Thinking Back

Memory fails me, as I try to recall

those things that we did, both momentous and small

 

The many times that we laughed. Those that we cried.

The children born healthy, and old folks who died.

 

But as I grow older, my mind has begun

to forget the details, including the fun

 

things that we did, before our children were born.

When we were that young, was I ever forlorn?

 

Perhaps. As I part the mist that clouds my view,

I see a lonely place, before I met you.

 

My heart was heavy with worries, that’s true.

Sorrows befell my soul, until there was you.

 

With you the sun arose, brightening my way,

and so it continues, to this very day.

 

As I stroll through life, beauty I can now see:

blue sky, birds, butterflies, and the apple tree

 

under which we sat, and talked about our love.

And though it sounds corny, even the white dove

 

that flew high overhead as we pledged our vow

to love forever.  I remember it now!

 

Such a wonderful time!  A beautiful place!

The way we danced and the smile on your face.

 

A white picket fence.  The cookie-cutter house.

The cuddly kitten.  Yes, even a brown mouse.

 

Such an exciting time, those long-ago days.

Our children grew up, then went separate ways.

 

Those things that we did, both momentous and small

As memory tricks me, I sometimes recall.

Indian Lake

When we lived in Ohio, summer vacation meant a week at Indian Lake. In the early morning hours, my brother and father snuck out of the cabin, fishing gear in hand. After a stop at the bait shop, they got into a rented boat and took off.

While they were participating in a male-bonding ritual, I stayed behind with my mother and younger sister. Times were different then, so I was allowed to roam the fields around our cabin. I went out early each morning, so as to listen to the songbirds talking about the weather. I picked the tops off thigh-high grass, and with God-like hands, scattered the seeds.

One tree had several low-slung branches that I could easily climb. Granted I only went up a few feet, but I was high enough to feel like a princess in a castle tower. When the winds blew, I imagined a retinue of admirers bowing in unison.

When my dad and brother returned, there was the cleaning of fish and gear. I loved carrying the rods and tackle boxes. Somehow it made me feel part of their exclusive club. Only once did I venture toward the fish-cleaning station. I never returned because the stench was nauseating.

In the afternoons my brother and I played outside. Whiffle ball was a favorite activity, as was badminton.  My dad set up the net behind our cabin, and left it up for the week. We played several games every day, most of which I lost.

After dinner the family got in the rented boat for a ride around the lake. I loved the smell of the fuel, the roar of the motor, and the feeling of flying across the surface of the water. Sometimes we rode past the expensive houses lining the shore, and when we did, I created stories about the families that lived there, always including myself as one of the children.

Other nights we went near to the town. If we were lucky, there was a carnival going on. We never docked the boat and walked among the celebrants, but we did drift with engine silent and listened to the music and the laughter.

On the weekend we drove around the lake and picnicked at the state park on the west side. From our chosen spot we watched boats going by. I loved the water skiers, even though I would never have been brave enough to don a jacket just to be yanked out of the lake.

Those were easy times in which my parents relaxed in each other’s presence. Each day offered some new adventure that became the source of storytelling at the evening meal. Even sitting in the large swing on the porch was a joy. It creaked one note going back and a different one going forward.

Nirvana, it was not. My parents did have occasional spats, and I was terribly jealous of my brother’s one-on-one time with my dad. My sister, seven years younger, did not join in my imaginary games, which didn’t bother me as I preferred a solitary life.

One day my father woke me up early to go with them to the bait shop. He bought me a Nehi orange soda, even though it was morning. Holding my hand, he took me across the road over to the dock. As he primed the motor, I handed the gear to my brother, all the while hoping that my dad would invite me to go along.

It was not to be. He put the motor into gear and off they went. My shoulders slumped and tears welled in my eyes. The further away they went, the more I cried.

When I realized that my dad would not change his mind, I turned around. Without looking, my right foot reached for the step that should have been there. Nothing but air greeted me, and so I toppled, comic-book fashion, into the water.

