The Memoir Coach Blog

Guest Blog by Rosemarie Chesebrough

I am honored to have my wonderful friend share her words with us this week.  Rosemarie is one of those women that when you meet her, you immediately love her.  I think you will enjoy this beautiful piece she wrote.


Unmade beds: Not just a metaphor
Throughout all the years I lived with my mother, she never failed to make her bed.  Even on the rare vacations at a hotel, she made her bed “to help the maid,”  One of her proudest moments was when I was three and made my bed all by myself.
So now that things have reversed and mom moved to sunny California with me, I check the condition of her bed each morning, not as a punishment but as a barometer.
Let me back up.  My mom is  the personification of “cleanliness is next to godliness,” and it was a blight to have a daughter that was her opposite.  Her baby girl had inherited the infuriating mellow sloppiness of her husband.  Over the years, we reached a compromise.  When I visited her, my husband dutifully made our bed every morning, and he received her praise.
Nowadays mom lives with us.  It is a blessing and a challenge.  Every month she adds a new accessory: first, a walker, then a wheelchair, then oxygen 24/7.  Most recently, she has days where her memories jumble, and this is the hardest, most heartbreaking of all to watch. For she worries that her sisters never call her, that she angered them somehow.  She cries for her mother.  How do I tell her that all of these people are gone to heaven, some for many years?  Would that be yet another sorrow, and mourning to lose loved ones yet again?  Even the globe is juxtaposed, and she asks me to drive her back to a place, long torn down, 2,000 miles away.  On those days when the comforter is in a heap, it seems her mind follows suit. Chaos reigns.
Some days are like sunshine.  She is happy and childlike, watching the lizards scamper on the porch, and the lovebirds flirting  on the railing.   On those days, her bed is invariably neat and tidy.  Just like all the days of her life when she was strong and happy.
I never know what conditions I will find when I arise.  All I can do is make my bed, say a prayer and hope her bed is just as tidy.
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I May Have Missed It…

Yesterday I witnessed the most beautiful thing.  There in the hard ground springing forth were two little flowers blooming ever so slightly.

I have never really noticed “spring” before.  Not that I wasn’t observant, but living in a sunny climate for the last 10 years I saw flowers throughout the whole year.

Moving up to the Great Northwest just two months ago I have witnessed many changes, but perhaps the biggest change has happened inside of me.

Appreciation for the raindrops that fall from the sky making this part of the world beautiful shades of green.  Appreciation for the snow flakes that float down covering the earth with a beautiful white blanket.

Spending time with my granddaughter and watching her grow and change each week.

Taking the ferry across to my island home where I look out upon the waters from my desk as I write this.

I couldn’t have imagined a life like this a year or two ago.  Surrounded by love and beauty each day.  I always knew that 2017 would be an amazing year if I just opened my heart for new adventure.  So here I am, in a new place that I call home realizing that I am grateful for what I witness and observe.

And just as those flowers broke through and strived to live, I am like that flower, growing and blooming where I have been planted.

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And then it hits you…

Don’t you love it when you get those aha moments in your life?  I just had one such moment, when I was doing laundry of all things!  As I was putting the clothes into the dryer I realized that I was now doing it exactly the way Melitas showed me how to do it.  Yep, just like my driving I guess I never knew how to do laundry either until she showed me.  I would just transfer the clothes into the dryer in one big clump and turn on the dryer and go about my business.

It worked for all these years and I didn’t see a problem, no one complained, my clothes were always just as clean as the next person…the problem came several years ago when I was the Jr. Deputy at Casa Agave.  It was December of 2011, the warden was off having a great time with family and Melitas and I were enjoying our week together and then….(dramatic music playing) I started my laundry.  As soon as I took my laundry into the laundry room I hear Melitas come in behind me.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I am just going to do my laundry real quickly, you go sit down and relax, I can figure out the machine.

Melitas: You know I used to own a fluff and fold, remember?

Me: Yep, that must have been a lot of laundry (me throwing things in…)

Melitas: Hold up, that’s not how you do it, fill the machine with water and the suds first before you add your clothes.

Me: Does it really make a difference to do it that way?

