Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If you would, please...

I have a request.

You see, I am going to do something next week that I sort of dread. But I'm dreading it with the hopes that I will come away with answers, a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

After 5 years of:

*seeing doctors {8 by my count} who have poked and prodded me and asked me a myriad of questions, and been stumped by the answers

*being tested for all sorts of awful things, none of which I seem to have {thanking God for that one}

*taking all sorts of different medications {some appear to be snake oil, if you ask me}

*being frustrated out of my mind
*living with seizure type activities {that they say are not seizures} occasional loss of cognitive abilities, and periods of being unable to communicate verbally

* being diagnosed {or not diagnosed} as 'interesting', 'off' and 'that ain't right'

*wearing my big girl panties far more than I'd like

*causing many people who love and care for me to worry, and doing some worrying myself

*shedding countless tears and facing down terrible fears

and last but not least

*being loved and tenderly cared for by the Amazing Rocket Man...

I have an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida next week. I am to arrive at 7 am on Monday and will be evaluated by Dr. Elizabeth Shuster in the Neurology Clinic.

So, here's my request. Would you say a prayer for me, for Rocket Man, for Dr. Shuster and the nurses and technicians that we will be dealing with next week? For safe travel to and from Jacksonville and for some answers.

We would appreciate it a great deal.

I will try to make posts on our adventures as we go.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweet Neenie

Neenie doing what she called 'cogitating' on my couch

I'm reposting what I wrote last year on my personal blog in honor of Neenie's Birthday. Just add a year to the amount of time we've all missed her and to her age. The love we continue to share with her, the gratitude we all have for allowing that precious woman to be a part of our lives, the foundation she gave us...those things remain just as strong as they ever were. Happy Birthday, Neenie! Oh, and I wrote in pink because that was her favorite color.

Malcolm and Irene Younger.

She was the biggest little woman I ever knew. Slight of stature but she could fill a room with her presence. Regal in her composure, yet composed with humility. Her hands were gnarled and knuckles huge…but oh! my!...the things she could do with those hands. She tatted and made lace, she played the piano and organ, she sewed, she wrote lovely letters, she baked and she cooked, she painted and she did every sort of craft you can imagine. She touched my face with her hands and she made an indelible mark in my heart. She loved us deeply and she taught us greatly. She loved her Lord with an unwavering faith. She followed His commands and she prayed. Oh, how she prayed for us.

Neenie and my grandson, Sean Austin Teater. Her maiden name was Austin, so Sean is her namesake.

My maternal grandmother. Known lovingly as Sister, Irene, Mrs. Younger, Neenie, Aunt Sister, and Mrs. Whitehead. Her name was as big as she was little: Ella Alice Irene Austin Younger Whitehead! But for a long, long time…they just called her Sister. Only daughter born to her parents, she was the first-born of 8 (6 survived). I imagine that everyone who ever knew her loved her. Everyone I knew did.

Neenie and my grandson, Malcolm. Malcolm is named for my grandfather.

As I walk through my house, there is something in every room that reminds me of her. I have pieces of furniture that were hers. I have dishes, artwork, doo-dads, jewelry, books, bibles and clothes that were hers. Oh, and hankies. She loved hankies. But more than those things that she gave me, I have memories of her. And a relationship and love that endures beyond the bounds of time and space.

After church on a Sunday morning in Memphis, 1995. Wasn't she elegant?

She once said to me, "Mollianne, there are things between us that don't have to be said out loud. Because they are in our hearts, and our hearts know." That is where I carry her now. Reverently, humorously, delightfully and with a bittersweet memory of that wonderful creature that God allowed to grace my life.

Captain (Chaplin) and Mrs. Malcolm A. Younger, taken while he was in training during WWII

This day, the anniversary of her birth...102 years later, I hope that I live my life in such a way that she would be proud of me. She always encouraged me. The last conversation I had with her 6 years ago was about my upcoming college graduation. She was so proud that I finally finsihed my degree. She reminded me that we didn't have to say good-bye, because when she went to heaven, it was just a matter of time until I joined her there.

