Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Picture's Worth

One month ago,  my husband's parents were alive. It's difficult to believe he lost both of them so quickly. An activity which has helped to ease the pain of losing two loved ones is looking through the boxes of photographs found in their home. So many memories were released as those boxes were opened. Pictures of my father-in-law in the Navy, snapshots from various weddings, stacks of photos of the grandchildren, and even a print of a younger me which very much resembles my daughter, Victoria. Poor child.
            Thirty years ago, you might have heard me say that I would always keep up with photo albums and carefully arrange pictures in chronological order. Raising five children has erased such fantasies. Having all of my boxes of pictures in one spot is my new goal. Lofty, but I think I can do it.
            In this imaginary spot in my home, I hope to include a family photo taken on Father's Day 2012. My oldest daughter, Monique, handed a camera to her husband, Frank, as she gathered us together for a family photo.
            "Frank should be in the picture, too," I told her as we found our places in the corner of the kitchen.
            "He's in enough pictures," she quickly said.
            Before I could respond, Frank was instructing us to "look at the camera. One, two, we're having a baby!" And with a few clicks of the lens, he captured our reactions to the wonderful news.
            We weren't even finished with our congratulations when Monique asked us to keep it a secret until she was further along in her pregnancy. The secret lasted less than a week. Monique walked into Paw Paw Michel's hospital room bearing bandages from her blood work and three failed attempts to locate a vein. Without hesitation, her Maw Maw looked at her and said, "You're pregnant." I wish I had a picture of that moment.
            In the absence of a photograph, this memory will have to be recorded in the journal I've yet to begin for this new addition to our family. Actually, I haven't even bought it, but I will. Soon. Even before I start rounding up my boxes of photos. And in this new baby's journal, I'll be sure to include several stories about his/her great-grandparents.
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, July 13, 2012

Maw Maw Michel

Every week, I relate an episode of my life. I always imagine us sitting down with a cup of coffee and chatting for a few minutes. Silly, I know, but it's the way my mind works and I'm learning to embrace it. This morning, however, I find myself sharing something that, although factual, does not seem real. Since our last visit, my family, still raw from the death of my father-in-law, has buried my mother-in-law, Claire Michel.

            Prior to July 8th, had you asked me about my in-laws, I would have described their role in my children's lives. You would have heard me mention walks on the levee, spaghetti and meatballs, feeding the hunting dogs, gumbo, trips to Taco Bell, cheesecake, and many, many other things, but you would never have heard me say, 'a real life love story.' Not that it wasn't true, but I never thought of them in that way. I guess they were too busy showing love, and didn't find it necessary to sit down and discuss it.

            Minutes after Monique was informed of the death of her MawMaw, she did a little Math and sent me this text: "MawMaw and PawPaw were married for 23,867 days and she only lived 16 days without him." She used that fact in her eulogy, which I'm sharing despite being able to contact her for permission. That's okay. I'm not sure she reads my column.

            "23,867 – that’s the number of days my PawPaw and MawMaw Michel – or as you may know them, Charlie and Claire – were married. 23,867. A couple of weeks ago we were in this same church for a very similar reason. My MawMaw sat on that second pew over there. She may have greeted you. I know she smiled at you if she saw you. She was much braver than I ever imagined she could be. She was strong for 16 whole days- her first 16 days alone in 65 years. And 16 days is a long time to live with half of your heart already in heaven.
            "My MawMaw was one of the most nurturing people that I’ve ever met. She truly just wanted everyone to be comfortable. She was always ready to serve…always ready to put other people’s needs first…and always ready to cook something up for you if you were hungry. Actually, she was always ready to cook something up for you even if you WEREN’T hungry.
            "Sunday night brought the kind of news that made my eyes immediately sting. It literally just took my breath away for a few seconds. It just hurt. But you know my very first thought was, she's been with PawPaw for hours. Because if she can't be here with us...then that's where she's supposed to be.
            "I don’t know how time works in heaven. I doubt that in eternity there’s a need for clocks or calendars. It gives me great comfort as I think that, although PawPaw was gone from earth for 16 days, he must have just started to look around heaven when he found his bride. 23,867 days were a whole lot to be married…but nothing compares to an eternity together…and that’s what they have now.
            "MawMaw’s life, including her marriage, proved that the greatest joys in life aren't by accumulating more stuff, by having the most glamorous jobs, or by taking the fanciest vacations, but by simply taking the hand of the person that you quite literally can't live without and holding onto the only thing that you can take with you...your relationships.
            "I MISS her. And I miss him. And I can't wait to get to Heaven and see them waving through the gate in the only way that they knew how...together."
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Emotional Theme Parks

I envy those who say they're on an emotional roller coaster. While vocalizing sincere empathy, I refrain from saying, "That's it? A roller coaster? I feel as though I'm stuck in the whole theme park!" In addition to the emotional ascents, then plummets of the roller coaster, do you ever feel like you're in a bumper car? Me, too. As much as you think it would feel good to strike back, it won't. Even on that silly amusement park ride, I feel guilty if I bump someone. While real life is rarely spent in one of those cars, it is lived around people, and some carelessly use words that hit and hurt. I use Psalm 141:3 as a prayer, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." I also try to heed what I once read, "When you throw dirt, your hands get dirty and you lose ground." Then there's the Tilt-A-Whirl, which in my life translates as Tilt-Our-World. I would like to think my family is spontaneous and flexible, but who am I trying to fool? All I did was switch from red Solo cups to Styrofoam and everyone had something to say. "Well, this won't last," said one disgruntled family member. "I guess you didn't see the garage," laughed my sister Kay. "She bought a box of 500! We're stuck with them!" Only my youngest child, Victoria, approved. "That's the kind Karleigh's mom buys. I like them." Later that night, Kay returned for ice cream. Ice cream she had bought to keep at my house. "I think I'll put it in a Styrofoam cup tonight. We've got to use them." Geoff just laughed and said, "I think these will turn out okay." And, no. Disposable cups are not the only changes to which we're adjusting. This summer began the season of firsts and lasts in our household. Victoria is entering her final year of high school, and we have had her last Cheer camp, her last participation in Cheerleader mini-camp, and her last yearbook picture, an experience I may never be brave enough to write about. At the same time, we are just beginning with my granddaughter. Adeline's first milestones: her first smile, sitter, and Fourth of July have been documented. She may be able to roll over by now, but she'll have to escape from our arms to prove it. These firsts and lasts remind me of an experience on a carousel. It's a gentler ride, with ups and downs as certain as the circle it travels. And as we go round and round, it's always comforting to find that familiar face in the crowd, the parent, friend, or sister who keeps your freezer filled with ice cream, smiling and waving in support. I have no doubt we will meet the challenges of the future. We even survived Styrofoam cups! Ronny may be reached at