change, family

Beth and Liz

My full name, Elizabeth, can morph into many nicknames.

I began as Beth. That was my family name, my toddler name. My first name.

My parents loved to tell the story of going to first grade curriculum night. We had moved and changed schools. It was a few weeks into the school year and my parents went to meet the teacher. She asked my parents who their child was. My parents said “Beth.” My teacher said she didn’t have a Beth in her class. They put two and two together and figured out I was now Elizabeth.

Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t correct her. Was I not confident in that time of great change? Or was I ready to be someone new? Who knows what went through my 6 year old mind. But from then on, through elementary school up to 7th grade, I was Elizabeth.

Elizabeth followed me as I moved to Catholic school. But somewhere along the line, I started going by Liz to my friends. Again, I can’t be sure what my 13-year-old self was thinking. I’m pretty sure I thought Liz was cooler than Elizabeth. Honestly, who knows? But I knew the transformation was official when they started putting “Liz” on my report cards. I remember being surprised, but I went with it. Liz followed me through high school, college, and up into my twenties. Liz was a drum major and kind of emo in high school. Liz wore tights and steel-toed patent leather boots on non-uniform days. In college, Liz started drinking and smoking. Liz was a moody philosophy major. My Dad said Liz walked around with a little black could over her head.

After college, Liz was later a kindergarten teacher by day, a waitress / bartender by night. Liz walked 60 miles over three days to raise money for cancer research. Liz lost 100 pounds. Liz supported her parents through her Dad’s cancer fight. Liz met the man who would become her husband and the toddlers who would become her kids.

At age 29, I walked down the aisle and along with adding a new last name, I decided I would now go by Beth again. I just didn’t feel like a Liz anymore. Silly to some, I am sure, but my parents had never stopped calling me Beth, so maybe that’s why it felt like settling in to who I really am / was / would be.

In the nearly 20 years since I became Beth again, I’ve still continued to evolve. Beth is the mother of 3 now-adultish kids. Beth earned her PhD. Beth has gained 140 pounds, had a kid and lost 150. Beth quit smoking and drinking. Beth completed a half marathon and a triathlon. Beth has written books and owns a farm.

After a life with so many stages, there are people who call me by all different names. I have Elizabeth as my facebook profile since that seems to capture everything.

My father-in-law still calls me Liz most of the time. At a recent family celebration, he was passing the bottle of red wine around the table. When he got to me, he said “Liz, would you like some wine?” and for some reason I just thought, Liz would have, but Beth doesn’t do that anymore. Later that week, the conversation came up at work about going home to have a drink after a long day. The same thought occurred to me. Liz would have cracked open a drink right away. Beth is going to write or go for a walk or do something to make her feel accomplished. I just told my colleagues that I don’t drink but I’ll think of a good way to unwind. They stared with no response, then moved on from that topic.

Some will say that Liz was more fun than Beth. Maybe they are right. I guess it depends on what you think fun really means. Liz was definitely a whole lot more interested in pleasing others. Making other people comfortable. Liz also sought ways to escape herself, her thoughts, her confusion. Over time, Beth has become settled in swimming against the tide and approving of herself. Beth carries along her Dad’s encouragement to be smart, to stand out, to celebrate herself, and even to rail against gender stereotypes about what girls can do and be good at.

Beth feels settled in her skin more often that not, and that is something to celebrate no matter what you call her.

family

Small Town USA

On an extended road trip, I had the pleasure of staying in one of my family’s heritage hometowns, Bemus Point, New York. Perched on Lake Chatauqua in western New York state, Bemus Point has a population of about 350 people. This population swells a bit in the summer and drops in the harsh northern winter, I’d suspect. Far removed from my densely populated life in suburban Atlanta.

Small towns are fascinating, so very different from my suburban life. I immediately noticed the banners on every light pole with photos of all the graduates from the local high school. Each student had their own banner, their own celebration. There were maybe 50-60 banners. My daughter’s graduating class is almost 1,000 in number. It was impossible to imagine how many miles of light poles her class would cover! Above each was an American flag.

Little woodchucks scampered everywhere on my morning runs. Numerous deer leaped for cover as I approached. Many of them were just out by the roadway nibbling when I startled them. So many creatures without that many people stirring at all hours. I smiled driving through the country side seeing all the different “heads up” signs for drivers. I’m used to seeing signs to watch for deer, but we also saw signs for tractors, bears, moose or elk (maybe?) and snowmobiles. We were way out in the northern sticks, sharing the road with many other creatures, not just cushy suburban SUVs.

Speaking of sticks, there were so many roadside pickups for firewood just out in people’s front yards. Hand painted signs…$5.00, $4.00, pay what you can. The honor system in full effect. (I also wondered if there was a price war between neighbors!)

My mother once lived in this town, and her parents spent decades living here. My family road tripped here many summers in my youth. Several downtown shops I visited as a child were still there. A local grocery store. A general store turned souvenir shop. The wing place near the dock. Each had a rocky road through the years but made it.

When we went out for dinner, many other parties that came in dropped by to say hello. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Driving around town with my aunt and uncle was a parade of small town dramas. Stories would tumble out as we passed houses of friends and family. Where someone had worked for the summer. Which person had sold their house for too much or too little. Who broke rules that brought them in front of the town council. Who didn’t keep their property up well or planted trees to block someone else’s view of the lake on purpose. Small town charm as well as small-minded petty. Little room to forget when the stories are so narrow and intertwined. Grudges and alliances last across generations.

