Where is that yellow brick road?

It’s been a cool and cloudy day today. The kids had school today so the house was quiet, at least until noon when Little returned from preschool.  He can’t remember doing anything today. He racks his brain, but nothing comes to mind.
We had the roof patched before Hurricane Matthew, but found 2 new leaks yesterday after the rains stopped. It’s an old tin roof and it does need attention. Things have a way of reminding you about that. We all need attention.
I actually slept in a bit today. I was up most of the night feeling quite agitated after watching the Presidential debate. Why I watched it I can’t say. I knew better. I was left with the same uneasiness and general malaise so many others have written about today. Mostly I feel embarrassed.  Horribly embarrassed for our country, and I’m terrified of what may come.
What has happened to the common courtesy with which we treat each other? How about the decision to agree to disagree? Mutual respect? Public niceties which were so important once upon a time? Please.
I am so thankful, so grateful Mom and Dad did not live to see this come to pass.
Enough said.
The days always pass so quickly when I’m here. The kids are growing, they have their own interests and activities now. There’s Scouts and band practice. Eva and Little still like to play. There’s still the occasional squabble of course, but most days things run like a well oiled machine.
I recall how I bought this house ten years ago next month. The twins were 6 months. I received  a good offer on my San Francisco house and I had fallen in love with this gigantic Victorian when I had spent a month here after the boys were born.
It was a lovely home. I could envision the sound of little feet on the floors and see happiness and Life (with a capital L) happening and thriving in this old house. This dwelling embodied love. It was meant to be I believed.
So we all moved in. There is nothing as beautiful as a house full of Life. I saw the first crawls, the first steps, I heard the first words. My life was coming full circle.
Over the next few years life continued to happen. My job layoff, taking a job in Saudi Arabia which was actually quite a lovely experience. Eva was born while I was gone. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that little girl! So I returned, took a job that was offered and plugged away as long as I could. There came a time when I had to admit to myself that I was not fulfilled by my work. I needed a change but jobs in my specialty are few and far between. When a version of my previous job in San Francisco was advertised I applied. I thought and agonized and thought. What should I do? Little CJ was only 3 months old. Emmy needed help. Could I, should I leave the little ones again for job satisfaction ? Of course, things are not really so black and white, life is much more complex than “life just happening.”
I’ve been in San Francisco now four years, much longer than I intended.
I come back here now to visit and realize this is no longer my house, not really.
I see my things all around me but I’m not here to enjoy them. I’m not a part of the household. The tempo of the household is set by the people who really live and breathe here. Not me.

I try to keep busy while I’m here. I read, I write, I help with kitchen chores, I cook occasionally. I clean a bathroom or two—there are five of them. I fold laundry. I rearranged the linen closet today, folding the linens just so, with the seams all going to the right, all symmetrically stacked in order of size. It once again strikes me it’s no longer my linen closet. Just like this house, I own the outward structure, the skeleton, but the contents are enjoyed and loved by others who call this place home.

I will be able to take a slightly early retirement in two months if I choose. I’ve been thinking, obsessing really,  of coming back here to live. My dream has been to be here, to participate in that wonderful exciting Life, up front and center for the school programs, the ball games, to cheer the triumphs, laugh at all the ridiculousness and to wipe away the tears.
Emmy and Jason are thinking of moving. That’s absolutely the normal course of events. That’s what should happen. They’ve been holding the fort down in this old house while I’ve been gone. Jason has finished grad school. They, too, need to follow their bliss.
This house is too big for one person. Even in it’s loveliness I cannot imagine what I would do with myself in this monstrosity. There are a zillion things I’ve thought of redoing in this house. It could certainly use an overhaul.
This is my fear… the echoes of the children’s laughter and the memories of my family’s lives lived here, with or without me, would be present at every turn, every minute of every day.
The echoes and subsequent silence would eat away at my soul.
I’m left wondering, what shall I do? What would I like my life to look like? I think of how I want to concentrate my efforts, what kind of people I would like to surround myself with. Where do I want to settle? Where do I want my home?
I think of the stages of one’s life, especially a single parent as I was, how you start a career, raise your children, prepare them to leave the nest, applaud them as they do, finish your working days, then finally have time to do the things you’ve been waiting for, dreaming of your whole life. Of course there’s that small voice in my head that says “Oh my God, you’re going out to pasture.”
The thought of the next chapter of my life terrifies me almost as much as the thought of a President Trump does.
Sometimes I throw around these thoughts about home, about the what ifs in life with my friend Ron, whom I respect greatly.
Ron reminds me “I am home.”