Down I went, into the shocking coolness. The air was stolen from my lungs, to be replaced by the fishy tasting water. I flailed my arms and kicked my feet to no avail, as I had never been interested in learning to swim.

It seemed as if a large fish pulled me down, down, to what felt like the bottom of the lake. No amount of struggle released its grip.

Just as I thought I was lost forever, I flew from the water. Blessed air greeted me with the song of life. My father’s arms pulled me to his chest, where he held me in a tight embrace.

He drove the boat next to the dock and grabbed it with one hand. “Get out,” he said.

I did.

“Go to the cabin and stay inside. Tell your mother what you did.”

As I took the first step, my father revved the motor. I didn’t need to turn around to know what was happening. My father, my hero, left.

For that one all-too-brief moment I felt a father’s love. How sad to think that an eight year old had never experienced that love before and never felt it after.

Indian Lake remained my favorite vacation spot for many years. Too bad that we moved to California and those wonderful, lazy days ended.

 

I Have Truly Been Blessed

Every day I count my blessings.

When I awake, I am blessed with another day.

When I rest my head on my pillow at night,

I am blessed because I lived through another day.

 

I have a most wonderful husband.

He blesses me in all the wonderful things he does

To fulfill my life.

To keep my strong with his cooking.

To support me in all the endeavors in which I partake.

In being by my side through all these many years.

 

I am blessed to be the mother of three wonderfully

Talented, special grown children

Who live fulfilling lives of their own.

It fills me with tearful joy whenever I hear their voices

Whenever I get to spend time with them

Are some of the best days of my life.

They make me feel intense pride

And joy and love.

And I miss them, even though I am proud that

They are doing fine on their own.

 

I am blessed with family

That comes in many forms.

There are my seven grandchildren who are

Uniquely gifted.

Who are kind and generous and caring.

Who are succeeding in diverse ways.

And whom I love dearly.

There are other family members who

Hold special places in my heart.

They call, ask how things are going,

Share stories, sit and talk, share meals

And many more special ways.

 

I am blessed with friends

Who care about me

Who enjoy being with me

In whom I find support and comfort.

They nurture me artistically,

Share fun times and with whom I have great talks.

Our connections span years,

And even when separated by space and time,

We connect when chance encounters brings us together.

 

In all these ways,

God has been there for me.

He walks with me, helps me, cares for me.

For all this, I can say with all honesty,

That I am truly blessed.

Mountains of Dreams

Majestic mountains with snow-capped peaks

touch a baby-blue sky dotted with puffy clouds

like fingers brushing God’s eyes, cleansing air.

White dusted pines march up and down slopes

erect as soldiers, as still as statues bearing arms,

free from smoky campfires and slow-moving cars.

Half-frozen lakes rimmed with white ice,

idle now from summer’s pleasures,

enjoying peaceful rest and rehabilitation.

Winter-tolerant birds call quietly, snug in nests

hidden in tall trees, protected from wind’s chill blasts.

Fragile-boned winter-thinned deer huddle under low branches

ever watchful, ever dreaming of green fields and sunny days.

Bright white hares frozen in place, noses twitching, on alert.

 

Silence broken by crunching footsteps marking time,

clapping gloved hands, and occasional muffled words.

Breath steams, creating human-bred clouds that rise

to greet the day, the mountains, life-giving air,

giving substance to dreams that otherwise vaporize

into nothingness, dispelling fears and chasing away

omens of ills that might come to the unwary.

Blessed mountains with snow-capped peaks

reminders of the glory, the majesty, the grandeur

of the world entrusted to our hands to keep, to protect,

to save for generations and generations to come.

Happenstance

 

What if my family had never moved

From Ohio to California

And yours had never come from Nebraska.

What if we both hadn’t found jobs

Working for the same government agency.

What if I hadn’t transferred to your office

And my deck wasn’t right behind yours.

 

What if you hadn’t smiled at me,

A smile that lit up your blue eyes.

