A Thirst for Lemonade

Later in life, my mom lost most of her sight and most of her hearing. That was not fun, but it inspired her to continue her four-mile daily walks as long as she could, because her gross motor skills remained in good shape well into her eighties. If she’d kept more vision and hearing, she might have neglected her walks (and the low-impact socialization they offered, and the great supply of Vitamin D) for the sedentary and solitary pleasures of reading or watching her beloved Padres baseball team.

She could tell in the opening games of the season which pitchers and batters were likely to have a good year, which ones weren’t coming out strong. How? She couldn’t hear the blah-blah-bah commentary, she couldn’t see the stats at the bottom of the big hi-def screen. All she could evaluate were the player’s game, his body language, his physical attitude. From diminished faculties, she became more astute, and held onto mobility much longer than many of her peers.

This concept of turning defeat into victory is a common theme in romance novels. I’m reading The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran (and loving every page). Lockwood begins the story as an impoverished, charming, bon vivant earl, though we learn he’s determined to marry for money because hundreds of employees and tenants are depending on him to rescue the earldom’s finances.

After a time, Lockwood reappears as a man who has endured brutal, prolonged trauma about which his wealthy wife knows nothing. He still looks like the charming earl, but inside, he’s coping with a heap of PTSD, shame, bewilderment… He needs everything–the charm, the humor, the toughness, the courage–to earn his happily ever after with Anna. Though he’d rather cling to either bitterness or denial, he instead finds a new way forward that neither the bon vivant nor the survivor could have envisioned.

One of the child-welfare professionals I respect the most wanted very much to be a dad, but never became one. This is not a perspective we hear much about–a man bereaved by childlessness–but I’ve never met a clinician with more heart for children, and more determination to have a positive impact on behalf of children.

I see a confluence of two factors in these very admirable characters and people who can make lemonade out of lemons. First, they are determined. Mom couldn’t hear the baseball games, but if she tilted her head at a certain angle, she could see a lot of the action. She got really, really good at analyzing what she saw.

Second, they are creative. My childless friend is the only PhD social worker I know, and in fact heads up an academic social work department. He doesn’t have children, but he has mentored hundreds of child welfare social workers instead.

I want to be determined and creative in the face of life’s lemons, and I want those kinds of people around me when the going gets tough, which it often does. Have you noticed somebody mixing up a tasty batch of lemonade? Have you had to brew any yourself? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of The Sins of Lord Lockwood.


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17 comments on “A Thirst for Lemonade

  1. Many years ago I worked in a salvation army care home and met many kind and dedicated people who helped and cared for the elderly.Coming from many back grounds and from various areas around Kent and London the mix of the elderly folk was very diverse and interesting.We had sweet gentle little old dears to large battle axe ladies who liked to boss the other residents.We also gave a home to very old men who had spent many years on the streets of London.Some of the salvation army staff found it more difficult to cope with this group and showed less empathy toward them.We ( non salvation army staff) found this hard to understand and made judgements on them.Years later I realised they were doing their best and that they struggled in some cases but they stayed and worked through it.One salvation army staff stands out for me and she was the weekend cook,she was always cheerful and treated all the residents the same Her food was delicious and made fresh lemonade in the summer to everyone’s delight.This was thirty years ago and lots of things have changed but I still remember those days I learned a lot about love compassion dedication also coping with inner weakness as well as strength.Every job I’ve had since then was in the care sector and I learned so much about about the human state and all its vulnerable areas.I’ve been retired for a few years now but I still look back and think _ could I have done more ?’but then I did my best.I gave my all and I still enjoy homemade lemonade.!!’

    • I love the quote, which comes from Scottish Victorian preacher John Watson: “Be kind, for everybody you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even the kind people–especially the kind people. (And I love homemade lemonade too!)

  2. Our oldest child has autism (I know I’ve mentioned this many times when commenting here). When he was first diagnosed, we were a bit stunned as anyone would be. But as we *came to* we decided he would be the best person he could be. He was in an early intervention program at age 27 months (he was diagnosed at 4 and half so this began when we had a glimmer something was wrong) and in an Early Childhood Program at 3, with private speech therapy three times a week, behavior therapy four days a week and plenty of *normal* at home. We had two other children as this was all going on because we had wanted three children and we were going to HAVE three children.