“Come on, Ron” I say. ” That’s a line in a movie.”

“No” he says. “It’s true.”

Is there a yellow brick road? Is Oz just around the bend? Am I prepared for the journey?

Guess it’s time to buy some red tapping shoes, shine ’em up and ease on down, ease on down the road.

Home will be right there. I’ll count on it.

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Pre flight and Onward

My son Casey has moved back to San Francisco and is staying with me for a while in my studio apartment. We alternate sleeping on the couch and in the bed.

Casey has gone out for the evening. I pack and repack. I watch Frontline reruns on my computer, It’s 1:00. It’s 2:00. The man is 33 years old. I don’t need to stay up and worry and watch the clock like I did 15 years ago.  But I do. He arrives within the hour. I had prepared the couch for myself and had been ready to try and sleep right before he arrived.  I was mad at myself for continuing to treat him like a child.  I return to the room after brushing my teeth and find him on the couch with his dirty clothes and shoes on.

“Oh no you don’t, mister! That couch is made up for me! You’d best remove yourself from there right now!” He did as requested.

I knew I had 3 hours to sleep and it wasn’t going to happen. I spent the rest of the night contemplating what Hurricane Matthew and I would be doing the next few days and if our paths would cross. The next few hours seemed to last an eternity.

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I got out of the shower at 6:06 and I’d missed multiple calls, only to find the text “I’m outside of Baggage Claim 4. “Where are you?” I called her and thought, Oh, dear Lord, how did this happen?

Emmy? I say. “I’m in San Francisco. I fly out tonight.” I heard “oh” then a click. I hesitate to call back. She has taken a day off work and the little guy out of school.  I wonder if she will do it again tomorrow.

To work and back. I decide to repack into a different suitcase. I finish just as Super Shuttle arrives.

It’s now 1230 PST and I’m at 30000 feet. It’s incredibly hot here in seat 17D and after paying $63 to “choose my seat” to avoid being in the middle seat by the bathroom, I‘m a  little perturbed.  I went to the galley to beg for a glass of water and mentioned how hot it is where I’m sitting. The very nice flight attendant told me to take off my sweater. Not going to happen. I guess I’ll just have to get used to the heat. I’ve been up for over 24 hours now but it’s too hot to sleep. Turbulence makes it difficult to type but there must be a happy medium somewhere. I’ll find my niche. I think nachos might make things better, but that, too, is unattainable. I paced the aisle the rest of the flight and Charlotte glistened like a diamond as we descended for landing.

The flight to Raleigh is a short 35 minutes today. I text Emmy and hope that she’s enjoying the drive today… again.

She picks me up outside of Baggage Claim 4. A s I get in the car, I hear a small voice say “Grandma, did you bring me a toy?” I smile and know I’m once again on familiar ground. The world is good.

CJ and I play the full gamut of run and tickle games all afternoon. The big boys get out of band practice at 3:30 and come running as they spot me by the car.

While Emmy and I sweep the acorns off the front walk, the boys practice their instruments on the front porch for my enjoyment and delight. Davis is on the trombone and Linc plays the clarinet. I’m immediately taken back 27 years as Emmy practiced her clarinet but I no longer breakout into a cold sweat as he attempts to control the reed. This is a temporary situation.

We play and eat and then play some more. Eva arrives around 8:30 and a more beautiful face I have never seen.

I found out Lincoln is a Joe Walsh aficionado and am so pleased that we share an impeccable taste in music. He has however never heard of Prince. I play him a few of the more orthodox Prince tunes and he is blown away. I then turn on Prince and Cee Lo’s Crazy filmed in New York a few years ago. This is one of my favorite Prince films.

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 It was playing and CJ comes up, starts dancing, points to Cee Lo and says

“Grandma, ith that you?”

“Do I look like a short, slightly robust black man with sunglasses?” I shriek.

“Yeth” he says.

“You need to go to your room.”

End of day one.

To recall with wonder…

Today is his birthday. My little boy is a grown man. He has been for quite some time. This is the first time I’ve said it to myself and actually believed it to be true, though academically I have known for years.

