Saturday, December 24, 2011

Remembering Rose

Last Gifts and Re-gifts
Ode to Rose
A true child of the nineteen sixties,
a free spirit,
the last child of a family of five and
the first to pass to the other side.
Jan 3, 2011

Angelica, Angie, Mary & Rose -
 Bloomington, Indiana - April 2007

In early December 2010 my middle sister Angie asked me to send Christmas gifts to our youngest sister Rose and her family in Bloomington, Indiana. Requested were a pair of size 8 winter boots for 13 year old Wendy, our niece, a warm sweatshirt for Thomas, our 15 year old autistic nephew and of course something for Rose as well as her husband, Will.  Because Angie was ill herself and unable to do what she’d always done so easily, I agreed reluctantly.  My relutance stemed from the fact that year Rose suffered from delusions as a consequence of a brain tumor.  She saw bugs that weren’t there. When she had a car wreck, she claimed it was caused by what she thought were contracts put out on her life to keep her from "Cherokee"  land she’d inherited in eastern Oklahoma. With this in mind, it occurred to me Rose might think whatever I sent was laced with poison or who knows what, thanks to the effects of that nasty brain tumor. Nevertheless, I decided to send Angie’s suggested gifts for them and re-gift a pair of green leather gloves still in the original gift box to Rose. My Irish friend, Siobhan gave me the gloves at Christmas in 2006. I enclosed a $20 bill between the palms of the two gloves and wrote a note to Rose that if the gloves were too small for her (as they’d been for me), to pass them down to Wendy, her daughter. Before it was over, I decided to send everyone in the family of four, inexpensive gloves, figuring they could all use a set, even if not leather.    

Rose & Mary - April 2007 - Bloomington, Indiana

                                    Thomas Swank

Wendy Swank
A few days after the package arrived, on the 16th of December, Rose left me a phone message saying she received the gifts and her brain tumor was bothering her again. She was dreadfully afraid of having the second operation, over 4 years after her first in 2006. The doctors advised her, she could go blind from the surgical procedure or worse yet she might be an invalid. Her husband doesn’t drive due to complications from serving in the Vietnam War. She might even die, which she did Christmas Eve 2010 at 6:25 p.m. at the age of 49 at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Her fear of the second procedure turned out to be well founded when the tumor made an emergency operation inevitable December 20th.

If Angie had not asked me to send Rose and her family Christmas gifts, I probably would not have. This would have been a terrible mistake since it was my last opportunity to send a gift to Rose here on earth. Like the old adage goes, “you always regret what you don’t do.” I sure am glad I don’t have that regret.

The last gift Rose ever sent me was a birthday button when I turned 60 in 2008. The button says, “I’ve survived damn near everything”.  Now that birthday button has an extra special meaning, just like the re-gifted green leather gloves.

Mary Alta Buckingham - January 3, 2011/ Memoir Writing -
                                          December 24, 2011 rewrite

Free Range Christmas Trees

All my life I have been attracted to anything with the price tag of “free” and Christmas trees are no exception. During the 1970s my first husband, Lindy and I use to hunt for the best “free” tree in Cleveland county Oklahoma. The trees we found were too big, too bushy and flat out ugly. We did not begin to have enough decorations to make the tree look right, but the price was right, the tree was FREE.
Mary, me with our FREE Cleveland County Oklahoma Christmas Tree-1972
When I married my Alaska husband Joe in 1982, I truly believed that despite living my Alaska dream, we needed to carry on this tradition of something for nothing. The FREE ugly Christmas tree was part of the picture. Our first Christmas together, Joe and I went south on the Seward Highway to Indian, where this part Cherokee felt right at home. We hiked through the snow to an “open tree cutting area” and found the best free tree to take and decorate. It was a bit scrawny, but in retrospect I think it was much better looking than it’s Oklahoma Christmas tree cousin ten years earlier in 1972. Our live Alaska tree wasn’t perfect.  In some ways it left me wishing we'd put up the one and only fake snow covered tree I ever owned and still do. The 40 inch artificial snow covered tree was bought at B & J Hardware in Anchorage for $16.95 in 1980.  I still have the box that it came in, so I know.  It was purchased in celebration and preparation of my sister Angie's Christmas visit after my near fatal car accident.
These days I have given up on free live trees. I usually settle for several mini metal ones instead. I keep my all time favorite fake snowed covered tree in its box in the crawl space, just in case I get that urge for another Freebie live Christmas tree. It can take its place and this year it did just that.  For the first time in 9 years we put up our old friend, the memory tree.  It waited patiently in its box for us to heal from our adoption fiasco and now is bringing joy to us at Christmas once again.   

old Christmas tree friend
64th birthday - flowers from Angie

Alaska Mary’s Christmas Memoir - December 18, 2012