One Afghan, Many Roles

Ever since I worked at Fordham University, I have aced any trivia question that involves the word “sesquicentennial.” I was fortunate enough to be a Fordham employee when the university celebrated its 150th birthday in 1991. As part of the celebration, we were given commemorative blankets depicting the university.

I wonder who was the first person to touch the threads that became part of these blankets, who wove them into finished products, how many people were part of their journey to the Bronx and into my hands.

I loved my Fordham blanket. It followed me back to Tallahassee after Wayne and I got married and had a prominent place in our living room. It wasn’t just decorative, though; it comforted me through many naps and illnesses.

The Blanket and Dad

At some point during Wayne’s dad’s stay with us over the past three years, the Fordham blanket became his go-to covering as he sat in his chair and watched tv. I can’t say I was especially happy about this turn of events. The latter years for Dad were signified by a serious decline in his personal hygiene habits; at some point the blanket developed a hole in it. I, again, was not happy about this but put the blanket’s downfall into the “it is what it is” category. We had too many other things going on to fret about it.

In the couple of weeks prior to Dad’s move to Hospice House, he started carrying blankets with him from the chair to his bed, security-blanket style. Anything near was fair game. The Fordham blanket especially, but if there was another blanket around, it went too.

About ten days before his move to Hospice House, on a Saturday, Dad sat for lengthy periods of time, pulling individual threads of the Fordham blanket out, obsessively. I’m sure this was a signal of his cognitive decline. The Hospice nurses helped us adjust his anti-anxiety medications, which helped with the obsessiveness a bit, but the blanket was none the better for this episode.

A Final Comfort

When Dad’s condition declined so much (and space available in Hospice House allowed), he was moved there (on June 27). I wasn’t home, but I understand the nurse and social worker encouraged us to send the Fordham blanket with Dad to provide continued security.

Although I didn’t really plan to circulate them, I did take pictures each of the five nights I visited Dad before he passed away, mainly in case family members wanted to see them, as difficult as they were to view.

The Fordham blanket was always front and center, providing comfort. This is an edited picture of my last visit, hours before he passed away.

Life Reflections

I *may* have asked Wayne (husband) more than once to double check that the Fordham blanket made it back to us from Hospice House after Dad died. (We still have a pair of “inherited” sweatpants that came home with Dad after his respite stay there in April — dear family out there looking for the tan sweatpants — we’ll hang onto them for you!)

Earlier in Kiger Family History

As I have been going through old pictures looking for photos of Dad, I ran across a picture from twenty years ago, a different time in the Fordham blanket’s lifecycle with us. It was a time of new beginnings, before Tenley (now 21) was six months old.

Life Reflections

(Oh, the cuteness!)

At six months, Tenley was already going to my in-laws every day. They took care of her until she was two years old. She was thriving. She was loved. My father-in-law and I had relatively diametrically opposed ideas about child care, but at no point was she not cared for with love by two people who were also helping us avoid the financial drain of child care.

Thanks, Jesuits (and Ignatians) for Cura Personalis

As I was looking up a few details about Fordham and the Sesquicentennial Celebration for this post, I ran across the concept of “cura personalis” on the university website.

This is an excerpt of what IgnatianSpiritality.com has to say (but I encourage you to read the entire post):

Little is written about the Ignatian-Jesuit characteristic of cura personalis, which is Latin for “care for the whole person.” Cura personalis comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. As St. Paul reminds us, “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

I can’t say I ever heard the term “cura personalis” during my time at Fordham. (I also must admit I was quite focused on the thrills of Manhattan and the Bronx — I did do my job as Internship Coordinator to the best of my ability and fell in love with Fordham while developing a deeper respect for the Jesuit approach …. but NYC held much of my focus!).

Somehow, though, the idea of cura personalis is a fit for the journey the Fordham blanket has taken, from the time I acquired it in 1991, through my marriage, to the time it lay under my infant, to the time it comforted my father-in-law as he passed from his earthly life.

Where will the blanket end up?

I don’t know where the blanket itself will be 150 years from now. Maybe my great grandchildren will transfer it from home to home, use it for various purposes, reflect back on how “this once belonged to great-grandma Paula.”

My hopes are that, if it survives, it will never be a “hands-off” showpiece, something people don’t touch, but rather something that brings comfort, security, and joy.

Something that does what cura personalis envisions: serving not just the intellect, but the heart, body, and whole person.

