Geneva and Doris – My Two Moms and One Heartbreaking Day!

I was born in 1959 to Doris Woodward, and she’s the best Mom ever! Mom did everything for my sister and me as we grew up, exposing us to everything she could on her Government salary while raising us in our grandparents home in D.C. as a single Mom. I had been in every Smithsonian Museum by the time I was 10, and we went there often, which was such a treat to experience all the wonderful treasures they held. My love of museums and all they contained inspired me to travel the world, which Tim and I did our best to accomplish. Mom was also a stickler for education and inspired my love of learning something new every day. My Mom was everything to me! I loved our long talks and us just hanging out. She supported me in every single thing I was involved in growing up. I remember her riding three Metrobuses to Girl Scout events since we didn’t have a car. She never let lack of transportation get in the way of my activities. At the time I never understood what a sacrifice that was for her. By 2006 after Mom’s dementia diagnosis, our conversations that I cherished slowly came to an end and it was devastating. Our relationship was reduced to me doing all the talking and making all of the decisions.

Fast forward forty-nine years to June of 2008. I was working and attending a very special event at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill honoring Paul Abernathy’s 30 years of ministry as an Episcopal priest, 20 years in the Diocese of Washington and 10 years as Rector of St. Mark’s. That night I met my second Mom, Pontheolla’s mother Geneva Watkins. As I said in my book, I was immediately “powerfully drawn to Geneva”. We hit it off right away. As the weekend events continued, I followed Geneva everywhere. It was like I was stalking her and I didn’t know why. We talked and talked and talked. It was the best feeling ever! The next day  I apologized to Pontheolla for “monopolizing” her Mom. She said she’d gladly share Geneva with me. Not long after that, I began calling Geneva Mom too. She considered Tim and I her other kids!! This woman was a force of nature!! She was honest and forthright and she loved you with every ounce of energy in her body! When Tim and I stayed with her in SC, she treated us like royalty! We shared many holidays with Geneva, Paul and Pontheolla. Thanksgivings were the BEST with so much food and fun!! When Tim died, Geneva took his death incredibly hard. We talked even more after he died so she could ensure I was ok. She left me several voicemails over the last few months just to say how much she loved me.

Almost a month ago, her cancer returned and I got this really sinking feeling. After giving a speech in Roanoke, VA I got the message that Geneva wasn’t doing well. Instead of going home I drove the 4 hours to SC and spent almost two full days with her in intensive care. It was so hard for me to go inside a hospital for the first time after Tim’s death, but because I’d do anything for Geneva, I pushed myself. I’m grateful that I got to say as many times as I could during that stay how much I loved her and how much I appreciate all she’d done for my life especially giving me the opportunity to talk about whatever I wanted, any time I wanted. I didn’t realize it right away, but Geneva helped me to grieve what I had lost with my biological mother. I’m beyond grateful. This last 8 years wouldn’t have been nearly as smooth for me without having Geneva as an emotional outlet. This morning that all ended when Geneva died. Though I knew it was coming it hurt like Hell. She had fought so hard! It feels as if I’ve known Geneva all my life – because she made me feel like a special member of the family! Geneva taught me that grieving in advance for my Mom was just fine, and now I grieve in real time for her. I cried at my desk several times today, but tried to work as best I could.

Later this afternoon I was notified by both lead caregiver Angelina and the police that my Mom had wandered away from the group home and had been missing for almost an hour. What????? I immediately started to cry and thinking the worst – when I had thought this day couldn’t get any worse! My Mom hasn’t known my name for almost three years, but when two earthly angels asked her for her kids names she gave them the name Loretta. When they asked her if I was her daughter, she said “maybe”. From there the Angel Tiffany Goggled me and found the Washington Post article Kristen Hartke wrote about me and Mom last July. She then looked me up on Facebook and actually found me! The police came after Tiffany called them and returned Mom to the group home since they had reported her missing. The story is beyond incredible and I’m so grateful!

