Grow Dammit

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You’ve heard the adage bloom where you are planted? Well, that sort of rubbed me the wrong way, I started thinking about what kind of growth one should expect in the time of corona, with COVID for soil. And no fertilizer! My dad had a great sign that he staked in his garden, it said Grow Dammit, sums up his aptitude on nurturing to perfection. Now I’m thinking that might be our new motto?

After spending the majority of my quarantined time commingling with my spouse I’m rethinking the rash decision to coalesce my parent’s ashes in a posh urn up at the lake. Glancing up at the bell-shaped ceramic vase, I scan for signs of discontent, but all appears placid and calm as the lake. Anna Quindlen says, “the single most important decision you will have to make is not where to live, or what to do for a living, it’s who you will marry,” and maybe remind your kids unto death do you part?

I jest. Slightly.

The truth is my parents thoroughly enjoyed each others company (I’m sure they are thrilled to be eternally potted together). They did not realize it at the time but living in the shadow of their love story was the best gift they could have given Nancy and me. They built a worthy foundation, and even though I’m as ancient as hell, it continues to inform my life.

I admit I do not run to dab perfume behind my ear, and pinken my lips before Larry walks in the door like Mom did for Dad, but I smile if we’re not in a fight. I’m sure he’s just as charmed.

Don’t think I’m so naive as to think my parent’s marriage was perfect, it was not, and like everyone else, day after day they to had to decide if they would coax the good out each other, or the bad. Some days I think the entire deal pivoted on my Dad’s sense of humor and a decent amount of wine.

If this seems abstract let me solidify my point, every relationship I’ve ever had I hold up to that of my parents, not intentionally, it’s what I know. Larry not only made the cut, he overachieved in my opinion, and I’ll tell you why. He’s steadfast, hardworking, and not prone to gossiping, in fact, he rarely speaks, but that’s beside the point. He’s the one I dare to dream with, laugh until I pee my pants, and even though we fight so fiercely I start googling lawyers on my iPhone, maybe that’s where we Grow Dammit, in the long crawl back to each other. He’s a good man. This for me is the essence of a quality individual, because everyone has the capacity to be wicked, it’s the ones who choose not to that interest me, and he makes great…coffee.

Thinking back on my family of origin helps me identify the origins of some of my most deeply held beliefs.

Family dinner was a standard practice when I was growing up. The four of us ate together almost every night. It was expected and protected, no phone calls, no leaving the table before being excused, and no food left on your plate (even if it was liver). On occasion my Dad used the dining table as a podium and his message was always the same, “if you grow up to be half as smart as your mother you’ll be fine, she’s the smartest person I know, and the best mother.” I remember thinking poor Daddy, he’ll never be as smart as Mom, and we all depend on him?

Dad was a generous provider, but the message he left with us was even more profound, his devotion to my mother was “somewhere between a physical reflex and a neurological response (Anna Quindlen).” I loved that about my Dad.

My parents started their life together in the shadow of the Korean war, the Great Depression, and the end of the Golden Age. A new era of liberalism would replace that of compliance and conformity. Maybe that’s why I’m so confused.

And we’ll build this love from the ground up, now ’til forever it’s all of me, all of you.
Just take my hand and I’ll be the man your dad hoped that I’d be. Smyers and Mooney

Walking down the long aisle of Mission Santa Clara on our wedding day, flanked by both my parents, I could not have imagined the length and breadth of our journey together, those passages I prefer to forget, right next to the unforgettable ones. There were visits to the emergency room for ear infections, stitches, and broken bones, but also skidding into the parking lot, water dripping down my legs, and coming home with a new life. We had absolutely no clue, but we did it anyway, and when the storms came we knew they would eventually run out of rain. Losing jobs, reinventing ourselves, holding the keys to a lake house, all doors in the long corridor of life that we dared to open, as my brother-in-law David Wood was known to say, “it’s all good.”

We still have riveting discussions about politics, novel career paths, risky investments, dinner options, but today most of our conversations go like this:

Are we going to the lake?

I don’t know?

We talked about it yesterday.

I wasn’t listening.

You never listen.

You always say that.

What did we decide?

I can’t remember.

My daughter Kelley and her fiance Tim had to make the heartbreaking decision to reschedule their wedding during this pandemic. We are all feeling their despair and I look forward to the day I can watch her make the long walk down the aisle of marriage. It’s strange how we cleave to our old ways of being in the world, before the virus, the quartine, the mayhem of canceling our lives. Maybe this is how we hold it together when imprisoned by the harsh tactics of a virus, one that terrorizes us with fear, “Stay put, stay inside, stay away from each other.” Yet I’m plagued (couldn’t resist) by the memories of what was once my reality.

The labor of letting go reminds me of childbirth, I remember having to surrender to the contractions, the pain, the pressure of something I created ready to survive on its own, the only thing left for me to do was to push, push a part of myself out into a chaotic world. If you know me at all, you know I resist severing cords, because separation from a beloved way of being means confronting the unknown. How do you unthread an entire vascular system in a few months?

