Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Notepads

If you look at the area by the phone in our kitchen, I’m embarrassed to admit you will usually find a disorganized mess of pens, miscellaneous mail, postage stamps, scissors, a glue stick and several notepads. This is our disheveled attempt at a communication command center.

The notepads are usually the cheap, spiral bound type, or small legal pads—the kind you buy in multiples at your local discount store. But despite their modest appearance, they--and the pens hoarded from hotels, businesses and before-school sales--are the vital tools to our family’s communication. With four car-driving adults in one house, (daughter, 18 and son, 23), the comings and goings can be constant and usually unannounced. Without our little pads, we would never know what each family member was up to.

Like a spontaneous journal, our little used up tablets reveal sentiments and messages, recording our daily lives.

Sometimes the notes are simple, like this one I left the kids before going for a jog, Hi—took Weemie Weiner (one of our nicknames for our Weimaraner dog) for a jog. Love you, Mom.

One day I left this for my daughter, who was still in bed with some kind of viral ick. Even in my notes I'm a professional Mom. Hi Sweetie, I hope you are feeling a bit better today. I set out pills for you—eat a little something. There is that soup social after church—I won’t stay long but call or text if you feel really yukky or need me.  Love  you, Mom. As a  PS I added, stay hydrated and drew a cup, apparently to add to her visual enjoyment.

My daughter left me this message last year, and I can’t bring myself to throw it away, Hi Mommy, Came home w/ Kat to get clothes, I’m helping her with a photo shoot for Art. I’ll be home this evening! Love you! Missy Moe. I loved how she still calls me Mommy, and she signed it with her nickname, a term of endearment within our family.

On a mini legal pad from this past fall, a series of messages commemorate my son’s recent battle with cancer.

From me: Dayne-O, I’m in town for a bit. I’ll leave my phone on (if the battery holds up). Dentist @ 1:00. Call Dr. John. You may want to ask if there will be any issues with dental xrays?

As his chemo treatments started, he learned he’d have to have a shot with each treatment to help boost his white blood cell count. Although we tried to treat it as routine and keep his life normal, my worry was always just barely concealed. Dayne-O—I’m at training for job with Diane. I’ll be done around noon in time to take you to shot (Dad took your car). I have phone. Please call if you’re not feeling well. Love U, Mom.

Another time, as treatments wore on, I left this note: 
The pasta needs to go on—the sauces should be ready. 
The cakes are in the fridge. 
The house is cleaned. 
Kat’s bringing salad. Morgan’s bringing the pop. 
I’m stressed and have had no time alone and I don’t want to be yelled at. I’ll be back later.

I remember the day I wrote this through a blur of tears. We were preparing to host my daughter’s softball team for supper and an evening of team-bonding. My son, understandably short-tempered from treatments and not feeling well, had snipped at me while I was trying to get the house ready, and I had a heavy dose of self-pity brewing. After all, there were two children who needed my attention, I'd had no time alone for months, and precious little time to work towards my own life-goals.

I stormed out of the house, hopped in the car, and sobbed my way into town, only to discover I really had no place to go. I finally ended up by the local river park staring sulkily into the rushing water; its cold, black waters matched my own tumultuous mood. After a good weeping session, I came home a little more in control. But times of frustration and fear often built up. The note was evidence of the strain health issues can place on a family.

As the chemo wore on, my husband and I decided my son needed a positive focus in his life, so in a moment of lapsed sanity, we allowed him to get a puppy. What we were thinking still remains a mystery, but this message is a reminder of the puppy antics that were the best therapy we could have given him. Dayne-O, See you when you get home—be safe. Also, your hoggy-doggy ate my P&J sammie, so he won’t need lunch (may have ate the baggie too, FYI).” I drew a picture of a dog-pig head and wrote woofoink under it, then the usual heart-shape and Mom.

On the last page of the legal pad is this simple, casual note left for my still sleeping daughter. Maddi, we’re at hospital. Dayne’s getting his port out—shouldn’t be long. I don’t have a phone but will have my Kindle/email if you need me. Love you, Mom.

That is the last note in the notepad, and also commemorates the day we put medical closure on my son’s illness. Removing the dreaded port, the means by which the healing recipe of toxic brew was pumped into his system, marked the triumphant end to his almost year-long battle. 

