Hope Unfolds – Pink Flowers – Day 20

Hope Unfolds – Pink Flowers – Day 20

For the past week, I watched them unfold.  A vase of tulips sat on my kitchen counter moving through one stage of intoxicating beauty to another, each day’s visual array outdoing the previous day.  And a stinging yet joyful memory was aroused.

My dad passed away this month two years ago.  He bought me flowers.  First, he asked what color I liked and I told him to choose since he was the one buying me flowers.  

He chose pink.  They were tulips, breathing a little fresh air into January after the unimaginable heartache of the holidays.  It was to be the last day he would ever choose anything for me.  

We had just left the cancer specialist office where he jovially conversed with the doctor, and still tried to beat him in an arm wrestle, with the little bit of steroid strength he had left.  

After stopping for a lunch where he ordered his final Jonnie Walker, allowed by the doctor, we decided to pick up a few groceries.  The dichotomous marital relationship between my mom and him caused regular disagreements and I was once again mediating an argument, this time about chestnuts, in the middle of Central Market.  My Dad wanted more even though we had just ordered a large box straight from the grower somewhere in the middle of the country.  And his obsession with chestnuts continued morphing into a typical battle of words that he always won.  All the while, I watched through a haze as I was still trying to process the meaning of the doctor’s words from an hour ago, “Call hospice now”.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, my Dad felt compelled to choose the first ever flowers for me.

Apparently, the large tumor was gone from his brain, but the inflammation was beginning to wreak havoc. He had survived brain surgery at the age of 86.  And this was week 3 post surgery, one day before he fell into a coma.  

The flowers lasted longer than any other tulips I had ever had.  I now look at the small glass vase holding the dried pink petals as it sits on the shelf.  Suddenly the writhing waves of loss shake me, yet the view of the new tulips I have watched daily for the past week infuse joy and hope into my tears.

Life is a beautiful yet arduous journey. It is through the unfolding of these petals, I am reawakened to the hope that he is still here somewhere with me. Although we can’t hold our loved ones forever in our arms, they live on in our hearts.

-Erika K Rothwell

An excerpt from a memoir in progress.

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Mother Bird’s Babies

Mother Bird’s Babies

FANTASY:  Wanting to achieve all the things.

AMBITION:  Pursuing a number of goals simultaneously.

REALITY:  Achieving one thing.

This list doesn’t always apply to my life.  Last week, it did.  It was a week of preparation to send another little bird out of the nest.  And this one literally wants to fly.

As we moved our oldest son into college and simultaneously watched him take his Oath of Office as  an HSSP Air Force cadet, my maternal self wanted to yell “No, not yet!”  He’s ready, but apparently, I’m not.   Running blind through the torrential wind-wrapped rain on the college campus to make it to the official event on time, I could think only metaphorically…”I don’t have to cry because the heavens are drowning me in mommy tears”.  For the public eye, it was fortunate my cerebral control kept things in check, even though all my heart saw was this…

Family 044_2

I am so very proud of my son’s achievements thus far and am quite confident he is going spread his wings and soar, his childhood dream only beginning to unfold.  And as it goes with his running, I’ll be lagging some distance behind navigating the ever-changing terrain of motherhood.

I’ve been here before.  Memories of his older sisters’ journeys out of home base engulf me, as I recall pushing one out of the nest hesitantly and reluctantly letting the other one fly out with a powerful trajectory.  While managing to help them on their way, my joy competed with my sadness.  This dichotomous transition is clearly never easy.

I achieved one thing last week, one monumental thing. 

As the fantasy was replaced by reality, my unfinished writing is waiting patiently for my return.  My goals remain in a holding pattern, dependent on my undivided focus accessible only after releasing the weight of this sentimental recollection.

-Erika K Rothwell

In order to catch up on the business of writing, this post is short but I wanted to share a silly little poem I wrote years ago when I sent my firstborn daughter off to college since these emotions are raw, yet again. 

“Mother Bird, why do you cry?”

“I had to push my baby bird out of the nest today,

I don’t know why!”

“Mother Bird, of course, you know why

Your baby is gone


don’t  despair

She will come back to you


and will not deny

 she learned to fly


her mother cared enough

to show her

the sky!”

– Erika K Rothwell


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American “Grandmother” Idol

American “Grandmother” Idol

– An Ego’s Audition

She had a small voice that desperately wanted to sing, but at times wanted to scream.

If finding a voice, is finding who someone is and expressing what they find, you could barely hear her speak. 

Her eldest children were approaching 30, an age at one time she would have immediately equated with the word old.  How did this happen?  When did things change?  Was it when they went off to college, when they walked down the aisle or was it when they became parents gifting her grand-motherhood while she was still busy intensely trying to redevelop her abdominal core and coloring her hair? 

Graceful aging, it’s called.  Accepting that only surgical procedures would reverse the gravitational pull, is what she named it.  And while she was busy considering vanity, her voice was getting smaller.

Not so long ago, there was a voice.  It taught her children principled living graciously mixed with a ticket for exploration.  There were times, they listened for the answer.  In later times, their friends had better suggestions.  Their worlds of influence continued to expand when husbands and their families came into the picture.  That voice got ever smaller.

More recently, she noticed she monopolized conversations with her grown children, in-laws included.  In her misled conception of having all the answers, constantly stepping into professor shoes, her voice desperately strove to bring value, having so much to say.   All that time, the volume was being noticeably turned down. 

The children’s own voices were morphing into a personalized set of values, hopes, and dreams.  Not only that, their own little ones were now listening.  It was in the madness of frantic family gatherings, her voice nearly disappeared.

Her sorrowful stare only hinted at the voice screaming inside, which seemed to fit well in a quieter world where her voice started speaking on paper.

The story of a self-pitying, washed up career woman turned housewife, was starting to be written.  At this point, the muse visited granting an inner voice permission to get louder.  Poetic expressions peeled open, releasing a storm brimming below, and rain poured out in tears. 

It was clear her voice was needed. She knew what was needed, carefully crafting stories to share with those she loved.  Further, her discovery dictated that on the outside it’s better if she spoke rarely, upon invitation, and very quietly, while the seasoned woman simmered below.


And then no one is sure how it happened, but she could suddenly sing.  The tone-deaf days of her youth had passed.   As she sang a bedtime serenade, “Think of Me”, from the Phantom of the Opera, for an audience of toddlers, her sweet granddaughter couldn’t hide awe-stricken admiration imploring, “How’d you learn to sing so good?” The grandmother’s song had come from a place often hid, the deepest part of an experience-laden core, and the sweet youthful appraisal from her progeny struck the heart of meaning. 

She had always wanted to sing, and now she had reached the pinnacle of stardom in the music hall called Grand-motherhood. 

Her tiny voice was singing, and the only screaming she wanted to do now was from the rooftops!

-Erika K Rothwell

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