All I can say is thank God I found the “one special person I want to annoy for the rest of my life (Rita Rudner),” and while I’m still certifiably sane, if Larry and I are potted together for all eternity, I want a swanky urn from Bloomingdales? If you’re trying to bloom in the middle of this blasted pandemic, but need a sign, feel free to use Dad’s “Grow dammit.” 

I’m Living in the Gap, holding it together with wine and Cheese-its, wondering if I’m living in a sitcom?

Anecdotes:

  • “Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you’re in the wrong house, that’s what it means.” Henny Youngman
  • “An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Agatha Christie
  • “I love you. I hate you. I like you. I hate you. I love you. I think you’re stupid. I think you’re a loser. I think you’re wonderful. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be with you. I would never date you. I hate you. I love you…..I think the madness started the moment we met and you shook my hand. Did you have a disease or something?” Shannon L. Alder

21 Comments

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  1. Wonderful Cheryl. You know your Mom & Dad were our very best friends ever, (from abut 1960 on) , (— but they had many such as we), So this post is very poignant, and touching to me. The last anecdote is the best! – – that describes life. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Dennis! Nancy and I have such fond memories of all the time we spent with the Gerber clan ~ houseboating, businesses, camping, dinners, and pool parties! How lucky we were to have you all in our lives! So very thankful, love Cheryl

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  2. I enjoyed this very much. It’s reading about how everyone’s life is also going , even through all this that brings comfort and restores hope. Thank you for sharing yours. 😊🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Melissa! It is interesting to read how we’re all managing during these very difficult times. It does give me hope to know we’re all in this together and cheering each other on from a distance! Thanks for the kind words, C

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  3. Wow this was really lovely to read. I read most of it out loud to my “one special person I want to annoy for the rest of my life” and it made us both smile (and call our parents). Thank you for this

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    1. Thank you Emma, I so appreciate your kind words. When I read this post inspired you to call your parents, well that just hit my heart with such warmth, and I admit my eyes let go of a few tears. So grateful for your generous thoughts, C

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  4. I loved this post! It is witty and sentimental at the same time. I read it twice. The line “The labor of letting go reminds me of childbirth…” spoke volumes to me and felt as I understood what you meant.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Loved this post! And the grow dammit motto. I’ve been married for 27 years and I can’t help but laugh at the idea of picking that right person to annoy. It’s so true– we’re both so annoying! Quarantine isn’t making married life any easier. Thanks for the fun read.

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    1. Thank you Ana! So good to know I’m not the only one who found the right one! And I couldn’t agree more, quarantine is complicating an already complicated relationship! So glad to have humored you for a while. Best wishes, C

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  6. Hi Cheryl! Came home after a tough day at work (the masks are getting on my nerves, especially the N95’s!) and needed some uplifting and was greeted by your blog. A beacon of light from the west, it is encouraging to read it every week. Gail subsequently pointed out that it was Nancy’s birthday (I love those pics you posted of the two of you.) I chuckled at your Dad’s sign. “Grow Dammit!” I suspect he called things the way they were. Anyway, after seeing the Grow Dammit sign, we managed to get our garden in. Thanks for the inspiration. Would love to have his help in our weed patch.
    The example provided by your dad on how a marriage should be was great. Glad you and Larry are following his lead. He was also right to make the dinner meal the focal point of family living.
    Thanks again for the wonderful read. Thankful that I ended up with the right person to spend my life with.
    Stay healthy.
    David Wood was right, it is all good.

    Love is a Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike! As always I thoroughly enjoy your insights, connections, and tunes. I saw images of your garden on Facebook the other day and was instantly reminded of our time at the ranch! The size and scope of your little “garden patch” is quite impressive, in fact, Larry and I might be needed for the harvest, or at least to help eat the harvest! What is it about you Missourians? I suppose it has something to do with the fact that you all are the “show me state.” I read somewhere that the name Missouri means, “he of the big canoe.” Sort of telling don’t you think?

      It’s interesting but the older I get the more I appreciate the foundation with which my parents gifted Nancy and me. Family dinners, kindness, respect, but also loyalty, and a cushy place to land when life throws a few curveballs. Not unlike today.

      We’re maintaining our social distances from, staying healthy, missing you guys! Love, Cheryl

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  7. What a touching, sweet, funny story! I’m a little peeved at my husband right now, likely the result of too much time in the house together, and I like your perspective that we might be “growing, dammit!” I hope your daughter can hang in there, I’m sure rescheduling her wedding was devastating, but her beautiful day will come.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I so appreciate your comments “Organizenvy” and I related to the “too much time together,” issue! We’re either growing or groaning damnit! The daughter’s a trooper and she’s been dethroned but remains determined. Her day will come. Thanks again for stopping by Living in the Gap, best wishes, C

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    1. I’m just seeing your comment now Crystal. Thank you for adding your mother’s wisdom, there is indeed a fine line between love and hate! So glad you enjoyed this one, I miss my parents fiercely, and I’m ever so thankful full for their loving legacy. C

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