I just put out a new pad today, and I wonder what notes and messages it will hold, the tell-tale, hastily penned lists, phone numbers, and messages we will leave each other. Before the year is out, my son will move on with his life and my daughter will leave to attend college. How sad and empty the note pads and my heart will be.







40 comments:

  1. about your ending: Wrong. You'll have your pad to jump start your memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. True. But no new messages from my beloved children... just a moment to feel really sorry for me, please. ;)

      Delete
  2. Julie, I love this post as I love most of your posts. But this one has a very different tone. The way in which it is so utterly personal, a true peek into a very specific part of your life and then laser focused to the times when emotions were at it's highest (with a splash of much needed simpleness such as the note to and from your daughter). These are the posts that make me thank you, the writer, for sharing--for the honesty, for the deeply moving reveal of who you are as a mom, wife, individual, and author. Big hugs, Anna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Anna, you're such a sweet cheerleader. Thank you. It was kind of fun and also difficult to reread the messages over the last year. I realized I draw hearts...a lot...

      Delete
  3. I was touched and blessed as I read this, Julie. You shared so much here that was deeply personal. Our lives are always subject to change, and the Lord leads us all the way. New days - new memories - new blessings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mary Ann. It was a little like sharing bits out of my journal. There was one, I admit, I included then deleted. Was a reflection of our family's odd sense of humor and I wasn't sure that would read well in translation. ;) And yes, I'm ready to look forward with joy!

      Delete
  4. Our family notes are all done through text messaging these days, I'm afraid. The notebooks are reserved as scoresheets for the games we play. Adding your blog to the list of <100 followers on A - Z Challenge blog. Blessings to you and your family. It's tough when hard times like this hit, but we keep plugging along, adding new notes to our pile.

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Writing Tips
    Effectively Human
    Lots of Crochet Stitches


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We don't get cell phone service at our house, so we're still using the note and pen method, and I'm glad I saved a few. :) Oh and yes, notebooks for scoring. Bring it on, Yahtzee. Thanks for adding me. Not sure if I'll be participating in A-Z but appreciate the inclusion.

      Delete
  5. I had no idea your family was going through that. So glad to hear that he is now on the mend. What a neat "journal" of notes back and forth to each other. That is a really great idea. My mom used to save all her calendars with appointments. She said it was her history. Now it just goes all in the phone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, I wish I'd saved earlier ones from when the kids' hand writing still reflected their young ages. I would have loved those. I didn't think about it until a couple years ago. Now I'll hoard them, to what end, I'm not sure.

      Delete
  6. This is wonderful Julie. I have some very old wall calendars that commemorate certain stages of our life and cannot toss them. just a snippet of info can bring back a flood of memories can't it? Susie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I have a tendency to keep my desk calendars too, Susie. Last years is still a little too raw for me to closely examine, but I'll keep it.

      Delete
  7. Wonderful post. Absolutely wonderful. And it touches a familiar "note" in us all (I couldn't help that...I was going to type it unintentionally, and then "not"iced. Oh someone stop me!).

    But seriously...it is these things you come across that truly document the moments of your life. Save them and savor them. And start dating them. :) Wonderful fodder. And a beautiful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can start dating them? Do I have to marry them? Ohhh stop us!

      OK, yeah, I wish I'd saved previous pads from earlier years, but it never occurred to me until like two years ago. I could have HEAPS by now! Thanks, Mike.

      Delete
  8. A lovely, lovely post and so touching. Isn't it interesting that those little scraps of paper, those generic note books can hold so much of life. I have a whole collection of notes that I've gathered over the years. Some of them have no special meaning to anyone other than me and others spill forth love, laughter and tears. A scrappy life. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I appreciate how you saved all those notes. I wish I'd saved mine earlier but am thankful for the little snippets I have now. I think you could write a book and call it, "The Scrappy Life". I like it!

      Delete
  9. Such an interesting read, today, and highlights how even the simplest of notes can remind you of so much happiness, sadness, commotion and love. I tend to leave notes scrawled on the back of envelopes that then get thrown away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've certainly had our share of those too. In fact, I missed out on an opportunity recently because of a missed note. Sigh-- must conclude it wasn't meant to be.

