference, in the life of one child”, regardless of that child’s age.  🙂

I am teased about how can I be a Conservative Feminist;  I laugh because I am who I am, a complicated Christian, believer in the separation of Church and State, fiscal conservative, believer of individual state’s rights, feminist.  Be who you are.  Whatever brought you to this place, made you who you are and it’s a beautiful thing.

Hugs to my survivor friends and family.  I am so proud of you.  We are going to make the changes..

Peace