Charles, Gene, Bob and Sister-the Austin kids

Six years later, I still miss her. I miss calling her when I find the first crocus in the spring. I miss calling her to tell her I made her chicken and dumplings. I miss her when I find a card that she sent tucked away in a book. I miss her when I read poems that she loved. I miss her when I put one of her hankies in my Bible on Sunday morning before I go to church.

Neenie and her beloved daughter, Charlotte (my Mother)

Much of what I am and who I want to be has to do with her calm and gentle influence in my life. I am so blessed to have had such a grandmother. And the most wonderful thing she ever did for me was to raise my Mother. God must have just known that it would take the whole tribe to raise me, and he found a line of strong, elegant, capable women and put me in their care. I am so thankful for them. But I still miss her.

Four Generations of Eisinger females,
Irene Austin Younger, Bertha Eisinger Austin, Charlotte Younger Buster and Baby Mollianne Buster

She used to tell me that she loved me 'more and . Well, Little Neenie, I love you...More and More! If they celebrate birthdays in heaven, I hope that a choir of angels and all the people who loved you on earth are singing to you tonight. And I hope that there is vanilla ice cream to go with the cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

I graduated from high school in June of 1975. I graduated from college in May of 2003. Not everyone takes 28 years to complete a college education, but I did. I found myself re-evaluating some things in the spring of 2002 and knew that if I were ever going to finish my degree requirements and graduate, I'd probably better do it soon. I only needed 7 classes to complete my degree. I had not been in school for over 6 years at that point. Was I really content to be only 7 classes short of a college degree? For the rest of my life?

As I was contemplating all of this, a curious set of circumstances fell into place--almost like the planets aligned in the correct order. My401(k) was doing very well. I could cash that out and the funds would be available for me to quit my job and finish school. My oldest step-daughter was about to be a senior in high school, and then we would have her in school...so it was sort of a now or never situation. I had a job that was beginning to drive me batty. I was certain that the church job I had was taking years off the end of my life. I loved my boss, but my goodness! I couldn't keep up with him. So one day in late April of 2002, I checked the class schedule for the following year. Guess what? The 7 classes that I wanted (not simply classes that would meet my graduation requirements, but classes I wanted) were not only being offered, but were also being taught by the professors I would have chosen to study under. 1 class in the summer mini-semester, 3 in the fall and 3 in the spring.

I re-enrolled, signed up for the classes, turned in my notice and by golly...I went back to school. This was it. It was now or never time. It was time to Man Up or Go Home (a motivational phrase used by one of Rocket Man's former favorite basketball coaches).

One more time, I bought my books, filled up my backpack, went back to a familiar room in Roberts Hall and was once again immersed in the education process. That summer mini-semester nearly killed me. Renaissance and Reformation in a month. We went to school 4 days a week and were in class for 3 1/2 hours. It was killer. Every night, I would read (scan and hope I caught what he wanted) as many as 600 pages for the next days' class. It was a class for seniors and graduate students. I thought I would die. I knew it was going to kill me. I loved it. I felt like I'd come back home.

The academic year flew by and I did my share of student whining, crying, procrastinating, paper writing, had test anxiety and did more than a few all-nighters. My papers were all written and turned in. All I had left to do was take those final exams and walk the stage to get my diploma. Only glitch in the whole thing was that my precious Neenie, my dear grandmother, was dying with congestive heart failure. She died the night after I attended my last class.

Rocket Man and I drove home to Missouri early the next morning, to celebrate her life and mourn her death with my family. I called back to the school and made arrangements to take my finals late. My professors were very kind and sympathetic. There would be time to take my finals when I returned home, and one of them was so kind as to send me the final via email. I took it and emailed it back to him. I will never forget how wonderful that felt. To be trusted and shown such compassion. I rode home after the funeral with my head in a book, but I don't think I really got anything out of that studying.

I took a deep breath, pulled on my big-girl panties and took those tests. I passed with flying colors. They were the types of tests that cramming for would have never helped, anyway. You either got the concepts and could write about them or you didn't. I got them.

