Archive | September, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 28

30 Sep

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Well Hello, Baby
No matter what you think you want from your life or when you expect it to happen, there are some things that take you by surprise and demand their own timeline and insist on happening, not according to your plan but JUST RIGHT NOW.
Our babies were like that, not even close to when we planned to have children, so why would we expect our granddaughter to be any more cooperative. Daisy didn’t arrive on anyone’s schedule but her own. Yet like some of the best gifts that life gives you, her arrival, surprise that it was, filled us with joy and laughter and hope for the future. All those wonderful gifts that babies have been bringing to the world since time began came with this little girl.
It is nice to be reminded tht there is nothing in the world so important that it can’t be set aside for a moment, or a month or a year, while you ignore everything but the chance to make tiny lips smile and tiny eyes crinkle and tiny lungs burst into giggles. When time slows down, in that old, ordinary way, Life can be extraordinary.

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Autobiographical Challenge: Day 27

29 Sep

Becoming Men Collage

Life changes fast when your children are only a year apart. You have two babies and then you have none. You live at the grade school and then you never go back. Two high school students consume your life and then the house is empty.
Austin turned 18 in March of 2011 and met his birth family and graduated and moved out and became a crab fisherman. He had a string of different girlfriends and every time I got to know one, she was gone – but now he has been with Trisha for over a year and he seems happier than I have ever seen him. He is off the boat and working with handicapped adults and is so kind I am very proud.
Emerson and Lula became a rock solid couple and graduated high school together, then moved to Santa Cruz and finished the first year of the program to become Math teachers, and then Daisy arrived and we are grandparents and falling in love all over again.
Suddenly the boys are men, and unlike the teens I knew, are full of smiles and laughter and easy hugs. Now I am dong other things than being a Mom, but being a Mom was the biggest joy of my life and watching the boys turn men, and my husband and I turn into grandparents has been amazing. Sometimes I feel too lucky, scared that everything I ever had on my bucket list has been accomplished so what comes next? I knew I needed new goals, “me goals” or I would turn reclusive and never be able to pry myself out of the house.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 26

29 Sep

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Goode-Stock 2010

My husband’s family has spread world wide and at various times had jobs and lives in The Netherlands, Aruba, China, India, Hawaii, Boston and so on. They don’t get together often enough but on the tens anniversary of the parents they make a huge deal. 2010 was the 60th anniversary and we rented a campground, usually used by scouting or church groups, in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I am not topless. Unfortunately the light beige top I had on photographs very much like skin tone for me.
The Goode family is rowdier and louder by far than the family I grew up in, and when they do get together it becomes a party. We had a lake and kayaks, we had a lot of cabins and a big camp kitchen and hiking and a big fish fry and one night a string banjo band came with dancing and it was mostly fun. We were about 40 miles from the parents home and my MIL was in a nursing home by then. So my FIL came up in the days but when home at night and we all went in at various times to visit Mimi. It was wonderful except when it got bad and then it got bad very fast. You could say it turned bad like “lightning.”
On top of the highest hill was a group fire ring with a knee high stone wall around the fire pit. It was probably 10 feet across, and a lot of large wooden benches circled it. Near-by was a large group hall that we had keys to but had never accessed. Thin but tall evergreens towered above the clearing. Some of the adults had been drinking and everyone was relaxed and happy. The granddaughter brought out her guitar and the grandsons were mostly talking and playing with hand held games or phones. A couple family dogs had joined us. There was a light flurry of rain but not heavy enough to dampen the spirits of anyone. Then suddenly an explosion as lightning concussed the air only feet above our heads. A dead silent moment as the hair on our arms and heads sizzled and eyeglass frames grew hot. Then screams and running, dogs vanishing into the woods, people diving for cars or running to the empty hall. We stood inside listening to the storm grow heavy and then hail splatted around us ad then a calm. We hesitated but moved back out to the fire ring, reluctant to head to the cabins just yet.
One of the childless uncles, drunk and scared and irritated all at once climbed into the stone wall and kept turning to dry his clothing over the bonfire and staggering a bit and snapping as various people tried to tell him to get out. Then a nephew came close, texting his girlfriend, and the uncle thought he’d had too much time wired in. The Uncle kicked at the hand holding the phone, and fell, reaching out to break his fall and jamming the hand between two burning logs. As everyone moved at once, he was pulled out and stared at the blistering and peeling skin and swore it didn’t hurt. Emergency room, 20 miles away with him insisting he didn’t need it.

