Photo Op

I don’t usually post photos of myself on this site.  For that matter, I don’t usually post photos of other people on this site.  Mostly because this blog has never been about other people, and rarely even about me at the beginning.  I don’t do this for sponsorship, I don’t do this for fame or fortune.  I do this for me, and so I have something to look back in the years to come and reminisce.  So finding nine photos might be a bit hard, just bear with me and we’ll see how many I get! Continue reading

Official Start to Summer

Today I got to reenact one of my favorite memories from my childhood–the annual trek to the local berry farm and strawberry picking with family.  I’ve gotten older, the berry farm has changed locations, and it’s my family-by-choice instead of my family-by-birth, but the feeling is the same.  Go early, ride the hayride, watch the younguns have a blast, and eat strawberries straight off the vine warmed by the sun.  Feed the rabbits, bounce in the bouncy house, play in the giant corn pit.

This year it was B and her boys (NoMH opted out), and C and her girls.  The girls thought it was a riot, and the boys–once they got the concept of ‘pick the red ones only’–loved it.  Little J-bug especially, at 2, who was my companion for most of the morning.  He’d make a beeline for a berry, grab it in his fist and yank it off the vine, drop it in my bucket.  Stare at it a minute, then pick it back up, pluck off the green tops, and shove it in his mouth whole.  B loved it too–got his own box, and picked about a dozen before he became more interested in ‘helping’ others and eating his own.  Well, that, and playing in the dirt.

I kept thinking of all the times I used to go to the Ashland Berry Farm with my Papa.  Always in May, no earlier than Mother’s Day weekend and no later than Memorial Day, and picking until my tongue was puckered and my fingers were stained bright red.  And what a lovely memory that was for us.  I just hope these boys and girls grow up remember the same.  That they don’t remember the very windy morning, the long ride, the crankiness, the eighty-leven trips to a latrine, but instead remember that they got to ride a tractor, went on a hayride, and enjoy the experience. Continue reading

The loss of a beloved soul

Yesterday I had to go to a funeral.  I realize that’s a downer of a statement to start a blog posting with, but there you have it.  I went to a funeral.  For some reason, funeral attendance has been a common topic among some of my friends lately.  Maybe it’s because one of us is riddled with cancer in over half of her body.  Maybe it’s because an acquaintance passed away ten months ago and her loss is sorely felt every day.

Many of my friends have said that they have only been to a funeral, maybe two, in their lifetime.  I can’t say that.  I think I go to about three a year, and at least one (if not all three) are for family.  Y’all, my grandfather had 14 brothers and sisters.  My grandma, who came from the smallest family, had seven.  They all lived into their 80s, but lately we are losing a few every year.  And funerals, in my family, are not always a somber event.  They are frequently turned into parties, reunions, potluck picnics, and get-togethers.  When my Papa died seven years ago, my great-uncle (nana’s brother) left early because he had a headache.  Turned out to be brain cancer over 60% of his gray matter.  Three weeks later, my pseudo-grandma (and nana’s best friend) had a massive heart attack at her grandson’s football game and passed away.  Six weeks later, nana’s last remaining brother also passed away.  So in three months she lost her husband, two brothers and best friend.  That side of the family was thrilled we’d seen each other four times in three months, but hated the reason.  So we started planning a reunion every summer just because–and hopefully not having a funeral to see one another.

All that to say that funerals don’t faze me.  I consider it a matter of respect to the person that has passed to go to a ceremony or service that celebrates the person that lived, the soul and spirit of the departed, and to laugh and share memories of the loved one.  And bonus if they were a member of the church, looking down from the right hand of God and smiling at all of us remembering good times while he lived, knowing that one day we will be reunited.

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of a great, great man.  He was an elder in the church of my youth, and always good for a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  His petite wife, a darling woman, was there by his side every day.  He’d been in hospice for almost two years, but only after having a stroke last week did the end seem near.  Blissfully, it was just a few days before he passed.  Married for 64 years, he had three children.  The boys went into the ministry, the youngest into the wilds of Africa with his second-generation missionary wife.  The service was a remembrance of the man, the father, the church elder, and the beloved man.

The service had a brass band playing.  No somber choir or soloist here.  The son-in-law of the deceased is a member of the orchestra (or something like that) and arranged to have the quintet playing.  Each of the nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren walked in a processional, carrying a long-stemmed red rose that was placed in a vase on the altar.  Then each of he three children got up to say some words about their father.

That’s when it started to get uncomfortable for me.  Not because of the words they said, in fact, I was envious of the things that they shared.  They had such a close relationship with their father and had the blessing of a man who was incredibly involved in their lives, a man who raised them and participated in their lives, and meant so much to them that they had small stories to share that had every one of us cracking up with hysterical laughter.