Small town life has its ups and downs. A pleasant place to visit and remember.

family

Hi Dad

It’s Father’s Day 2021. My second official Father’s Day without my dad but truly the first that I grasp as we were just parting ways with my dad in 2020 amidst a pandemic. With the celebration of life so close to Father’s Day it still seemed liked we celebrated in a way.

This year is different. No dad to call on the phone. No gift to buy. No note to write. Nothing. I got to thinking of how I could celebrate Father’s Day.

  •  I could do all the things with my mom that I would with my dad since she is technically playing a dual role of mom and dad to me in the current day.
  •  I could spend the day going through memories from previous years and celebrate what was.
  •  I could write a list of things I missed most about him and add to it each year.
  •  I could honor him silently in something I do today.

What will I actually do? The day is still young but I am thinking. I will do a little walking as my dad liked to take walks. I will laugh some because he was always a jokester. I will talk to or exchange smiles with a stranger at the park because that’s what my dad would do. I will have a cup of tea and toast him as he loved a hot cup of tea.  I will look for a cardinal today to see if one passed by. If not a cardinal maybe I’ll see a sign he is watching.

I think of my dad often. I truly miss him. He can never be replaced. My mom is lonely without him. He wasn’t really a guy who gave lots of flowers but he was loyal to the core.

Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies out there. Whether by blood or by choice, dads have an opportunity to leave their mark on many in the world. I’m one of the lucky ones. I had a good daddy. I am forever daddy’s little girl and proud of it. Just shy of the 60 years of marriage mark at the time of his passing. He was truly one of the good ones. red heart

I hope another dad somewhere appreciates my Father’s Day post since I can’t have my dad for an in person Father’s Day. 

celebrations, family

Last Time for Everything

Country music isn’t necessarily my favorite, but I listen to it pretty often since my youngest daughter is a fan. I have a handful of artists I admire. Miranda, Maren, Dolly, and then there’s Brad. Brad Paisley. He may not have the most soaring lyrical voice, but his lyrics are witty, smart, and insightful.

Just a few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, the country girl, started her farewell tour, her victory lap, her senior year of high school. Tomorrow we will leave on a 10-day road trip bookended by two lacrosse tournaments, sandwiched around reunions with family, roller coasters, beautiful scenery and other adventures. Time with friends, time with each other, time doing new things, time doing what she loves.

It’s her last hurrah of youth. Last summer playing travel lacrosse. It won’t be long until senior year begins with all its fanfare and festivities. College choices will be made. Dreams will turn to plans.

And so begins a season of lasts. Here’s where Brad comes in with Last Time for Everything. It’s a song that plays over and over in my head. Last time hitting the road to the northeast. Last time taking the field. Last Spring Break. Last, last, last…

Some I will see coming. Some will catch me off guard. Some I will be prepared for. Many I won’t even notice until they are gone and done.

Sure, she will always be my baby. Just like the older two, she will always come home and open the refrigerator and look for her favorites. Bring her laundry and her dog. Get some advice on how to fix her car or choose insurance or ask questions about saving money. Maybe she’ll even curl up and take a nap while someone is cooking in the kitchen like I did at my parents’ house. Even after I was long gone, it was a safe place to just relax and be taken care of for a bit.

So I will enjoy each moment with her as she prepares to take a step out on her own. I will try not to overthink it and get ahead of myself, but instead just be in the moment, relishing this last trip around her childhood sun, all her hard work, ups and downs, accomplishments, and celebrations.

May I treasure this sweet season of lasts while it lasts.

family

One Year

It’s been a year since since I lost my dad. I think of him often. I cherish my memories. I love to see my pictures from the past pop up on my social media timehop. I like to honor his memory whenever I can.

As I think of the past year I have many emotions. Some I can articulate. Some I’m still processing. It’s part of the grieving process for me. 

I think about how my mom is doing often. How she is getting by each day without her partner of over 60 years. How she has to manage so much without him. How she has to be strong when she probably wants to cry. How she has to stand up for herself. 

I try my best to comfort her. I try to take her away from her normal to show her happy when I can. I try to make her laugh. I try to snap as many photos as she will allow knowing my days may end with her without notice. I like to live in the moment with her. Get her to try new things. She doesn’t like to plan beyond 2 weeks in advance but she will try if she doesn’t think too much about why she shouldn’t. She is living her life to the fullest.

One day at a time we are adjusting. We lost our rock of the family. As he was put to rest my Mom arose as the new rock. A role reversal of sorts but fun for me to watch. I have learned so much from her this year. How to face adversity. How to stand firm for your beliefs. How to be independent. How to be okay with a new normal.

The last statement is probably the most important. Being okay with how the chips may fall. We can all have a plan we work towards but a piece of the plan may fall through. In those times we need to adjust. Be flexible. Learn. Chart a new path. Change the environment if need be. 

Life may test us. It may rock our faith. It may push our patience buttons repeatedly. How we react defines who we are. I want to be like my mom. A rock of sorts. A dynamic rock. A strategic rock. A rock that is durable to withstand the elements of life. 

Life doesn’t have a roadmap. It has twists, turns, speed bumps, uphill battles, and so much more. Who we are shows when faced with the hardest times. Do we buckle under pressure? Do we rise to the occasion?

My mom.

My rock.

My inspiration.

Mother’s Day was upon me when I wrote this post. I spent some special time with her this weekend. I was able to see so much in her eyes. I saw her joy for so many reasons. At the same time I saw sadness that my dad wasn’t there to share the experience with her. I saw her aging. Her body is deteriorating. Is it natural timing? Is it her being lost without him? Is it her environment partly reclusive no thanks to corona? I will never know.

Each year I will honor my dad in May. I haven’t decided all the ins and outs of my dedication but I do know I will have traditions.