There was last minute paperwork to take care of between finals and graduation. I had this silly fear that some lady in an administrative office would call and say that I was lacking a class in Breathing-for Credit or something. It was a 28 year recurring nightmare that after all that work, I had missed something.

But I got that paper that paper signed off by every necessary person and I got out the gown that I had purchased and tried to steam the wrinkles off of it. My parents drove to town, as did my son and daughter in law. I was actually going to graduate from college. I could hardly believe it!

May 11, 2003 dawned bright and clear. It was Mother's Day, and so wonderful to spend it with not only my Dear Mother, but also my precious children AND grandchildren. One of my stepdaughters was even with us for part of the day. We went to church and then out to lunch and my anticipation was building like crazy.

I had hummed Pomp and Circumstance for so long that it felt like my theme song. And,finally. At long last, here I was. I donned my cap and gown (and my honor cords...I was so proud) and found my assigned spot in the line. I didn't see a soul I knew, but it didn't matter. The line began to move and we snaked through the civic center. I reached up to check my funny hat, made sure my white tassel on the correct side and we emerged into the arena. I heard a familiar tune. Could it be? Was the orchestra really and truly playing....YES!


That turned into one of the longest afternoons of my life. Some man gave a speech that nobody listened to. Yada, yada, yada. Get to the good stuff, please. We graduated by colleges, and the College of Liberal Arts was 3rd. I read every name in my program as they called them out. I counted how many names until my college would stand en masse. Finally, our escort signaled for us to stand and I wanted to jump up and shout!!! The girl in front of me kept stopping to wave to friends and I finally put my hands on her back and gently pushed her. Excuse me? Let's go, girlie! I wanted to get to that stage. I wanted to be there when they called my name.

All of the sudden, I was up on the stairs. Check the hat. Listening. Listening. Closer to the Dean, who was beaming at me, as she knew me and my story. It had been 27 years, 11 months and 9 days since I'd walked across a stage and received any sort of academic diploma. Hurry up! Say my name. Say it right. Then, there is was. "Mollianne Buster Massey, Cum Laude." Walk across the stage. Check hat, again...dropped my grandmother's handkerchief on the stage but kept on walking. Look at the President, shake his hand and RECEIVE THE DIPLOMA! The wonderful young man behind me picked up my hankie and handed it to me. It was a good thing, because before I got down the stairs on the other side of the stage, I was in tears.

I stopped to have my picture taken by the professional photographer and looked up. My Mother and my Rocket Man were leaning over the rail, taking pictures and waving. I waved back and exclaimed, "It has my name on it! It has my name on it!"

Mollianne Buster Massey

Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude

A degree had been conferred upon me! Me!! With honors! Glory, Glory Hallelujah!

That road from Widefield High School to the 2003 Graduation Exercises of the University of Alabama in Huntsville was a long and winding road.

It took me 28 years, but by golly...in my case, slow and steady really did win the race.

I can't put words to the way I felt when I saw the look of pride on my Sweet Daddy's face as I showed him my diploma. It meant the world to be able to do something so positive and celebratory with my Dear Mother such a short time after she lost her own precious Mother, and on Mother's Day to boot! I cherish the beaming pride I saw in Rocket Man's eyes when he kissed me and said, "I told you that you are the smartest person I ever knew." Not many people graduate from college with their children and grandchildren in the audience. but I did! On Mother's Day, no less! Oh, how I treasure that day in my heart!

This story isn't complete until I say that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful and thankful for the support of people like John Cole, Andy Cling, Brian Martine, Craig Hanks, Dick Gerberding, Chris Hendricks, Ken McFetridge, Bob Austin, Jerry and Carol Mebane, my PEO chapter, my church family, my children, my parents, my classmates and a plethora of others who encouraged and helped me along the way. Most especially to my darling Rocket Man, Ed Massey, not only gently encouraged me along the way, but also sat through and helped me pass Pre-Calculus. My heart is full of gratitude every time I look at the diploma hanging on the wall of my office and know that it took a village to get me through school. Thank you, one and all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Lesson Learned

My senior year started out just like most everyone else's. Groups of kids gathered in front of the school, comparing schedules and summer adventures. I had spent a good deal of the summer with my brother and his family in Colorado Springs, so I had lots to tell.

The fall progressed with Marching Band and and parades and football games and play practice. I loved working on the sets for our fall production in Drama Class. I was in Chorus and Mixed Ensemble. I was active in church and our Youth Choir. We were all looking at college possibilities and I made a decision and was accepted at Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri. One of my dearest friends was going to go with me and we were very excited at the thought of going away to college together.

Fall moved to winter and Christmas break. I knew that my Daddy was talking to a church in the Colorado Springs area, and I thought how fun it might be to live there permanently. I loved the mountains and I already knew people there. We drove up to my Grandparents' house for Christmas and my folks flew out to Colorado Springs for Daddy to talk to the pulpit committee and preach in view of a call. It all seemed like a big adventure to me.

Until...the church called Daddy and he accepted the call. And we had to pack up and move at the semester break of my senior year. I was quite torn. What about Southwest Baptist College? What about graduating with my class? What about concerts and basketball games and more plays and assemblies?

What about them? Some dear adult friends went and begged my parents to let me stay with them and finish the year. They promised to supervise me and take good care of me. I'm sure they would have. Secretly, I was hoping that my folks would say it was okay. Outwardly, I was following the party line.

My folks did not agree. You see, they believed that the family unit was more important than the individual child. We were going as a family. Mollianne would adjust and be okay. They were the original 'No Child Left Behind' kind of people.

Our semester wasn't over until mid-January, and I went to school until the last day of the 1st semester. I checked out, turned in my books and walked through the halls one last time. I was no longer a Kennett Indian. Things would go on without me. I was going from a class of about 160 people to a class of 575! Lots of things were going to change for me in a big hurry.

Before I left the building, I snuck into the auditorium and sat in the dark. I tried to remember all the opening assemblies, Homecoming assemblies, MOD assemblies and concerts I'd participated in during my years at KHS. I wanted to drink it all in.

I drove my car home and helped Mother pack. We really had fun packing up things, throwing things away, donating things to the needy in our community. I learned a lot from my Mother about packing and moving (and that came in handy when I married and became a military wife). She told me all about the new house and people she'd met at the new church. We packed the cars, the trailer and the big U-Haul truck. It seems we went to dinner at the home of everyone we knew in Kennett, Missouri. My friends had a surprise going away party for me and all promised to keep in touch. We went to the last Sunday services and to the going away fellowship.

Then, we got in those packed up cars and started driving in a caravan. We drove as far as my Grandparents' house and we spent the night there. The next morning, we headed west. I made a sign and put it in my back window that said, "Pikes Peak or Bust". Driving across Kansas in January was quite an adventure. I was in my car-all alone-for the entire drive. My car was packed to the point that even the front passenger seat was full. I listened to my radio, sang my favorite songs and drove all the way to our new home.

I learned many lessons from my parents as I grew up. One of the most important, I think, was the lesson I learned about family. Occasionally, I wonder what life would have been like for me had they left me to finish my senior year with my class. Would things be different for me now? Would my life have taken a different path? Those questions don't matter, because I didn't stay. I went as a part of my family. To a new home, church, school, state and a whole new life. We went together. And you know what? It was okay. I was lonesome for things back home, but I made new friends. And I have kept up with the old ones all these years.

In the early years of my marriage to an Air Force officer, I watched many families stay behind while Dad went on to a new assignment so the children could finish the school year where they were. We never did. Because of the example set by my parents, my husband and I felt that the family unit was more important than friends or school years or school systems or even church families. There was never a question about staying behind. We moved as a family, every time. No exceptions. My children moved mid-year several times, and always made new friends and settled in to their new classes and church with relative ease.

Recently, there was a chance that my husband would be moving to Florida for a year to work on a contract at Kennedy Space Flight Center. Many, many people were shocked when I said that yes, I was planning on moving with him if they won the contract. I was surprised at my peers who said that there was no way they'd leave their grown up children and grandchildren for a year. I would smile and say that our family is different. Molli sleeps where Ed sleeps was my answer. I'd have missed my daughter and her family, but for me...the family unit-which now consists of Ed and Mollianne- is more important than any one member (or multiple grandchildren) of our extended family.

Yep! I learned many lessons my senior year...none more valuable to me than the lesson my parents taught me by their words and actions about the importance of family.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed

The year was 1973 and I was sixteen. Sweet Sixteen and never been kissed, as the saying went. I would have happily changed that status, but alas...I had no offers for that long awaited first kiss. As long as I could remember, my parents told me that I could date when I was 16. I still don't understand that arbitrary number, but that was the edict and my parents meant it.

I actually was asked out a few times when I was 15, but I had to turn those opportunities down, because I hadn't achieved the magic age. I remember quietly crying bitter tears into my pillow when that happened. I was afraid that nobody would ever ask me out again.

So, imagine how I anticipated that magic number. Sixteen! I could have cared less about driving... I wanted to go on a date. I had this whole Barbie idea of what dating would be. I might have even envisioned a poodle skirt and soda shop, although nobody wore poodle skirts and there wasn't a soda shop in town. I just knew that on my 16th birthday, the phone would ring and I would hear that question that would make me feel beautiful and worthy and whole..."Mollianne, would you like to go on a date this Saturday night?"

May 20 dawned and I woke up eager to greet the day. It was a Sunday, so we were busy that morning with church. I went out 'riding' with my best friend that afternoon. She was already 16 and we were going on an adventure. It turned out to be quite an adventure when she had car trouble and we were out riding on county roads. Thankfully, a nice man got her car going again and she dropped me off at home, just in time to get ready for Baccalaureate that evening. None of the churches in town had Sunday evening services that night, as everyone gathered in the sweltering gym to honor the graduating seniors.

When the service was over, I found my Mother and asked if I could walk home. I was beginning to think that I probably wasn't going to get that magic phone call and I was so disappointed. I hung my head and drug my feet toward home in the twilight, pulling my heart behind me in the dust.

I look back on that sweet and very innocent 16 year old girl with a heart full of love and tenderness. Such expectations of what life was going to be. So many wonderful and lofty dreams. She wanted so badly to be loved by just one perfect male, and yet she was unprepared for that sort of a relationship. If I could walk home with her, I would tell her to be patient and not waste her time waiting for the things that would come in due season. I would brush the hair from her eyes and promise her that she would have everything she longed for, but I would warn her that those things would come with a price. I would tell her to pick up her heart and hold her head high. I would tell her not to ever let her self esteem be tied up in another person (oh, the agony that would have prevented).

As I came up the alley to my house, I noticed that the lights were blazing. I came in the door and my Mom asked me to go get something in the living room. When I went turned the corner, the room was full of people. My Mother had organized a surprise party for me. I had played into her hands beautifully by feeling sorry for myself and walking home alone. There were all these shining faces, singing Happy Birthday to me and wishing me well and somehow, I felt just a bit better about being Sweet Sixteen and Never Been kissed.

I DID get that first kiss on New Year's Eve at a party when my family was out of town, visiting friends. I wish I could tell you the name of the boy who kissed me. I remember a lot about it. I remember that "American Pie" was playing and it was almost midnight. I remember that it was very sweet, although I'm sure sweet wasn't that he (whatever his name was) was aiming at. I remember that I liked it. I liked it a lot. I remember that I was probably 4 inches taller when I woke up the next morning. I remember thinking I'd slain a giant, because I'd finally gotten my first kiss.

I still hadn't been asked on a date, but I had been kissed!

Oh, and about the dreams that sixteen year old Mollianne held so dear...
Fifty-three year old Mollianne can say, with tears of wonder in my eyes, that they have all come true. Those dreams and so many more. Some of them were made possible by having my heart broken. Many of them came true because I worked hard to make them happen. All of them are great blessings in my life. The song that says; God bless the broken road that led me straight to you-could be my theme song. My road has been broken and I have lived through things that a sixteen year old couldn't fathom, but God has been faithful through it all and blessed me abundantly. And I am ever so grateful.