I might not have smiled back

And we might not have worked together,

Gone out on cases together

And talked, discovering things that we

Had in common as well as things that

We didn’t.

 

If all those things had not aligned just right,

If things didn’t happen the way that they did,

We would never have met.

We would never have gone on the first date

Or fallen in love

Or married

Or had three wonderful kids

Who grew up to be amazing adults.

 

Things that were meant to be,

Happened, in just the right order,

Better than what a mystic might

Have predicted looking in her crystal ball.

 

We are together by chance,

But we have stayed together

Because of love.

 

 

A Halloween Memory

The only part of Halloween that I ever liked was the endless pursuit of free candy. From the time my brother and I were in middle school, we would roam miles from home knocking on doors on streets that we barely knew. It took us hours, and at times our pillow cases would become so heavy that we’d go home, empty them out, then head out again.

I hated wearing costumes. I disliked having my sight blocked by masks, I detested makeup, and despised trying to come up with something to wear that resembled a costume. My most frequent costume was that of a hobo as all I had to do was put on overalls.

When I was thirteen my middle school decided that it would celebrate Halloween and that all students were expected to dress in costume. I panicked when I heard the announcement. It was bad enough to walk about my neighborhood under cover of darkness. This would mean parading about campus under fluorescent lighting!

I worried about this for days. I was a painfully shy girl who never raised a hand to ask or answer a question in class, and now I was going to have to expose myself to potential ridicule if I chose to dress in an unpopular or outmoded outfit.

When time ran out, the only thing I could come up with was my mother’s WAC (Women’s Army Corp) uniform from World War II.

What seemed like a good idea when I got dressed in the morning, quickly became a terrifying experience once I arrived at school.

My teacher, thrilled to see the old uniform, made me stand in front of the class and share my mother’s story.

To make matters worse, much to my dismay, she sent me up and down the hall, dropping into every single classroom to share. At times I barely got out a few words as this required me to speak before students I did not know.

It was such a horrible experience that I did not go out trick-or-treating that night and for several years after.

One Million Reasons

One reason is all I needed to love you.

One simple reason to give my heart to you

And you gave it when you smiled,

Your blue eyes sparkling and a smile

Slowly expanding.

I fell for you like a rock off a cliff,

With no turning back.

 

One hundred reasons for staying in love,

One hundred reasons given over days, months, years

Without constraint, without conditions,

Never failing, never withheld.

Impossible to list, to quantify

But there nonetheless.

 

One thousand reasons to love you,

One thousand reasons reinforced daily, hourly,

By your kindness, your generosity,

Always encouraging me to move forward

Your unspoken but felt support,

Tangible when I need it most.

 

One million reasons to stand by you.

One million reasons to fall into your arms,

To cuddle against your chest,

To hear your words of love,

Never stales.

One million reasons.

 

 

 

 

Simple Musings

What’s the matter with the world today?

The weather is changing. It was 106 in San Francisco a few days ago. The hurricane in the south dropped 51 inches of rain in just a few days while other parts of the world are suffering from drought.

The environment is being challenged. While some fight to preserve resources, others dream of the resources hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Who will win? Can science beat destruction for greed? Or will leaders succumb to the pressures of those seeking wealth?

There is no longer any compromise in politics. Polite discourse is overruled by party line. Viscous name calling, lie spreading and image destruction are used to cower opponents.

It all makes me wonder where we are headed. Is it possible to reverse the effects of climate change when so many deniers control the decisions that eventually lead to policy?

Could there be enough rational people who are willing to cross the aisle and work together on policy?

I sure hope so, otherwise how do we survive?

The Story of Our Love

 

You appeared when I needed you most.

I was searching for someone to love me,

And there you were!

Standing in the office with a smile on your face,

Welcoming me, encouraging me, helping me

Transition to a new office, new rules, new expectations.

 

Your friendship turned into a workplace romance.

When I looked into your baby-blue eyes

I saw a kind heart, a caring individual

Looking back at me with love in his eyes.

Someone who would care for me like no one had ever done before.