Life Reflections

Editor’s note: Yes, I titled this “afghan” and then referred to the item as a blanket throughout. Choose a preference; hopefully the sentiment makes sense either way!

Tell Me About Yourself, Mom

In his post, 10 Questions to Ask Your Mom or Grandma on Mother’s Day, Bob Tiede shared ten questions to help us get to know our moms better. I love the questions but feel shy to ask them of my mom, so I decided to answer them from my perspective; maybe my kids will be interested someday.

1. What are your favorite memories of times you spent with your Grandparents?

I don’t think I would have called them my favorite times when I was a kid, but in retrospect, all the times we spent on my Granny and Pa’s porch (my mom’s parents) shelling peas and just “visiting.”

2. What was your grade school like?  What do you remember about your favorite teacher?

I went to two. Roosevelt Roads Elementary (we were stationed in Puerto Rico in the Navy) for kindergarten through part of second grade, then W.E. Cherry Elementary School once we moved back to Orange Park.

Interviewing Mothers

Thank you to pinner Maria Norman for this picture.

I don’t remember disliking any teachers in elementary school. She wasn’t a teacher but (surprise!) I really loved the library, Mrs. Derbonne.

Interviewing Mothers

My friend and I shared a day visiting my childhood home and elementary school in January.

3. Who was your best friend? And what did the two of you like to do?

Easy peasy. Paula Young (now Jordan). We became friends because we both have the same first name. We ended up in different places for high school, but every visit we pick up precisely where we left off before.

What did we like to do? We were in band, we both enjoyed academics. Otherwise I would say “hanging out.”

She is deeply loyal, terrifically bright, and determined to serve her family and her business well (she does!). I love her.

Interviewing Mothers

Paula and me in August 2016 in New Orleans

4. What kind of things did you do as a kid that got you into trouble at home or school?

For the most part, I was ridiculously compliant. RIDICULOUSLY. My most memorable transgressions:

  1. I didn’t clean my room enough (some things never change)
  2. I got pulled out of English class in the 10th grade and scolded for being too chatty with my cousin, Deneen. I was mortified; she was amused that I was mortified.
  3. There was the time I stole baby Jesus, though.

5. Growing up what did you want to be?

I think my rotation was similar to lots of kids (waitress, teacher, that type of thing). I was on a “missionary” kick for a while (and spent the summer after high school knocking on doors all over St. Lucie County hoping to save souls). But the one that comes closest to being a “regret” is not pursuing something medical.

6. Outside of the family, what was the very first job you had that you got paid for?

Babysitting was first, but the first one that made a huge impression, the one I still think about every day, was being a cashier at Spires IGA.

7. How did you meet Dad? How did he ask you to marry him?

Blind date! We went to the Huey Lewis and the News Concert, a setup arranged by our mutual friend Cherie who has declared herself out of the matchmaker business now that she had one success.

I broke up with him in 1989 and moved to NYC to “take my bite out of the big apple.” Over the almost-three years I was there, we progressively took the steps that led to us deciding to get married. I kept telling him I wasn’t ready. One time, when I had just gotten back to New York, I called him and said yes. He officially gave me my ring on the pier at Lake Butler.

8. What is the hardest thing that you ever had to do in your life?

Along with Dad and Aunt Mary, tell Grandma and Grandpa that Uncle Chuck had committed suicide.

9. What is the greatest compliment that you have ever received?

Someone who had been a little kid when I was a teenager working with the children’s choir at First Baptist friended me on Facebook YEARS LATER. It took me a bit to remember her (new last name, no longer four years old) but once my brain was engaged, she said “you made a difference.” I never knew.

10. What is one thing you still want to do that you have never done?  (What is still on your “Bucket List?”)

I still want to be fluent in Spanish. I am so disappointed in myself that I haven’t made more progress toward that. I want to get out of debt. Go to Europe.

Bonus Question:  If your Mom (Grandma) is a Follower of Jesus, ask:  Is there a story you can share about how you came to be a Follower of Jesus?

For me, my spiritual life has been an evolution from doing what I thought I should do spiritually, to doing what most brings me in Communion with the holy trinity. I am *thrilled* Tenley has a church relationship she loves and have enjoyed going to church with Wayne Kevin. No matter what denominations they choose, first and foremost I hope they make time every week to turn to something bigger about themselves.