      Delete
  10. You are such a generous person and a truly talented writer. I admire your ability to share your experiences in a way that is so personal, yet always uplifting. Great piece! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reese-- You are so encouraging. Thank you. I struggle with the balance of wearing my heart on my sleeve too much sometimes. But am usually told I need to do it more. The dilemma of the introverted writer. ;) Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  11. Hi Julie -- I understand all those notes! I read the post and then gave a big sigh, remembering all you and your family have been through, and how you still worried about others. I'm so glad things went well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pat. Me too. How is your family doing?

      Delete
  12. This was wonderfully poignant. We have a similar collection in my house!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katie, oh how fun that you've saved yours too. I wish I'd done so earlier. :)

      Delete
  13. What a strong family you have. I think I would hold onto those notes forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My son, especially, was amazing during the whole ordeal. He was a rock and led us all on how to respond. Only towards the very last couple treatments did I see his resolve get shaky!

      Delete
  14. I'm sorry Julie I was unaware you and your family where facing such challenges. The notepads are a great reminder of those little family exchanges along with the highs and lows of life. Our messages tend to be left on a blackboard in the kitchen so they get erased but I do often keep special text messages from the kids. Sending you all the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzanne. Good news is they appear to be behind us! :)

      I had a childhood friend whose family would write notes to each other in marker on their Formica surface table. They kept a bottle of spray cleaner and a rag and would erase messages and start all over in the morning. Sometimes there would be little lovie messages left by her father before he left for work. I loved that.

      Delete
  15. A beautiful post. I wish I'd kept some of the notes that chronicled the comings and goings of my family when my kids were at home. Now it's the grandkids and all this communication is done by text message.

    I'm so glad your son is doing well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the good wishes. He gets stronger all the time! Yeah, I wish I'd started this earlier too. Have you ever seen the Ten Year Journal available on Amazon? I use one now (again, wish I'd started sooner) and will definitely use one as a Grandma, when that time comes. It's a great way to jot short daily notes with sweet memories and see it laid out in a 10-year format.

      Delete
  16. What a beautiful habit, to leave notes. I feel a bit of envy. Dragons don't write notes to each other. Some even hate to write. Too bad. That's a great treasure you have there in those notepads. I'm glad I came across this post of yours, Julie. I've missed reading your insightful posts. Always giving me something to think about. :) Dragon Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Al, I am glad we continue, despite the encouragement from technology to do otherwise, to jot little notes to each other. Thanks, as always Al, for your hugs and your encouragement. Back at you.

      Delete
  17. Dear Julie,

    What a touching and powerful post, Julie. Your family have encountered challenges and the notepads, a snapshot of your life. I'm heartened your beloved son is doing better.

    Wishing you and your loved ones, a peaceful weekend.

    Gary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gary, I savored your post and the poignancy within it as well. You are an inspiration.

      Delete
  18. What a wonderful pile of memories to go through. I love the image (and reality) of the fresh new notebook and the possibilities there. I also loved your little drawings--the idea of the cup and the dog that we saw at the end.

    As a total side note, your bio in the upper right sidebar is the best I've seen. I'm always tweaking mine and can't get it quite right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback about the bio, Nina. It was an evolution of thought and words to get it to say something near what I wanted it to for this blog.

      And yes, we'll see where this little notepad leads me. ;)

      Delete
  19. A beautiful post. And the notes are such a lovely way for your family to communicate and record small and big events in your lives/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Damaria, welcome and thank you for the kind feedback. Yes, it's been a treasure to hang on to the notes. :)

      Delete
  20. This is such a heartwarming story, Julie. Those notes reveal so much about you and your family. Instead of just scribbling down messages, you personalized each note, and even included cute drawings while you were going through so much. I'm so glad that your son is doing better. Your family is very lucky to have you. P.S. Congrats on appearing in Chicken Soup For The Soul! I could definitely see this story in there.

    Julie

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am sure glad to hear that your son's (as well as your own) painful trial with cancer is over. Of course, if he is anything like I am by nature, he will play on your sympathies for a while longer. (LOL?)

    You should actually be rather satisfied with your note-taking. For I have dozens upon dozens of entries made in a code that I can no longer decipher. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete