Good Morning from Pennsylvania, from the Upper Sanctum, from an airport, from Fog and Flame,
I have been working on this blog for more than three weeks, but there have been so many things on my plate that it got pushed off the stove. As I write this part, I am here in Menomonie, having been here since last Wednesday evening. My life is been a whirlwind of emotions since arriving. The burial of George and Lydia, the memorial gathering for Lydia this past Saturday, and actually realizing that my time in Menomonie, and the actual need to be here, has come to a close, forces me to admit that the significant chapter in my life will soon be closed in some ways. My time here in Wisconsin was the longest time that I had spent in any one place since graduating from high school over 40 years ago. I will actually surpass that later this year in Bloomsburg. In spite of that, Menomonie and Wisconsin will always, in some aspect, be my home. It was the home of my predecessors, my ancestors. The memories and the time both professionally and personally shaped many of the things that I now hold valuable. Lydia taught me what it meant to give, at least in giving as far as resources. While I have always been a giving person as far as time and energy, it was in the giving of resources that she changed my life and I have worked to change the lives of others. That is my lasting legacy to you Lydia, to give as you did. I also need to listen to you more carefully as you used to admonish me to be careful in my giving.
The cascading emotions that I’ve gone through in the past week as I walked the places we had walked together, be the hallways of COH or Lammers grocery store, while they memories were joyful the emotions were sad and I cried. Anyone who would’ve seen me in the grocery store the other day would have come to the conclusion that I probably had significant problems. I’m staying away from fast food, but I had to go to Burger King last night because it’s the first place you and I had ever eaten together. I could see you clear as day wrapping up the remaining fries for “the little ones”. If you were watching us, as I’m sure you are, I’m pretty sure you know we are overwhelmed trying to imagine the best way to manage your estate. I know that Nate and I have very different concerns and different needs. I’m glad that you chose to give the house to him. I’ve been fortunate to have people in the little house. As I walked around the property in your yard I could see you with your broom. I was pleased when people told me that I have kept the property up in a way that you would’ve been proud. I’m not totally convinced of that as far as the yard, but then again it is winter.
Last evening I said my goodbyes to a variety of people they all asked if I would be coming back. There’s still stuff to do and I have to pack some things to move to Pennsylvania now, so the last part of May I will be in the house. However I know that will be the last time. Thank you for sharing such a magnificent place with me. Thank you for sharing such an astounding life with me; thank you for allowing me to share my life with you. When I have spoken with people these last days, the thing I heard repeatedly was how we took care of each other. I don’t know that I saw it as taking care of you, but rather we cared about each other and we grew to love each other. I know that you became a parent, a mother, to me as I told you that last night. When you whispered to me ” I know.”, the last words you spoke to me, I knew that hearing as your last words as such an affirmation was an unequaled gift to me. After the trip in May and the completion of gathering my belongings, a chapter of my life, a paramount portion of my life, will be completed. There will no longer be either a responsibility or requirement for me to return; yet, I cannot imagine never visiting there again. There are fond memories of people and events. What I have realized this past week is it is not about the things, in spite of some of their stunning beauty, it is about people and the memories created.