He was brought into this life at 37 weeks gestation due to concerns about my health. I heard his cry and knew we were going to be alright. This little boy, this bundle of blessings was placed in my arms and I thought “My God, he looks like ET”. But that was ok because he was sweet and he was cuddly and he was mine. He came into this life 7 years to the day that his grandfather departed his. I’m sure they will meet someday.
This one challenged me from day one. Constant colic. First ear infection at 2 weeks, respiratory infections one after the other. Tests for Cystic Fibrosis, allergy testing, ear tubes. Trips to a local farm for goat’s milk that gave him some degree of comfort. In spite of it all, he was a happy child. He had a huge grin and infectious laugh. He was, and is to this day highly intelligent and extraordinarily artistic.

He is the only one of my three children who had the need for a pacifier that he affectionately named Nana. Nana was very special to him. Nana had to be specifically made by Platex. There were multiple nights when the 24 hour grocery saw my frantic face quickly enter the establishment in search of a replacement Nana. More often than not I remember leaving empty handed as Playtex was a popular brand and was sold out. There was no internet back then, no capacity to order a few cases to have on hand, you know, just in case.  We did the best we could.
Nana was an important part of his life. This little thing sticking out of his mouth saved his teeth uncountable times due to his  frequent  falls and the occasional shove down the stairs by his big sister.
Nana was such a constant companion I started to worry that I’d be sending him off to high school with it still in tow.
He was 3 months shy of two when we bought our first home. Since he was such a big boy, he got his own waterbed. I was in favor of this because I thought it would be a challenge for him to climb out easily and run around during rest time. Think again.
We started preparing him during those three months before his birthday that on that special day when he turned two, he was going to have to put Nana away because he was now such a big boy. He said he understood. He told us OK, I’ll be a big boy.
So the big day came and he handed Nana over to me. Didn’t even cry. He said “Bye-bye Nana” and then ran out to play.
The next morning he walked out of his room with a Nana in his mouth, grinning. This happened for several days in a row. He would deny knowing where they came from. At that point I insisted that he show me where he was getting these.
He took me into his closet and showed me a small hole on the  wall, close to the floor. There remained several Nanas in his special hiding place. He was reluctant to hand them over but did eventually. Then all the tears I had been expecting on No Nana Day came like  a waterfall. I felt heartless, nearly in need of a Nana myself. We both got through it though it took a while. The first of many rights of passage.

The little boy grew and continued to be a delight, although he was all boy as the saying goes. I did coddle the child  a  bit as he was my only son.  I believe he uses that killer grin he has  to this day for affect.
I received a call from a mother of another student one day who introduced herself and said “I’m the mother of the child that bit your son on the back in the stairwell at school today.” She insisted the two boys get together and play to get past the event. I’m so glad she did. The two boys became fast friends and partners in crime. I smile when I think of their shenanigans, even the time I saw they had dug quite a deep hole way in the back of the yard. When asked why they would do such a thing they said in unison “to bury Eugene” who was a child that lived across the street. I have no doubt it would have been a fait accompli soon thereafter. Thank God for divine intervention and sustaining me through the lessons on right and wrong.

So the little boy grew and suffered the joys and disappointments of childhood the best he could. He was seven when he experienced the transition of our family to a single parent household. He suffered the most with this. There are some things the heart will not allow us to understand. The pain is unrelenting.

He is the middle child. He is the one most like me.
I have to think we both learned a lot through those difficult years.
He was resilient, continues to be.
An accomplished musician, a gifted artist, a chef extraordinaire, the years have passed and he has flourished.

I don’t think I told him often enough as he grew how proud I was of him.
I don’t remember encouraging him to reach for the stars and follow his bliss as often as I should have.
I hope it’s not too late.

Several years ago I had the honor to work in Saudi Arabia. While all my peers were going to Petra or Dubai for the weekend, I saved all of my time to realize a dream.

Many, many years ago I fell in love with India through reading The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. On those pages I envisioned a magical far away place, a land so full of beauty and mystery that I wondered if it could really exist. I knew some day I would have to see for myself.