    Our Family Philosophy comes down to this; When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade—or and Old-Fashioned. So pass the booze, it’s been that sort of week!

    • My earliest memories of my parents are of my dad making my mom one of his infamous Stuey Burrowes rocket fuel martinis. When, thirty-some years ago, I called to inform my parents that I was expecting a child without benefit of matrimony, my Dad answered the phone. He was at his best. “Two questions: Do you love the father?”
      I answered affirmatively.
      “And is he a good genetic risk?”
      “As far as I know–he’s former Air Force.”
      “Well, then, Grace. I’ll let you talk to your mother while I make her a drink.”
      Dear old Dad.

  3. I won a query and first page critique from my betters. Yippee, I thought. Nope. From the first 250 words alone, it is obvious that my second book is fatally flawed. Dual POV is a crime. And even if it wasn’t, I started with the wrong POV character. The action started in the wrong place. Where is the back story? Where is the telling, because this is too much showing.

    I think the early stages of writing are nothing but lemons and lemonade. I have a fondness for both, and I keep going and sharing my pages with friends because sometimes they bring an extra bit of much needed sugar to the mix.

    • I’ve enjoyed lavender lemonade, raspberry lemonade, elderflower lemonade… you so speak a Big Truth. Getting that initial burst of confidence-traction as a writer is like dancing on black ice. Seems impossible, but eventually, that ice melts and there you are with all those cool moves…

  4. The company that I work for has been bought out for the second time in less than a year. There have been several rounds of layoffs and the mood is tense. I have decided to stay and wait and see. The lemon is that I may loose my job and health benefits while the lemonade is that it hasn’t happened yet. If I does happen, I will find a job. Maybe closer to home ? 30 instead of 40 hours? I try to be positive and ignore the rumor mill.

    I am writing a review today for one of my favorite authors. Am glad Charlotte found her hero. A gem of a story.

    • Glad you enjoyed that book, Sue, and sorry–so, so sorry–that work has grown upheavalous again. Nobody needs that. I will wish you a calming of the professional waters, and lots of good books to take you away from the office drama.
      Kinda makes you want to write a contemporary, though, doesn’t it?

  5. My mother was going over her funeral plans with us as she has periodically for the last 15 years. She doesn’t plan on using them anytime soon, but was critical of the line in a favoured hymn, “All toil will then seem as nothing, When I get to the end of the way.” She said she hadn’t had much toil. No lemons.

    “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” ~Ingrid Bergman

  6. Who do I know who was good a lemonade? I think it was the people who were willing to make lemonade for me but needed to take it from me also.

    Most of the people who loomed larger in the provider extrodinary have turned out to have some dark secrets that have indicated their rule was “believe what you see, do not find out about what I do”

    I should not be putting this negativity into your blog but there you have it. A piece of the struggles I deal with.

    • Negativity? I call it honesty.
      One of the topics that can get me shooting around the room backward with steam coming out my ears is what I call, “People of the lie.” That’s a the title of a Scott Peck book about evil, which he defines as knowingly shoving your pain onto somebody who doesn’t deserve it. These are the people who will shame, blame, minimize, deny, and gaslight, rather than say, “I’m sorry. I messed up. What can I do to fix this?” and mean it.
      If you have had to deal with such people or are dealing with them, I am much sorry. They make a lot of mischief.

  7. Hmm… My husband and I do not have children. We have two very spoiled cats. I am working into getting into graduate school. I am able to travel and also have a lot of girlfriends, I think being supportive of others who have children or grandchildren can be helpful.

    • When I was up to my gills in single-mom purgatory, the friends who would take the kid to see a movie, take her shopping for my Christmas present, just spell me for a few hours, were lifesavers. They not only made me feel like I had a little breathing room, but they reassured my daughter that “Mom is not the only person who cares about you and likes you.”
      That is such a critical message to a kid with only one functioning parent.
      Good luck with grad school. I’m considering a master’s creative writing, but it would be BIG commitment. (One program has a year in Edinburgh though… I’m tempted.)

  8. I have always made an effort to look for the best in any situation. So yes, I’ve made a few pitchers of lemonade along the way.