It is almost the end of spring break when I realized I’ve pretty much gone through the motions for the last three months. I’ve gotten done what is absolutely necessary and yet not even that’s true. What I’m realizing is that losing Lydia has affected me more than I knew. Even though I’ve been 1000 miles away for the past six years, part of my heart was still Menomonie. That too has had consequences. I have realized that from time to time.The other day someone wrote a post of the following meme: “you know how deeply you loved by how deeply you grieve.” Last night I went to see Celtic Woman for the third time. While I greatly enjoyed each concert I have attended, last night was special. First, I was able to go with Grace, who was kind enough to step in and use my second ticket. We had a wonderful time. Second, the concert itself was phenomenal. There was more Irish and Gaelic than previous concerts; there was more dancing. Two of the three main primaries, I had seen or heard before. The newest member, Mairead Carlin, at least to me, was sensational. The two men dancing astounded me. Somehow it’s apropos that I went to see them only a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. It is still one of my deep desires to travel to Ireland and if I could make it happen when they were there performing and see them in concert there, that might just complete my bucket list. A year ago I was writing about culture and ethnic background. I wrote that blog sitting in the Fog and Flame, and ironically I plan to spend a good part of the day there today. It is time for me to get more disciplined more focused and to make some tough decisions. Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with a former colleague and she pushed me to think about things in ways I’m generally unwilling to do so. She was insightful, honest, and helpful. What is it that allows us to feel fulfilled, to feel accomplished, or as I noted before, to be content. You might note that the first two of the previous list were to feel, the last one was to be.I do not want to feel content, I want to be content. I believe it is so much more than just checking things off or completing a bucket list. I believed to be truly content would allow someone to be truly happy. Through my conversation yesterday, I’ve been awakened or realized once again that maybe giving does not automatically create or equal happiness. There is more to understand. I am in the Fog and Flame now and I am editing and proofreading before posting. There is a concept; it is something I preach, but need to practice.
It is now three weeks since I have posted and what I realize is that life is unpredictable regardless how much we might plan. I’m quite sure that she did not plan her life to end quite as it did. I can actually imagine that she would’ve been content to go to the garage and turn on the car as she had threatened to do and she fallen off the roof. Again, I feel compelled to consider the letter someone sent arguing that she should’ve been allowed to live in her house until her last days. How do I allow that to happen when the consequence was likely would’ve been more tragic than being in a place where the caregivers actually cared for her and loved her? I know with all my heart that I did the best for her I could because I promised to do so. It’s only three weeks from now that Lydia would’ve been at COH for four years. So much as happened in that time; and there were a myriad of things to attend to both around the property and in her immediate care. Again, in both cases, I worked to do the best I could to keep the promise made almost 8 years ago sitting at Perkins one morning eating breakfast. There are still things I must do to complete all that’s been asked, all that was promised. Some of those who have known her for years told me that I had done really well and II had done an outstanding job of providing care for her. While their words are meaningful, and I am certainly grateful, ultimately, what matters is what she thought. I think they are summed up in the last night I saw her living. As I cried on her shoulder and I told her she had become my mother all of the sudden she began to rub the back of my head, and as I looked into amazing blue eyes one last time she whispered softly, “I know.” Those two words are perhaps the most amazing gifts I’ve ever been given.
Last night during the concert they sang the song I most appreciate about immigrants and those people coming to this country to make a life for themselves. It is actually one of my favorite Celtic Woman songs, “Isle of Tears,” and as the music began before the lyrics (and I am not quite sure of the name of the instrument which creates a sort of a mournful oboe tone – it is called Uilleann Pipes) I told Grace that I dedicated this song to Lydia. I’m hoping I might find a YouTube video of it and I will post it at the end of this blog. While I’ve had to start over my life from time to time, it was not when I was 15 or 17 or to come to a new country and learn a new language. When I generally take time to ponder and think about what Lydia accomplished, I am more and more astounded by this amazing little woman (4’10” and 90 pounds). From time to time I complain about such minor things in comparison. It is interesting to me that the persons who become closest of my life are those persons who understand their heritage, live and celebrate that heritage, and understand the complexity of our diversity. What I’ve realized again is how little I know how much there is yet to learn. And learn is what I want to do. I want to learn languages; I want to learn the culture; I want to learn what’s important to them and to me. To understand the differences and appreciate those differences. I want to help people realize through my own actions that reaching out to those we meet bridges gaps, provides understanding and opportunity, and makes our lives better. While there is much more I could write I need to focus on some work and I should get something posted as it is been too long. Lydia I will continue to work diligently to complete the things I promised. Grace thank you for going to the concert with me last night. To all of you who continue to read this blog and follow me I’m grateful for each of you.
I will actually share two videos with you. This YouTube video I created of the University of Wisconsin-Stout remembering Lydia, an amazing educator, a phenomenal intellect, and a woman who changed by life. I miss you, Lydia. The second video is the video of the song I dedicated to you last night as I listened to the concert.
Michael (Dr. Martin)