I took a holiday from my job in Riyadh and met my son in Delhi a few days before his 26th birthday. Together we traveled this majestic land. We experienced the extreme contrasts of the human condition, yet all were a proud and happy people. The poorest of the poor inspired me. As we traveled by train, we witnessed the families living in shanties by the tracks. The women were dressed beautifully in colorful saris. The stooped by their outside cooksites making marvelous meals. The children were dressed modestly and were happy and playful. They without question would smile and wave as we passed.
We shopped in markets and souk-like stalls. Hospitality with offered chai and refreshments was always a part of the shopping experience.

On his birthday we were staying at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaiper. Such luxury I’ve never experienced. A boat ride across Lake Pichola delivered us to the dock of the hotel. As we exited the boat, a red carpet was unrolled before us and sprinkled with rose petals, extending all the way to the door. What an exquisite treat. As we checked in, I mentioned that my son was celebrating his birthday. It wasn’t long before two dozen long stemmed roses arrived to honor him. He was so pleased. I marveled at his happiness.

It was immensely painful to say goodbye to him as he headed back home after our travels. I had yet another week in India. It remains painful every time we must part.

I look back at the events of his life with joy in just his existence. I acknowledge the pain he suffered as he’s lived through life’s disappointments. I always wanted to take away that pain, to fix things but couldn’t, knowing he  would never learn  to  face conflict or adversity with grace and  recognize this is all part of the human experience.

I recall vividly how I cried when it was time to register him for school. I remember with pride the soccer games, the school programs, the band concerts, observing the gradual loosening of the apron strings as he grew and thrived.

He moved back to San Francisco from Southern California last week. I had missed him so terribly.
He was cooking for me a few nights ago and I said “Don’t spray the pan while the gas is on. It can start a fire.”
He looked at me and said “Mom, I’m a professional. I know my craft.”
I looked at him and thought My God, you are. You are a grown man and a professional and it happened in the blink of an eye.
I told him” Yes you are. But you’re my son and I’ll always be your Mom. I can’t stop being that.”
I knew in my heart the micromanagement of his life would continue with silly comments like “remember not to lick the beaters while the mixer’s plugged in. I did that and got quite a shock” or the old classic ” Don’t be playing around with that, you’ll put your eye out.”

Casey Campbell, you have been a constant joy to me every minute since I knew you were to be. My life is richer because you’ve been a part of it.
I wish you joy and success in anything that speaks to your soul.
I couldn’t be prouder.
Follow your bliss, always.
Know you are the pride and joy of a mother  who was often too silent, frequently  too pushy and opinionated, and far too lenient because she felt the world  was often a cruel master.
She wanted to provide  a place where you could experience solitude and peace while  exploring your place in the world. You thrived in spite of me.

My  heart bursts with pride and  love as I watch you make your way this wonderful world. Know I’m living vicariously  thorough you.
You are my son.

Live long and prosper

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David J. Rogers’ Art and Memory


A blog by David J. Rogers was posted yesterday that is, to me, so touching and inspirational I wish to share it with you. Here is the link:

Art and Memory

David, in his exceptional, sweet style reminds us that in the midst of difficulty we find opportunity. Pay attention to detail.

David writes about a period of time in his life when he struggled with extreme pain and suffering. Isolated from the life he had lived, he began to reconnect with his childhood by allowing himself to be open and curious, to stretch his mind,memory and soul all the way back to times when he felt safe, cared for and secure.

He speaks of establishing a different relationship with himself as he explored all the bits and pieces of the memories of life that had been hidden until now summoned.

“Over and over, hour after hour, day after day I was moving in closer, backing up and rethinking until I was satisfied and could say, “Yes, yes, that is how it was when I was a boy. I’ve gotten it right.” I did that carefully. I had all the time in the world because I didn’t know if I’d ever be well and wasn’t in a hurry.  I didn’t know if I’d have what it takes to transform memories into meaningful images and words, into art. But I was growing more confident now that one day I would.”

Confidence.

What we think upon grows.

I have never met David Rogers. I’ve admired his capacity to consistently interconnect words and impressions that weave a colorful tapestry on the written page. That’s what a mentor does. He knows how to connect with the soul though his art and inspire it to be curious, to stretch for what may be just beyond the horizon, to explore what possibilities may exist just as he did..

David always thanks me for my comments and supporting his work.

I always say it’s a pleasure to do so, which it is.

To not pay forward this particular piece, in my mind would be a sin of omission.

Thank you, David, for allowing us to look backwards as well as forwards and reminding us of the power of detail in transforming memory into art.

