Nan Reinhardt, Author

Grown-up love stories, because we're never too old for a little sexy romance…

Happy Birthday, Mom

May13

May 13 Nan_Momis my mother’s birthday. If she’d lived, she’d be 88 years old today, but she died when she was only 60. I can’t even imagine Mom at 88 years old, although I can promise you, she’d be a totally unique 88-year-old. Picture dangly earrings, a long gypsy skirt, and a full-sleeved, colorful gauzy top. You see, Mom was born about 25 years too early. She should have been a hippie–she would’ve been great at it. I can so imagine her in Haight-Ashbury in the late ’60s, weaving daisies into her hair, dancing with bracelets and anklets jingling, and wishing peace and love to tourists and passersby–the ultimate flower child.

But she was born in 1927–a lost soul in her late teens in post-WWII America, when soldiers were coming home to their GI housing and women were expected to be housewives and mothers. She did that life because it was what was expected of her, but she never really fit in. Her ideas were too liberal, she could be outrageous, and she loved shocking people. She was a free spirit who didn’t fit the mold that had been made for her and that disappointed hell out of my grandmother and my father. I remember my dad telling the story of coming home from work one day, expecting dinner to be on the table, the house to be neat and tidy, and us kids all scrubbed and ready for Daddy. Instead, the house was in disarray and supper wasn’t even started. Mom had pulled out the sofa bed and had all four us snuggled together while she read aloud to us. Dad was furious and Mom truly couldn’t understand what his problem was. He stormed out, and although I don’t personally remember the incident, I’m guessing Mom gave us kids a shrug and that inimitable grin and continued reading.

Not long after that, my dad left us, mostly, I think, because Mom just couldn’t be the woman he wanted her to be and he couldn’t accept who she actually was. Once he was gone, she began working full time and going to nursing school full time–God only knows when the woman slept. I kinda think maybe she didn’t sleep for over two years. Money was scarce and I know now how worried she always was about keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. My grandparents helped out as they could, but Mother shouldered the biggest part of the burden of four young children and a husband who’d gone AWOL.

Yet, I don’t remember ever being afraid or worried–life was safe and secure. I thought everyone had pancakes or eggs for supper a couple of nights a week. Sunday night suppers were always grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup–I thought it was tradition. It never occurred to me it was economy. I wore my sisters’ hand-me-downs that my Aunt Alice carefully altered to fit, and I felt very grown-up. And didn’t everyone’s Grandpa show up a couple of times a week with a bag of groceries? Housecleaning fell to us kids, and we did chores while Mom was at work or school. It was simply our life, nothing out of the ordinary.

Mom studied on weekends–I have a vivid memory of PJ quizzing her on anatomy while I read, curled up next to my mother on the sofa, squeezing close to her to avoid the place with the broken spring. I was amazed that she got almost every answer right. Today, I’m even more amazed–how did she do it? Study, work full time, take care of four children, and attend classes to get her nursing degree in just two years. I’m an empty-Nester, and yet as I try to fit editing gigs, caring for two houses, helping with yard work, the gym, meal planning, and writing into one week, I’m in awe of Mom’s drive and determination.

We never went hungry, we were dressed in clean clothes, homework got checked, and she always made time if one of us needed to talk. What she didn’t make time for was arguing among ourselves–“Ten minutes to pout and then you work it out” was her rule. I realize now that she didn’t have time or energy for kid drama and temper tantrums. Can we blame her?

charlie's b-day 057I miss my mom. To me, she’ll always be that zany, slightly off-center lady who was up for any new adventure. Perhaps that would have changed about her had she had the opportunity to grow older. But I like to believe she’d have been the 88-year-old woman who danced on a beach in the moonlight. I hope I’m becoming more like her in that way—freer of spirit… bolder. Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you so much. I hope you and Kate are up there in heaven, dancing together in the moonlight.

 

It’s Real…

May11

So many times since December 19, I’ve thought, okay, now it’s real. Kate is dead. Seeing her just moments after she passed—my precious sister so peaceful and beautiful—was one of those moments obviously. Talking to my brother that same day and feeling the pain of his grief over losing our sister—that surely made it real. Not spending Christmas Eve with her was another. Her memorial service was a real big one—yeah, that was “it’s real” time, absolutely.

But in between those kinds of moments are the ones where I can pretend that none of this ever happened. Kate never got sick, cancer didn’t destroy her. She’s at work, keeping Dr. Matt in line, and I can text her or fly by her office for a quick hug and hello when I go up to see Dr. Abby on Thursday. PJ and I can meet her for lunch at Bravo’s next week, where Kate and I will order that wonderful Riesling they have and eat too much bread. She’ll get the chicken and pasta she loves and I’ll have a chopped salad and probably some more bread. She’ll call me on her way home from work and bitch about the traffic and we’ll share news while she goes five miles per hour on the highway.

Then yesterday, there was this. kathisgrave1It showed up on Facebook  as I was cruising through my news feed on the drive home from the lake. I must have gasped or something because Husband asked, “What?” and for a couple of minutes, I couldn’t even breathe. The words, “Kate’s gravestone is set” stuck in my throat and a heavy weight settled onto my heart.

kathisgrave2Holy shit–my sister’s got a gravestone… in a cemetery. And here’s the weirdest part, that grave is right next to my father’s grave. Now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had that knowledge tucked away—that Kate and Ev had purchased plots in the same cemetery where our dad was buried. But, it was very… I don’t know, disconcerting? To see them side-by-side because Dad’s dead and has been for over fifteen years. Kate’s not in the same category in my brain. Does that even make sense?

We haven’t had the committal ceremony yet where we bury Kate’s ashes next to our dad’s and say our final and forever goodbyes. We were waiting on the marker and on warmer spring weather. Well, the marker’s here and so is spring, so I guess we have that service coming along soon. There were other pictures in my niece’s Facebook album—Kate’s kids and grandkids and Ev all surrounding the new grave site, the sun shining, the grass lush and verdant, the yellow flowers that were just what Kate would love. Under no circumstances am I disrespecting my niece for putting the pictures up—they’re beautiful and they record the day for her and her kids and grandkids, who were all there to see their Nana’s final resting place. She had no way of knowing that seeing the pictures would blindside me, and I would never have expected her to know. She’s precious and is working through her grief in her own way, as I am in mine. I pray for her peace every single day.

KathiBut here’s the thing… and then I’ll stop, I promise (well, at least for this post); I’m not ready for that to be the picture in my head of Kate because this is still the picture in my head when I think of my sister. Right now, I can’t make both of them fit in my brain… in my heart. I don’t want to…

Mother’s Day

May10

I’m not a giant fan of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or really, anyone day–only because I’m not convinced we need a special day to celebrate Moms or Dads or Grandparents. We should be celebrating family everyday. and with our actions and words, not with gifts/cards that seem to benefit only big business. But, I’m also not curmudgeonly about people who do celebrate these days. I’m very happy to wish all my friends who are moms a wonderful day. So, Happy Mother’s Day!

MomIn fact, to honor my own mom, here’s a post from a couple of years ago–entitled “Mom’s Way.” It’s about my mom… and me… and how often I see her in me.

I was just in the kitchen putting baked bean together and it occurred to me how much of my Mom’s way of doing things I’ve brought to my own adulthood. Like, for instance, baked beans. Mother was always horrified at the idea of dumping a can of baked beans into a pot and warming it up right from the can. Instead, she drained the beans, put them in a casserole dish, added barbecue sauce, mustard, a chopped onion, and brown sugar. Then she placed two strips of bacon across the top in an X and put them in the oven. She baked them until they were dry enough that when you spooned them up, they didn’t drip. I can smell those beans right now because that’s exactly what I just did a few minutes ago, and the scent of brown sugar and bacon and tomato-y bean deliciousness is filling my house as I write.

When I iron shirts, I start with the collars and sleeves because that’s the way Mom did it. When I make iced tea, I use four Constant Comment tea bags and four regular tea bags—guess where I learned that little trick. Mom. I make boiling water pie crust rather than ice water pie crust because that’s what Mom did and it’s much better that way. And Mom always poured milk over hot cereal, so when I got married and realized that my husband didn’t use milk on oatmeal, my first thought was, “how weird.” Because wasn’t Mom’s way the right way to eat oatmeal?

But, it’s not just household things that I brought from Mom, I also brought some of my parenting stuff—like reading aloud to my son practically from the day he was conceived until well after he learned to read himself, and teaching him to play Scrabble almost before he learned the alphabet. Hey, it’s a great way to learn to spell, right? Mom always made us try three bites of anything new on our plate—my kid had to do the same. When he was irritated or frustrated or just plain pissed, I’d send him to his room for ten minutes of pouting, then he had to talk it out. It was Mom’s best technique for keeping four kids from each others’ throats, and it kept my only child from becoming distant and closed up.

Some of  my own pleasure preferences were also hers. I’m a huge fan of board game. So was Mom. I’d rather be on Lake Michigan than almost anywhere else on the planet—that love of the lake is from Mom. And along with that, give me a lake to swim in over a pool any day—Mom taught all of us to swim in Lake Michigan. Also, she could sing all the lyrics to every musical ever produced on Broadway from 1949 to 1979.  I’m embarrassed to confess, so can I. Camelot, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Music Man–name a musical and I’ll sing you a song from it. You’ll be sorry because I can’t sing worth a damn, but by god, I know all the lyrics.