We typically only get one Mom in our lives, but I was fortunate enough to have two. For me, when my Mom Doris could no longer have conversations or make decisions, my Mom Geneva was there whenever I needed her! Today we lost Geneva, and could easily have lost Mom too. I can’t help but think that Tim and Geneva helped steer Mom towards those earthly angels in Fort Washington before she got hurt (or worse)! Thank you Geneva, for being such a loving and caring soul, and for adding much more meaning to the word “family” to my life. I know I have the love and patience I need for helping Mom be as happy and content as she can be for the rest of her life, but I also have Geneva’s amazing spirit to guide me on the tough days that I know are coming. I can still hear Geneva calling my name, “Low-Retta” as no one else can, and it’s incredibly comforting for me especially since the only name dementia allows my Mom to call me is “very nice person”! I love you Geneva Watkins, I’m Blessed to have had you in my life, and may you now Rest in Peace!

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Ditching My RV Training Wheels!

I didn’t have far to go for my first trip of the year to get the Rambling Pines Campground in Woodbine, Maryland for the first rally of the season with the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of RVing Women!

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It took me less than 80 minutes to drive there, but I was pretty shaky before I headed out. I hadn’t gotten up as early as I had planned and had to do some invoices and grading before I could leave. I always feel a little nervous heading out, but this time I seemed a little more stressed but didn’t know why. I made it with no problem and as soon as I started the setup process for Memory Maker II (MMII), I noticed a problem. A set of wires were hanging down and had been shredded by the gravel as I parked in the campsite. Just as with my first trip with RVing Women last November, several women came over to greet me as I arrived at my site. I mentioned and showed my frayed wires, and within minutes Laurie had returned with her tool kit to splice the damaged part of the wires and Kathy contributed some wire nuts (whatever they are). And Voila! It was fixed!

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I had been thinking about signing up for a RV Maintenance Course so I can fix my own RV, but that wire event convinced me and Friday night I actually signed up for the course. I can’t wait! If I’m going to be traveling alone, I need to increase my supply of tools, wires and nuts so I can do on the spot repairs too!!

I loved this weekend so much! It was freezing cold and rained all day on Saturday, but we all met in the pavilion for each meal and laughed and played games. These women are genuine, kind and some of the most helpful women I’ve ever met. When I wasn’t with them, I tried to familiarize myself with every inch of MMII. I confirmed what runs on electricity, what runs on propane, and when to use my generator. I made notes, and wrote down questions to ask my RVing friends at the next meal. I began to feel smarter and much more confident. It was so cold Sat afternoon and night and was the perfect weather to try out my new ceramic heater I can use if I ever run out of propane. I then comfortably used my propane for overnight and it used very little propane!

On Sunday at the final breakfast and prior to the group photo, I walked the campground in the cold but sunny weather in quest of my 10,000 steps. I looked at the trees, and the people and listened to the kids playing and the birds singing. All of those things are why I love to camp! The sun, the wind, the scenery, the differences between each of the places I’ve been to are all very spiritual for me. It’s why I love the fact that most of my weekends end on Sunday. Though I miss church when camping, being in nature is church for me. I said prayers on my walk for both my SC family and for the soul of my friend Trish who died on Monday.

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After the group photo which we actually did in one take, everyone headed back to their sites to finish breaking down their campsites to go home. As I walked back to my site, I watched my friends packing up. I believe there were three other women who were camping alone, but most were couples. Watching the couples share the duties of packing up so reminded me of camping with Tim. He always did the outside and I always did the inside. I’m so happy for all of these couples that are together enjoying their travel and I hope they all have many more years together, but I sure do miss these times with Tim. Today again proved to me that Tim was with me. I had trouble disconnecting the water line and got quite wet. The sewer line also challenged me some but I conquered them both! I was wet and muddy, but energized too! I had to go to the campground propane area on the way out to get propane for my tank. I was praying I’d get close enough without running into anything and blowing us all up! But I did it!!!

Inspired by my success in getting my propane tank filled without incident, I decided to get gas on the way home instead of waiting for the next trip! I had to maneuver past some cars and SUVs but was able to pull right up to the pump! Everyone was watching me and nodding in approval at my home on wheels. Now I was on cloud 9 and I decided not to do my usual text to my neighbor to help me park MMII. I was going to do this one on my own! I pulled up past the house and toward my neighbor’s mailbox. Then I backed MMII up and onto the sidewalk and into the extended car port, even parking on the bricks!!! WOO HOO!!! I was soooo excited! Then all of a sudden I was sad and wished I had called my neighbor so he could have seen my success!! I was very proud of myself, BUT I also wanted a congratulatory hug or a high five and no one was there to give me one. I started to cry a little, but then heard Tim’s laughter!! and I heard him say “Look at you!!!! You did it!! Go Girl!!” That was all I needed and I smiled.