Please stay in the car

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There’s a ritual when grandma comes for a visit. The first stop after leaving RDU is always Cracker Barrel.

We can always count on an order or two of dumplings, perhaps a happy face pancake, a bowl of potato soup (to die for,) or the particular special of the day. Oh, and don’t forget root beer from the bottle.
This trip I took a red eye so that I could maximize my time with the kids. We were at Cracker Barrel by 1030. The potato soup wasn’t ready yet, so Eva ordered 1000 pancakes with maple syrup, there were a few orders of grits and biscuits and gravy, and Grandma, of course, ordered God’s gift to mankind: Bacon, with a capital B. (It’s been six years since I returned from Saudi Arabia, and I have yet to correct the pork deficit I developed while there.)
I got the rundown on the school year, how the time off from school was going, what transpired at camp and the hopes for the rest of summer vacation.
The old-fashioned candy section was inspected for any new arrivals. We then tried out each and every sound activated gadget, of which there were many.
After a game or two of checkers played on the giant board in front of the store we were off.
I have a favorite Kroeger store right off exit 276 going west on I 40. It has the most magnificent produce section. I’ve yet to find it’s equal, even in San Francisco. We have time to shop. I am so happy. I am in hog heaven. They are indulging me, and all they ask for in return is potato soup, fried egg sandwiches, and apple dumplings. Quite a bargain.
Sunday morning rolls around. The kids want me to go to church with them. They attend Union Church in Danville. I will go to the 1130 service.
Although historically I am known as somewhat of an irreverent person with a quirky sense of humor, I am a member of the most conservative Catholic parish in San Francisco. This is an enigma to many. I can’t explain it myself. At Star of the Sea, we pride ourselves on ritual, tradition and protocol. We worship God with pomp and circumstance, with extreme dignity.
Union Church thinks this is poppycock.
I am greeted warmly upon entering the church, housed in what was the previous home of Danville YMCA.
As the service begins, it resembles more a rock concert than a church service. Three songs are played, the first a song of welcome. The band consists of two drummers, one electric and one acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, a keyboard and two back up singers. The lyrics are projected on overhead screens. The crowd is going wild, the church is packed.
This is not alien territory for me. I freely admit I’m losing my hearing from years of too loud rock and roll. (It was worth every minute.)
This just feels misplaced to me, just different. Father Joseph would be making a beeline for the exit about now, no doubt about it.
But things are just warming up.
Enter the Reverend Adam Cook.
He’s dressed in a t-shirt and jeans as he is at every service. He claims to be a good ol’ country boy. I believe him.
He begins: “How’s everybody doin’, doin’ good?”
He talks to us like we’re chatting on the couch. He’s starting a new series today called “You won’t believe this,” and he says he doesn’t believe it either.

His message this day is about the wedding at Cana. and the water into wine miracle. He talks about Jesus being fully man and fully God simultaneously.

He reminds us that as fully man, fully human, Jesus experienced life. He laughed, he played, he wept, he felt all emotions. Jesus even went to parties, he tells us. This is his intro into his presence at the Jewish wedding party, that historically would last from three to seven days. He was no fly on the wall. He was fully present.

He was so fully man, says  Reverend Adam Cook, that he wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus might say “Hey, Peter….pull my finger.”That made me sit up a little straighter and scratch my head, I’ll tell you.
I listen to  him and think this isn’t a church service. I’m not sure what I’m witnessing.
It’s not long before his genius slaps me in the face.
His secret? He meets you where you live. Plain and simple.
The effect is astonishing. He brings Christ’s message into your living room.
Take Jesus home with you he says. Don’t leave him here.
The message is clear and simple and heartfelt from some who’s been there, he reminds us. Be open, be vulnerable, open your heart.
He performs close to 30 baptisms this day. That is his mission.
I was blown away with his finesse and brilliance, the method of reaching “unchurched people” on their own playing field. I truly had never seen anything like it. I’m not sure I ever will again.

There is a carnival for the children after the service. Balloons,face painting, popcorn, ice cream, cotton candy. All the good stuff. Our home is just a few blocks from Union.  As we were walking home, the kids asked if I liked the service. I had to admit it was interesting. (Children have a separate worship in another part of the building. I was relieved, as I knew that, had they been present, there would have been nonstop finger-pulling for the rest of the day.)