In some ways I’m not at all like her—I’m not very outspoken, I’m not very bold, but I’m trying. I’m more tightly wound and need more structure in my life. I’m a much better money manager. And I don’t have the frustrating ability to make the most unreasonable thing sound perfectly reasonable. I can’t tell you how many times I walked away after trying to best her in an argument and realized, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” I can almost see her smirking now…

Several years ago, I would have been appalled if someone had said to me, “Wow, you remind me so much of your mother.” I didn’t want to be like her because she was different and different scared me. But now, every so often, I look in a mirror and there she is…and you know , it’s not so bad…in fact, it’s kind of comforting.

 

Thursday at the Lake

May7

Yeah, we’re at the lake–and you know, it’s amazing how much more relaxed I am here, how much more relaxed we both are here. I woke up early and we had a leisurely breakfast and then I went to the grocery since we got in too late last night to hit the store. I took my time and wandered some, mostly to get in steps, but also because I felt no urgency.

And that’s the beauty of the lake–no urgency. Seriously. we are so laid back here. We did some yard work and Husband painted the deck, which really needed to be done, but he took it slow and easy. Our neighbor, Kevin, stopped by for a chat and we just slowly worked–me pulling weeds and Husband painting–while we visited. Kevin didn’t expect us to stop our work and we didn’t expect him to go and leave us to it. We simply worked and visited and it was nice.

IMG_7568I drove the golf cart for the first time this season as we took my buckets of weeds up to the compost heap. The deck looks great, the gardens look good, and I’m ready to go buy my plants for up here. After we dropped off the weeds, we went down to the lake and I stuck my hand in–it actually felt pretty warm, but I know that’s just the first few inches. I’m sure the deeper you go, the colder it is! But I can’t wait to swim, so I hope it warms up quickly. Summer means lake swimming and boating and wine on the newly painted deck.

We had a very enjoyable beer-30 with the gang, but I got teary talking about Kate with one of the other women who’s brother is going through a health crisis. But, you know, this time I just let it be what it was. I lost my sister–it’s sad and it’s okay to be sad when I talk about that loss. People were kind and patient–they’re my friends. I got through the discussion and we moved onto other topics. I appreciated so much how the sorrow became simply a part of the buffet of conversation–it made it easier to move off the teary moment.

Tomorrow is a writing day–I’ve got notes for the new book that need to become actual words in the manuscript, as well as notes for another book. I have an idea for a Women of Willow Bay Christmas story–maybe a novella or maybe a full novel. Either way, it’s already intriguing me to the point that it may happen before Sarah’s book gets done. In two weeks, I’ll be on retreat with a small group of my favorite writer pals, so I’ll be able to hash it out with them.

Five Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. Our lake cottage–it is a dream come true
  2. Our lake friends–good caring folks who are fun!
  3. Getting some chores done
  4. Got to talk to Son and Grandboy tonight–love it when that little voice says, “Hi, Nanny!”
  5. Took a great class from Alastair Stephens at StoryWonk–super information and a fun class! If you’re a writer and you’re not listening to StoryWonk podcasts, you should be!

Still Here…

May3

…and I think what I learned from the 30 Days of Blogging is that I’m not really in search of clarity at all–I’m looking for relief from the sorrow, respite from the often-overwhelming sad of losing Kate. I’m wishing that writing might make the tears less imminent and the lump in my throat easier to swallow.

I guess that has happened to some small extent, but I’m still teary when I speak of her or when I see something that makes me think of her or when people ask me how I’m coping. The good news is I am coping. Life is going on. I’m working, I’m writing, I’m lunching with friends, I’m going to the gym with PJ, I’m doing yard work and housework and laundry, and going to the lake. Life is going on. I can’t decide what surprises me more–that life does indeed go on much as before–the bills still have to paid, the bathrooms still need scrubbing, and the dishes won’t magically do themselves just because I’ve endured a tragedy. Or how very much losing Kate has affected me.

IM001910Why am I surprised by the level of sadness that I feel at Kate’s death? Because it was so fast and unexpected? Because Kate and I didn’t live in each other pockets when she was alive and well? Because frequently, we went for a week or longer without even talking on the phone? All those things, I guess, but I think the biggest reason is that Kate is my sister, and I feel like a piece of me went with her. Kate is one of a few people in the world who knew my history, who shared my childhood intimately, who could say, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” when I’d bring up some long-ago memory. There are very few people left in my life that I shared my childhood with–PJ, Bud… well, PJ and Bud.