Right at that moment my neighbor Ralph walked by and we hugged! His wife Vivian will have been gone one year this coming Wednesday. We talked about Tim and Vivian and how fast time has gone since their deaths. We are both grateful that we can still hear and feel our loved ones and we know they’d be proud of us and all of the accomplishments we’ve made since they’ve been gone. I told Ralph all about RVing Women, how much support I’ve received from them and how they feel like my family already. I didn’t give up at any time this weekend and pushed through every challenge, parked by myself, and even signed up for an RV Maintenance course. I feel like I’ve taken my RV Training Wheels off, and I’m ready for the whatever the Open Road has in store for me! Thanks for all of the RV lessons Tim, you’ve prepared me well for whatever my future holds and I’ll love you always!!

“De-Winterizing” My Life!

The past two days have been Monumental for me. I had the day off yesterday and had scheduled to have Memory Maker II “de-winterized”, the process of draining anti-freeze and other fluids that are inserted at the end of the season to protect the pipes and engine from freezing during the winter.

I arrived at Reines RV Center yesterday morning at 11am, proud of having survived a torrential rainstorm on the way. There was a man sitting in the waiting room and we smiled at each other. If you knew Tim at all, you know that he would strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere at any time. I talk a lot too, but am typically less likely to start a conversation with folks I don’t know. After sitting together for a few minutes, the man asked me if I was buying an RV. I explained that I was getting MMII de-winterized. The man, his wife and their next door neighbors were buying an RV together, having been best friends for almost 40 years. As the other three friends joined us, our conversation quickly involved all five of us, and I shared with them information about Workamping, and RVingWomen. They were so grateful and stunned that Tim had died and that I was continuing on to live out our dreams. As they got ready to take delivery of their RV we exchanged cards, and all hugged as if we’d known each other forever. They thanked me for all the help and advice I had given them. I felt like an “experienced camper” helping the “newbies”!! After my new friends left, another man showed up in the waiting room, a biker who was buying an RV to show his grandkids this country. He and I also had an amazing conversation about National Parks and our love of the outdoors. I was having so much fun! Tim would have been so proud!! What I’m really enjoying about the RV life is that I am meeting people who I’d never meet otherwise, and we are having great conversations that thankfully never involve politics or world views!

After driving home in the rain and through rush hour traffic, I was ready to continue my own de-winterizing process for MMII. Because I always have had trouble navigating MMII into the parking area at my house, I came up with a new strategy I wanted to try. My neighbor liked my idea of backing straight into my driveway, then guiding MMII into its place into the extended portion of the driveway, as opposed to backing up over the sidewalk which was Tim’s way and very intimidating to me. We tried it and it WORKED in one try!!! I got out of MMII and danced around as if I had scored a winning shot! In my mind I had! I had conquered the tough task of parking, my least favorite part of RVing! Tim’s way worked for him but I needed to find a way that worked for me! I was thrilled with my success and I didn’t even mind cheering alone!

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One of my other goals for this weekend was to totally clean the inside, then label all the storage areas inside and outside MMII, and to better familiarize myself with its heating and cooling systems. I printed out labels and taped them to the appropriate storage areas. I tried different sizes and shapes of plastic storage units (some that hold my LEGO bricks) to see where they’d work best in MMII.

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I learned so much and had a great time making MMII and all of its spaces completely my own! And of course there are designated spaces for Kim and Kendal, the other members of the Adventure Girls! I love that my plans are coming together and that I’m feeling much more comfortable being the sole owner of MMII. I know Tim will always be there with me, guiding me from above!

This week got off to a rough and emotional start, but after the last two days, I feel like I’m being “de-winterized” too, draining and flushing a lot of stuff from my old life, and preparing and injecting myself with new stuff and new adventures in my new life as a woman finding her way alone in this world. I’m ready for Spring and Summer and for everything those seasons have in store for me! With so much support from the many people who love me, I know I can’t fail! Much love and thanks to you all!