That afternoon I was working on my computer in my room. Little CJ comes in and climbs on the bed. He says “Grandma, look at this!” I watch him and say “Is something wrong with your back?” He laughs and runs away. He returns a few  minutes later and repeats the event. I go to my daughter and tell her that her four year old just mooned me. She says don’t be silly. I said “He did it twice. The first time I didn’t believe it.” She asks why he would do such a thing. I’m thinking why does a four year old do anything,  and wonder if his ten year old twin brothers had anything to do with this.

And so the days in Danville come and go. The daily rains continue. We spent a few days at an indoor water park, played games, fought over electronic devices, discussed the ways of the world and our hopes and dreams. Follow them, I tell them. They’re important. Never forget them.

Then the day comes when it’s time to leave. The older children each gave me something  they made for me. I cherish them. Little CJ says, “Grandma, I don’t want you to go.” My heart is breaking.

We stop for happy meals on the way to the airport. As we arrive, I know I’m unable to process another goodbye. I ask them to drop me off and say “Please just stay in the car. I love you to the moon and back.”

I walk away wondering how can one go from feeling so full to so empty in a matter of seconds. I suspect that’s what being fully human feels like.

 

 

 

 

Get in the car…

It’s always a bit of a culture shock when I visit my home in Southern Virginia. I live in San Francisco you see, but have this house being lovingly tended by my daughter and her family. I don’t get home to visit often enough.
Jet lag generally lasts two or three days after which I feel somewhat like a human being again. (I always take a red eye and take my exit row responsibilities very seriously. I would never not be watchful and alert at all times.) This actually means I’m afraid to fly and unable to sleep.
The scenery in Danville is stunningly beautiful. Magnolia blossoms resemble exquisite tea cups. Multi-colored crepe myrtles and a tapestry of summer shrubs and delicate blooms are well tended with pride on every street. The air is clean and fresh from the afternoon rains. I’ve witnessed two impressive thunderstorms since arriving 76 hours ago. I am always humbled by these acts of nature that remind me of my rightful place in the hierarchy of time and place.

In the South, the rhythm and cadence of the spoken word always perplexes me. We are on the Virginia/North Carolina border. Thirty minutes east of us the dialect is distinctly different. Some of the colloquialisms that are part of everyday speech here are alien to me. “Ain’t” is used in almost every sentence. I remember having to stand  in the corner (more than once) for using that word. Opie Taylor used to say it. He never was sent to the corner for saying that.
The language here is said to be comparable to Elizabethan English. Ain’t is acceptable.
I’m having to wrap my head around everything being a “mess”, what “jacked up” really means, and life being described as “Cray-Cray.” I also suspect I should be insulted if someone “blesses my heart.” Now I know. Nothing wrong about any of this, just regional differences to keep life interesting. I am, in fact, trainable and eventually will get it.

My grandbabies, all of them, are products of the South. The oldest, twin boys, generally are conscious of the common courtesies taught here, in speech and manner. People are treated kindly and respectfully. They have learned their lessons well.
Behind closed doors, however, the rivalry is so tense it’s palpable. I reminded them just today how interesting that we should treat the people we should love the most worse than any stranger on the street or any stray animal for that matter. I remember that blank stare I received from when my own children were ten. Thirty seconds later, here we go again.
These two boys, these miracles of birth from God, are growing up so quickly. Lincoln and Davis. Dave developed a Southern accent that was more pronounced than Lincoln’s. It’s waning now along with so many other characteristics of his early years that are tucked away, so close to my heart.
Lincoln loves Egyptology and Classic languages. He loves to cook and wants to be a chef someday. He is slightly more reserved than Dave. He despises being singled out and, as most ten year old boys, is desperately trying to figure it all out.
Dave loves science and would live at the science center if allowed. Any experiment, any opportunity to learn more about the guts of a situation and he’s right on it. He is quite thoughtful and often has to be contemplative before answering my questions. That could be his way of letting me know it’s none of my business. I prefer to believe he is thoughtful.
Both boys love to sing and do it beautifully. They tell me they love Jesus and look forward to going to Union Church whenever possible. Today they helped hand out lunches to those less fortunate. I feel great pride.