Even Husband, with whom I’ve shared over 43 years doesn’t have that connection to my past. He doesn’t remember Mom gathering us all on her bed to read Anne of Green Gables to us. He wasn’t there when Nana and Gacky arrived on Christmas mornings with their arms full of gifts for four squirmy excited kids. He’s never tasted Mom’s amazing crumb coffeecake or her homemade pork and beans or her mashed potato doughnuts. He didn’t get to share beach campfires in Michigan and s’mores in the sand and Mom, again, reading to us by firelight.

I don’t want those reminiscences to ever dissolve and I’m afraid they might, because Kate was one of the keepers of the family memories and she’s not here anymore. So, it’s important for me to talk about and write about those old days–now I get why older people do that so much. If we don’t talk, if we don’t remember and share, then those times will be lost forever.

Nan In Search of Clarity–Day 30

May1

IM000883Well, how typical! My last blog in this adventure and I’m 42 minutes late with it. Are we even surprised? Although, I actually have a good reason for not getting here until 12:42–I was writing. A scene for the new WOWB book has been nudging me and I just needed to get it down, so I started writing right after I talked to Husband around ten p.m. or so and just closed the file on 3,769 words. It felt good–damn good!

Today’s picture is from 2005, when Son got his Master’s degree. We had a party for him and Kate was there–this is her with our niece’s little boy. Isn’t that a great smile? Kate sure loved babies… they always made her smile.

I saw my gorgeous cousin, Kay, for lunch today and what a treat! It was emotional and weepy, but Kay and I are Meehans and Irish, so we cry a lot anyway. She is beautiful–her heart just shines out of her face. She told me how much she loved my books and how she’s telling all her friends about them. Isn’t that just the best? She came into my life just a few years ago–we didn’t grow up together, but how I wish we had! I think Kay would have been an excellent childhood playmate, although frankly, she’s a darn good friend to do things with now! She’s been a blessing. We talked about Kate–Kay had been to visit about a week before Kate died, but had to miss the memorial service because she was having knee surgery. So with a lot of tears, I told her all about it and about how I got to be with Kate right before she died. It was good to talk about it, and I know that one day, I might be able to do it without crying. But you know, even if I never can, who cares?

I think maybe the blogging has helped me–not fixed the sad or the weepiness, but helped me to see that this is just the natural order of things. Crying and missing Kate so bad I ache are simply part of the grieving process–something I was kicking and screaming against since December 19. I realize now I need to let myself feel all the stuff I’m feeling. I need to cry and howl like a baby if I want to because that’s what Kate would be doing if she the one left here on Earth. So get ready–I’m probably not done blogging or crying or howling… or being grateful… thanks to all of you who took time out of your day to read this. I’ll be here… maybe not every day, but more regularly, I think… I hope to see you as I continue this journey.

Five Things I’m Grateful For Today:

  1. I actually managed to blog for 30 days in a row.
  2. I have good supportive friends and family.
  3. Grandboy took Poppy to school today for show-and-tell. (“Look! I have Poppy!” he announced, upon entering the classroom with Poppy in tow. Lord, that kid’s cute!)
  4. Husband and Son are getting things done and enjoying one another.
  5. I’m writing!

Nan In Search of Clarity–Day 29

April30

Two more days of this… experiment… this commitment… whatever this is. Mostly it’s been me rambling, trying to figure out how to make it better. But you know, it’s probably not going to be all better right now–although each day, it’s a little bit easier. Maybe…

Today, I worked and it was good. I can fall into a project and stay there and forget that life is different now, that it will always be different because Kate isn’t here anymore. I love working… even when projects are tough and frustrating, I still love to work. It’s that whole fixing thing–I’m a fixer. I like fixing things.

kathi memorial 2You know, it’s funny. Many years ago, when Kate was going through her divorce and her kids were little and her life was askew, I  remember thinking that if she would only listen to me and did what I told her, her life would be all fixed up. I know now that Kate would always do things her own way, even if it meant the people who loved her believed that that her choices were going to lead to a train wreck. Sometimes they did, but don’t we all make train-wreck choices? When we were younger, I thought I was much smarter than I actually was. Go figure…

It’s funny, isn’t it? How clearly you can see other people’s mistakes, how you think you can show them exactly how to fix their bad choices, how the path for others is so obvious, but even when you look in mirror, you can’t see your own mistakes as plainly as you can see others’?  I wish that I’d been more of a help to Kate back then, less judgmental, more supportive… a better sister.