Anyway, it was a reunion we haven’t forgotten, four years after the oldest sister died of heat stroke in the Grand Canyon, and 6 months before the oldest nephew died walking home from the grocery store when he stepped in front of a train. MIL and FIL were still doing ok when we saw them again this summer and the burned hand has recovered and life, it goes on.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 25

27 Sep

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You can make me be here (but you can’t make me smile)
When I look at this picture, so many other pictures flash through my mind that I’m pretty sure the words which follow will fail to capture them. We are standing on the balcony of Cabin 1A in Gold Beach, Oregon at a place called Ireland’s Rustic Lodges. When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 miles from home, but we kept going.
You see, that first year away from Wyoming, Thanksgiving was miserable. No family in a thousand miles and no friends yet. The two of us tried being cheerful at the community Thanksgiving dinner but the sense of being disconnected from family really hurt. We knew we needed to create our own traditions. So when we found a little cabin clustered on the beach, with firewood stacked on the porch and a fireplace inside as the only heat source and no phones – we thought it was the perfect place to rent for the long weekend. It became our tradition to cook Turkeys in the kitchen and watch the sunset over the Pacific as we ate.
Over the years, everyone came to join us. My parents were there a couple times, my brothers, my brothers-in-law and nephews and sisters-in-law and friends from Germany and friends from Wyoming and Ashland. We were in one of the cabins when we got a knock on the door from the office manager giving us a message to call and discover that our son’s birth mom was in labor and later we were there when Mom called and a knock sent us to the payphone to fid out that my Dad had died at 8 minutes after midnight. We came with out youngest son, straight out of the Neonatal intensive care unit for some uninterrupted family recovery time. We painted rocks with the boys and their cousins and left them in the flower garden, and we were there when my husband’s sister came back from Africa and gave all 4 nephews spears which they brandished around the cabin while making forts of the couch cushions and twin size mattresses.
This picture was about the last time we were there, maybe the last time. The cabins were sold to the neighboring motel and the fireplaces came out, a hot tub went in, electric heat was added and the boys began having their own separate lives where a long weekend couldn’t interrupt the jobs they needed to pay their rent. There was a bit of loss of amusement at Mom and Dad’s sense of humor going on in those last high school years, and a resentment at having to leave girlfriend’s even overnight. There were scrabble games and beach walks and a sense that there would be a few years before the appeal of family Thanksgivings returned to the boys, but I already anticipate bringing a granddaughter here, and painting rocks and baking pies.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 24

26 Sep

Guatemala Collage

After my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, both Mom and Dad’s worlds narrowed down, until the hospital bed in the living room became their universe. Mom wouldn’t allow any help except my brother, no nurses or hospice, and so when my Dad did die, everything that her being had focused on for just under a year, was suddenly gone too.

Gradually she began to change and grow and be open to new adventures again, so that 6 years after his death, when she called and asked me if I would meet her and my brother Lance in Guatemala with my two boys, if she bought the tickets, I wasn’t too surprised. Greg couldn’t go because of work, but it would just mean pulling the boys from the last week of their 2nd and 3rd grade school years.

As a teacher, I am supposed to believe that missing school is horrible – but the last week of school is a lot of running outside with assistants and parent volunteers doing field days while the races are done and the classrooms readied for summer. This seemed like an experience that would give them a lot more than just staying in school an extra week.

There were some safety issues, last year the group had had their bus blocked by piles of burning ties and groups of protesters. less than 10 years ago the Town we were visiting had a massacre of the very Mayan tribe we were going to be helping rebuild cement homes with. Now they were officially an independent zone where the Spanish Guatemalan Army would give them autonomy, but still . . . It was my “babies” I was taking there. We were warned to never talk to the children because parents were very fearful that we might kidnap them.

We went, by plane to Houstan and the Guatemala City, and by painted old school bus to Panajachel, and by motorboat across the lake and through the bullrushes to Santiago, Atitlan. Then they told us the building had just been completed and asked if we would mind volunteering at a Mayan school for the week. It was perfect for us. We shared pictures and songs and games that needed no words with children who spoke Mayan at home but Spanish at school. Every day we feasted on wonderful fruits and by the time we were ready to go home my Mom was wearing the hand woven Mayan Skirt and my sons had friends and an adopted “grandma”

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 23

26 Sep

After Dad’s Funeral
This one, the story is in the silence and the gaping hole where no one stands behind us.

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Autobiographical Challenge: Day 22

26 Sep

Once we moved to the coast, my parents came to visit every year, driving 1300 miles to get here. There are no direct routes between their home and mine and it is 400 miles further in the winter than in the summer due to the closure of some roads, like the road through Yellowstone Park.
I adopted their first grandchild 17 days before my brother’s wife gave birth to a daughter, and a year and a day later my second son was born. And a year and a half later my brother’s son. The grandparents loved being grandparents and came as often as they could, but they also loved the coastal redwoods area and enjoyed climbing on the rocks and exploring the forest paths.
When my boys were old enough to climb the rocks, Dad came one last time and raced them to the top of a huge sea stack, but had already had major cancer surgery and within two months would be unable to stand up from the couch where he would lay, in a somewhat strange state, suspended between being able to sleep or being able to stay awake.
If anything can be learned from my stories, I hope it is this – that no matter how long you have your loved ones, it is never long enough, so spend every moment you can, being aware how much you love them.

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