Thoughts on the Day 3/15/18

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Mirriam Webster defined:  an ability to recover or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

I am not sure that I would include the word easily, sometimes it isn't easy, it's damn hard to adjust and/or recover from misfortune or change.  It takes hard work, support, try and try and again and sometimes tears and failure before we can make the adjustment.  It takes stamina and sheer gut will when everything else you have has been used up.  Other times it happens seamlessly, smoothly and with ease.  There are lessons to be learned from all of it.  

I think about the women in my family and how they withstood things like polio during the 40's, poverty during the Great Depression and some way back down the line moving to a brand new country far from home.  No one really talked about it, they just did it the best they could.  

My maternal grandmother contracted polio during the epidemic in the 40's when my mother was five years old.  They were living with my great-grandparents on their farm and after it happened, the house was under quarantine.  No one at that time knew how it spread, or really what to do about it.  My mom told me that when they were finally able to go see my grandmother that they walked into the old Shriners hospital in Portland that day and all she could see was stacks upon stacks of iron lungs filled with people.  As my grandmother gradually got better and they were sending her home, the doctors told her she would never walk again.  To prove them wrong, she learned how to walk with crutches, using her stomach muscles to swing her legs so that she could walk.  One was a point of pride and two was that they didn't have the money to afford a wheelchair.  

I grew up never thinking of my grandmother as disabled.  Until I was 12 she didn't even have a wheelchair and used her crutches.  I have memories of her standing at the kitchen sink, her crutches off to the side and her legs bowed backward preparing dinner.  She cleaned her own home, raised two children, went to church, was active in her community, was always dressed beautifully, her hair and makeup just so.  When she did get a wheelchair, many times she would still get up out of it to stand and work in the kitchen.  As kids we used to steal it and go outside to pop wheelies in the driveway.  As time went on, she wore out her arm muscles from so much repetitive use that she could no longer use the crutches even part of the time and her push wheelchair morphed into an electric one that she forever had trouble with slow down, she would always speed up.  She passed away several years ago and to this day I am still impressed by her resiliency, her independence and her faith.  

My paternal grandmother came from a family of 13, yeah that's a lot of kids.  Grew up in the harsh Minnesota winters with Danish parents.  Moved to Oregon with my grandfather and raised two children.  There wasn't a lot of money a lot of the time, my grandfather who was German worked hard to provide and my grandmother took care of the house and the kids.  My grandfather passed away in 1962, I was one at the time.  When my grandfather passed, my grandmother didn't know how to drive a car, pay a bill, handle a checking account and didn't have a job.  My father taught her how to do it all and she went out in her 40's and got her first full time job.  She was single until I was 13, she went on every family vacation with us, we had Sunday dinners at her house and I spent a lot of time on sleep overs with her.  It was the house my father grew up in, was filled with lovely hardwood floors, a second story and all sorts of old toys and dolls.  Sometimes we would sleep upstairs in my aunt's old room just for fun.  She taught me how to cook, how to sew, how to clean up as I go when I cook and she gave me the sewing machine she taught me how to sew on when she bought a new one.  It still works to this day.  Her house was filled with all sorts of Scandinavian things and we used to go to the Scandinavian festival in Junction City, Oregon.  She was tall for her generation and always had the most amazing costume jewelry that I loved to sort and put away.  She called me her little Miss America.  I miss her terribly, she was my touchstone for so much of my life, always there with a hug and a kiss, food and an ear to listen, encouraging words and lots of love.

I think about all of the women in my gene pool standing behind me, holding space for me, sending me their Danish and English and German strength.  It has been there even when I didn't understand what it was.  That powerful energy has helped me through so much and I know it's where the Amazon Viking blood comes from that lifts me up when I don't feel I can continue.  Life isn't always pretty, happy and tidy, it isn't the edited images on social media, it is so much all mashed up together, swirling around like the ocean.  Sometimes we get battered by the angry waves and other times the gentle swell carries us through.  Just like the ocean, going in and going out through rough seas or calm, we can find our own resilience.