Five Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. Safe landings–thank you ACC for the prayers and angel wings.
  2. Work that’s interesting and fun
  3. Roasted cauliflower
  4. Sisterhood
  5. Good friends who support me in my writing–thanks for the Likes on my FB Author page, mes amies!

Nan In Search of Clarity–Day 28

April29

IMG_0188Another good day–how lovely that they’re more frequent and I kinda think that writing is helping that happen. Another thing that’s happening is that the people in my head are talking to me again. Ideas are spinning round and I’m plotting and dialoguing and building characters. I’m in Discovery–which, according to my wondrous editor Lani involves not just thinking about my book, but also absorbing narrative with books and movies and TV.

I didn’t do a soundtrack for my last book, but this one, I think, needs a soundtrack, so I’ve started listening to music on my iPod and figuring out which songs will work for this story. And I’m going to do something I’ve never done for a book before–I’m going to find pictures of people who fit the characters in my head. Usually, I have a face in my head and rarely do they look like an actor or a person who’s famous. Sometimes they are people I know or amalgamations of people I know, but mostly they’re just characters from my imagination. This will be different for me.

It’s been good for me to be outside and working in the yard–very satisfying to see the results of our hard work and it made me anxious to go to the nursery and start buying herbs and plants. Yard work is a good time to write in my mind–I can do the work with my hands but be elsewhere in my head… not at all a bad thing…

Five Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. A sweet text from PJ–she read yesterday’s blog and needed to remind me that I’m a good sister. Thanks, PJ! I love you!
  2. Love working on a test for a new client.
  3. The backyard is cleaned up and ready for spring planting!
  4. Got to see Grandboy and Son tonight on Skype!
  5. Watched the new episode of Outlander this afternoon after yard work–what an amazing series!

 

Nan In Search of Clarity–Day 27

April27

I woke up this morning very early and watched the sun rise from my bed. I was thinking about what a good time PJ and I had yesterday sharing church and lunch and then attending the Stuart McLean show together. It was a good sister day.

I want so much to be the sister that PJ deserves because PJ is a good woman who should always have people in her life who love her and take care of her. She’s had some tragedy in her life with the loss of her precious boy and now, our Kate. She and Kate shared an especially close relationship–they were “the big kids” and Bud, my brother and I were “the little kids.” I don’t think Mom meant to divide us that way, it just sorta happened like that by virtue of our birth order, I guess.

sistersBut the division occurred nonetheless, and although I loved my sisters and still love them dearly, I always felt on the outside of their relationship–like a child outside in the cold with her nose pressed against the window of a warm house. They both would be so sad to know that I felt that way and most likely Kate would be the first to give me a tap on the back of the head and tell me to “snap out of it!” So this isn’t their problem at all, it’s mine. They never excluded me. They were simply a unit–“the big kids”–“PJ and Kate,” like salt and pepper. I regret not spending more time with Kate, but our lives were so different for such a long time, and now…well… now all I can do is be a better sister for PJ.

mowerFive Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. Gardens in front are ready for spring.
  2. I got a call from a new client today–so excited to test for them!
  3. Trip to Costco meant a new coffeemaker.
  4. Talked to Grandboy, who told me he sang a song and jumped on the carpet at school.
  5. Husband is really getting a kick out his new mower. Fun!

Nan In Search of Clarity–Day 26

April26

I’m early today because it’s been a good day, so I’m posting this now and then I’m going to spend the evening cuddling with Husband on the sofa and… well… elsewhere later on. Hey, I’m a romance novelist–it’s my privilege to be a little racy now and again, right?

We went to church and I only cried a little. Honestly, the folks in that dear congregation are going to think my eyes are permanently damp and red-rimmed. But you know, it was better this Sunday. No big overwhelming choking feeling in my throat, no deep ache in my heart. Just a little sadness that Kate wasn’t sitting beside me in the pew and some regret that I balked so much at becoming a part of this wonderful church family for such a long time. They were a blessing to Kate and her family, and already, they’re a blessing to us… to me.

Then Sister and I took the guys and went downtown to see Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe radio show. So delightful! He’s a storyteller extraordinaire and you know how I love storytellers! His musical guests were a group called Birds of Chicago and they were amazing! The last song they sang had PJ and I kinda misty and nudging one another because it was all about living in the here and now–something we both need to be reminded of right now. I’m linking you to the YouTube video of that song. Go to their website and buy their music. What a blessed afternoon!

« Older Entries

Nan Reinhardt blogs regularly about writing, editing, romance, and family. Talk to her, or follow her on Twitter.


 
 

 
Get your e-book signed by Nan Reinhardt

Archives