Melitas: See this shirt?  I have had this since 1963, the year before you were born, it wouldn’t look this way if I did the wash the way you are doing it.  How old is that shirt you are wearing?

Me: Ummm, I don’t know a year maybe?

Melitas: Looks like it will be ready for the rag pile if you keep it up.

[Melitas scoots me over and begins the process of adding the detergent, then some dreft, then something else I can’t quite remember.  Then placing what would have been one load into two and sorts them by color.  I keep trying to say, it is ok, I can do it.  But no use. I have to just let her finish]

30 Minutes later Melitas is on her computer across from me on my computer and the washer stops, I get up to go put my clothes in the dryer and I turn around and before I make it to the laundry room door there she is breathing down my back.

Me: Melitas, I am just going to put them in the dryer, I can do this part. (Feeling nervous but knowing I can’t get it wrong just putting the clothes in the dryer, how hard can that be?).

Melitas: Hold up….that’s not how you put the clothes in the dryer!  You can’t just throw them in like you are doing, now step aside.

Me: (I have learned by now it is Melitas’ way or no way)

Melitas: Listen kid, you take one piece at a time and shake it out and then put it in the dryer.  It saves energy and your clothes will dry faster.

Me: Awww, yes,  I see. (looking at my watch knowing what would have taken me 2 minutes we are still in the laundry room 10 minutes later).


To be honest with you, the next 6 plus years I did laundry my way.  I was just too darn busy to sort and shake and whatever else she did.  But today I noticed I no longer am in a hurry.  I take each piece out of the washer and shake it out before putting it in the dryer.

I know that Melitas, if she is looking down at me is smiling at me and saying:” It’s about time, kid!  I knew one day you would know I was right!”

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I woke up this morning reflecting on another month ending.  Just last month I started the journey of leaving Baja, a place I called home for 2 years.  I gave away most of my things (again)…I said my good-byes and traveled north.  As I traveled north on the roads I regretted that this was the first time of driving through Baja, each time Bruce and I traveled it was by the 90 minute flight.  The terrain was beautiful and the 2 day trek allowed my mind to be grateful for the world that I live in.

As each mile passed I smiled and thanked the universe for the past and welcomed the future.

As I write this I am looking out from a very different window than I was last year.  The trees are covered in snow hanging down so majestically.  The fire is blazing and my little dog is laying next to me, I swear he looks like he is smiling in his sleep!

I can’t imagine being happier than I am at this moment and yet I know I will be happier next week, next month, next year.  That is life, choosing to live life to the fullest, but it is a choice.  I didn’t just fall into this life I lead, I worked and struggled and achieved what I wanted.  Is life perfect?  Of course not, but that is what makes the journey so exhilarating.

Last month brought me up the Baja, through California, Oregon and now Washington.  I get to spend time with my granddaughter every week.  I am now a part of her life, not just someone who comes to visit.

I reflect and am grateful for the journey and the path I get to walk each day.  And the best part….I have this little pumpkin to show me the way!

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Reflections of past years…

The beauty of blogging is the simple archive that keeps all your thoughts in one place.  I spent this morning looking back at past musings over the last 5 plus years.  I miss the Mondays with Melitas and let’s face it, I miss Melitas!

I could always count on Melitas to be honest with me about my life, my business and whenever I needed advice, she was the wise one I would go to.

Her spirit lives on in the blogs on this site and in her book and in her many hundreds of entries in her journals.

At this time of year reflection is a natural process of remembering those who have passed on, reflecting on what we remember most.

Meeting Melitas has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.  Whether we were watching football, or her Lakers play or one of the Olympic games or just sitting across from each other, both of us on our computers there was definitely a love between us.

I loved sharing her last Laker’s game with her next to her on her bed.  I had a feeling this was the last game we would enjoy together.  She watched as much as she could even tapping her two index fingers together like a small clap when the Lakers would score.  I asked Melitas if she remembered that we watched Kobe’s last game together.  She nodded in remembrance and then she said…”we both cried.”  I said, “yep, we sure did.”  And as she closed her eyes to rest I cried.

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"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
Wendy Price, Palm Desert, CA

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Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.