 

Our engagement was a whirlwind, a time in which we loved

Deeper and deeper, no holds barred.

When you proposed, my world spun into crazy love

An incredible happiness beyond definition.

When the day finally came, I saw only you

As I walked down the aisle.

 

Since that day, 43 years ago, we have shared everything.

We raised three wonderfully talented children

Who have grown into amazing adults.

We stood as family through tough times

And laughed together when things were going great.

You were there for me when work disappointed

And I stood by you when work made you miserable.

We didn’t always agree, but we promised to never let anger simmer,

And we didn’t.

 

As time passed, our love morphed into a deeper relationship.

You are my best friend, my confidant, my encourager

Who props me up and keeps me going.

You give me freedom to explore my talents,

Even if it means straying far from home.

And are sad for me when my hopes are dashed.

 

Our story has had many climaxes, many challenges,

Many periods of joy and trouble,

But those bumps only served to enrich

What we have.

Our love is never-ending.

And for that, I am grateful.

 

Heritage Story

My mom was not a great storyteller. She didn’t read books or magazines or even the daily newspaper. She did watch television news, but only those stories that weren’t about war or killing.

There was one death that intrigued her, that of Princess Diana. For some reason, the tragedy of her death touched my mom.

I think she saw in Diana heritage lost. A genetic pool which would not be carried on. And that was important to my mom.

From the time I was a little girl, my mom bragged about her Native American roots, although she did not use that term. According to my mom, almost everything she did could be attributed to her being “Indian.”

She loved bread because she was Indian. She tanned easily because she was Indian. Her hair did not turn gray and she did not wrinkle because of….

The foods she fixed were, according to her, based on her Indian roots. Her rhubarb pie was a good example, as well as her apple dumplings and fried chicken.

When pressured, she could not name the relative from whom her heritage came. She believed it was from her great-great-great grandmother on her mother’s side, but that person had no name or place of birth.

No matter the lack of concrete evidence, I believed her. I loved the idea of being part Native American, no matter how tiny that part was in reality.

When I was in fourth grade I discovered that the nonfiction part of the library held a treasure trove of information on Native American tribes from all over the country. One by one I devoured the books, looking for any similarities between my mother and a specific tribe.

When I read about the Shawnee, a tribe that lived in the same Ohio region where I did, I was elated. Here was my connection to the past. My heritage that I could pass on to my children and grandchildren.

I drew out a map of their homeland, memorized Shawnee terms, dreamt about their foods, and romanticized their lifestyle.

When looking at old black and white photos of the Shawnee people, I saw a clear resemblance in my mother’s face. Satisfied, I grew up believing that I was part Shawnee.

Well into my twenties I attended my first pow-wow, something in the keening of the songs and the pounding of the drums resonated deep within me. I felt a kinship that I had never felt before, and I really wanted to join in the dance.  Until I realized how very white I was compared to all the other dancers.

I continued to be intrigued by all things Native American. Several years ago I began collecting artifacts. None of them have any historical value, but I love the dolls, the vases, the baskets and the jewelry. I have enough stuff that it fills an entire cabinet and enough black and white prints of old photos that my walls are covered.

My daughter began researching our genealogy several years ago. As she delved into the past, she was unable to locate a single relative that appeared to be Native American. This was disappointing in so many ways!

Over a year ago she asked me to submit a DNA sample for study. Because I was still interested in finding the familial link, I did so.

A few weeks later the results came in. I have zero percent  Native American heritage! This was a disappointing discovery.

It destroyed my beliefs about who I was. It meant that all those years of reading and dreaming were wasted. It also meant that there was no truth behind my mother’s stories, which was devastating.

I hated losing that part of me because it was ingrained by sixty years of believing.

Sometimes I wish that I had not done the DNA test. If I hadn’t, I could continue to naively believe that I was Native American. However, even though I lost a huge part of what I saw as my link to distant peoples, I am glad that I did the test.

It is better to know the truth than to be spreading falsities.