Eva is seven now, practically a lady. She’s the only girl. She loves tea parties and entertaining. She takes exemplary care of her dolls and keeps them safe. She has, however, the biggest attitude of any seven year old I’ve seen in a long time.
Yup, Eva is a diva.
I tell her mother it should be like looking in a mirror for her.
She does mirror her mother in so many other ways. Her sensitivity, especially about including others shines through. She loves her family and goes to lengths to make sure everyone is taken care of. She makes place cards and wants everything just so, just perfect. Her laugh is gleeful and always ready. When I’m not here, I dream of the twinkle in her eye and my heart melts. The emptiness I feel is indescribable.

Then there’s the little one.
CJ is four. He’s playful and happy and extremely loveable. He loves to play and to be tickled.
He seems to have an elephant’s memory. He hears something once , especially what he’s not supposed to hear, and it’s instant replay for weeks. He loves Shrek the Musical and loves this line from it: “you smell like sauerkraut.” He quotes it often.
His favorite Muppett rerun is the one with Alice Cooper and he had me watch it with him straight away. He doesn’t think it’s funny, he doesn’t laugh at it. He just thinks it’s cool.
Hmmm.
He doesn’t like to hold my hand while crossing the street but it’s the law. He is resentful about it. He places his palm against mine, looks up at me with a straight face and says “my fingers are straight and not curled.” Translation: you cannot make me actually hold your hand.
I have now witnessed what it means for someone to be “wide open.”
They are there when I arrive from my flight. He says
“Grandma, your hands are all wrinkly. Did you just have a bath?”
What do you say to that, really?
“No, I’m old. Get in the car.”
And there it starts, even if only the tip of the iceberg.
To be continued.

Unrecognized Blessings

My cousin, Bob, entered a post on Facebook a few days back. It reads as follows:

This posting is in recognition of my father’s 103rd celebration of his birth as one half of Grandpa John J’s twin sons, Loren & Lyle. I remember my dad as one of the most humorous of the sons/daughter of that clan from Humboldt, NE. I have memories of many of my cousins closely following the dads/uncles as they visited the old home site at the farm in Humboldt during those every other summer visits. Lots of barbs were thrown and insider jokes that we didn’t fully understand but always appreciated generated lots of laughter. When the brothers wanted to keep something away from the ears of the followers, they would sometimes converse in German. And I remember dad throwing around one liners for the amusement of all – “Does anyone know how to get down off a duck?” The photos include a young cowboy father playing poker with his Seaboard Finance work force in Tucson. Another is his celebration of a birthday, I think, with a ring of his almost favorite fruit – strawberries. Mom could always bring a smile to dad with her strawberry/rhubarb pie skills. According to mom, no one could “pop” strawberry seeds like dad (I think he did it just to get under her skin). Another photo includes brother Bill giving mom the “horns” (a Lera/Loren children trait). And the other photo includes Aunt Arley, mom’s cosmic birth twin alongside dad and yours truly. Happy Birthday, Dad.

It brought back the joys of childhood, the times we never think will end. It all passes too quickly. Thank God for our memories, the collective memories of family, the meaning of home.

I often thought we had the perfect, most idyllic childhood. I, for one, could play outside from morning until night. I remember having to wait until at least 8 AM until I was allowed to go to my friend’s houses. Sometimes it was torture.

We could ride our bikes and explore as long as we were home by mealtime at noon and dark by night.

How I loved being able to explore the farm, grandpa’s house, and go down to the pond with Roger. I remember the Christmas parties at the one room schoolhouse in Humboldt and how I looked forward to that.

Mom and dad made a good world for us…..Family meals around the table three times a day, trips to the county fair, Fireworks on the patio in Beatrice, visiting Mike at Boy Scout camp in Humboldt, it was all a part of life that seemed normal then but now I know how extraordinary it was.

I guess I was about 10 when, as I watched the news, I learned about four little girls from Birmingham, and police turning attack dogs on children while they sprayed them with fire hoses. I guess I never really thought that anyone else’s life would be any different than my own. I couldn’t understand why it should be so. It continues to be true.

Thank God for Nebraska where we could grow and live and explore freely. We are scattered now but we have our memories and the older we get the more we realize what good days they were. 

I admit to having a good life, but I do envy those who stayed and continue to live in the only place I hold in my heart as home. I embrace the memories and often wonder what if…


                                                            Happy Birthday, Uncle Loren!  

                                                                               Ps…tell Dad hi.