But the worst was when one of the ministers got up to read a letter that Cliff had written to his children.  It was the man I remembered.  To the point, it addressed each of the three kids, and said something specific to each of them that had all laughing.  It was full of advice, reminiscence, wisdom, and love.  It was absolutely beautiful.

And that’s what was so hard for me.  I have a relationship with my father.  He is 65 years old.  He isn’t the greatest father in the world (his own words), but he’s the only father that I have.  While each of Cliff’s children got up to speak about the joy that was life with their father, I kept thinking that the man I give that title to has been largely absent from my life, not really there when I need him, and rarely around to even speak to.  As I have gotten older, things have improved–mostly because he’s the king of text messaging.  It’s impersonal and brief.  Just like dad.

But more disturbingly, I don’t know of anyone that could say anything remotely close to that regarding my father after his demise.  He is not an easy guy to know.  He is not always nice.  He isn’t funny.  He’s not caring, nurturing, or loving.  He’s a cold-hearted, calculating, conniving soul if you want the truth.  And I hate to say it but I’m not even sure I would have a lot to say about the man in that sort of circumstance.  Would I be upset if he were to pass?  Of course.  He’s my father.  I might even be a bit more upset as he is also one that has walked away from the church, denying all faith.  So I know that when he dies, he is truly gone from me.  But I don’t know if I would truly have much of a loss to mourn, as any involvement he has in my life is restricted to conversations regarding his mother, quick conversations about the weather, and wondering if he is going to stop by my brother’s house for dinner when I’m in town.  We don’t talk much.  Not for lack of trying on my part, but there is only so many times you can hit your head against a concrete wall before you get a massive headache and stop.

I spent a lot of time last night upset about this.  I miss what my father could have been, had he only ever had an interest.  I miss the relationship we could have had, given the opportunity.  I miss the role he could have had in my life, if he only ever cared enough to take it.  He left my life over thirty years ago, and while he is present as a family member now that I’m an adult, it’s not as a parent.  More of a distant blood relative that I get along with on occasion.

So after witnessing the joy that was the service and celebration yesterday, I want to say this:  Lee, Craig, and Sharon: You are and were greatly blessed.  To have such a loving family surround you and support you all your life, and to recognize how special that was while you had the chance is a great gift.  I loved your father so very much, he was such a great man of God.  He did you all well, and you have made him so very, very proud.  I am so very sorry for your loss, but you know that somewhere he is waiting for you to join him.  In the meantime, he is finding a wig and using a funny voice to entertain hordes of children in heaven.  And if that doesn’t work, he’ll be there with a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  God bless you all.

Delayed Grief and Farewell My Friend

Several years ago, a friend of mine had a headache.  Who knew that it was the beginning of the end.

Over the years, she and I developed a friendship.  A single mom who was struggling with the idea of ending her marriage, she knew that the best thing for her two daughters was to part from the father, as he was a bit too fond of his vices, and try to make a go of it on her own.  She was just a few years older than I, and throughout the phenomenon known as ‘nap time’ during the GCN Saturday shows I found out she used to live around the corner from my Aunt and Uncle, and babysat my two younger cousins.  We were not exceptionally close–we didn’t go to the movies or hang out outside of church.  But I did consider her a friend.  And a true soul at that.

She was a beautiful woman, with two beautiful daughters.  She raised her daughters in the church, and the three of them had an organic and true love for God.  She had a younger brother who was a surrogate father to them, for they loved their Uncle.

Then there came a day that she was having a headache.  Her father, after two days, forced her to go to the hospital.  No simple migraine, it turns out that she actually had MDS–myelodysplastic syndrome.  Once known as preleukemia, it is a blood disorder.  Most commonly found in people who have had chemotherapy for other conditions, it sometimes hits people for no reason at all.  That was my friend.

For the next year and a half, we watched her sail through blood transfusions, treatments, etc.  Her daughters were amazing.  Her test results came back with fantastic results.  Then there was the day that her results were not so fantastic.  She had a setback.  And then she had another.  And then it went from just a setback to full-blown leukemia.

Then came chemo.  Again, Continue reading

Slacker Today = Thanksgiving Neurotic Woman

Thanksgiving is not a great holiday in my life.  I just don’t care one way or the other.

We used to make a big deal about Thanksgiving in my family, only now not so much.  Back then it was at Nana’s house.  When Papa moved into a nursing home, they had a “Tavern” room that we could use, so we just moved Thanksgiving to him.  As his disease progressed and his health deteriorated, he was no longer able to eat.  So Thanksgiving, where we all were eating in front of him, just seemed mean.  So we stopped having it.

I don’t eat Thanksgiving food, really.  I don’t care for turkey, stuffing is gross, cranberry sauce that is shaped like a can is not original.  So it was no big loss.  Family members have started going elsewhere–the other side of the family, basically.   This year is no different.  My mom has been invited for the first time to my younger sister’s house, and she lives in Philly.  My brother’s future brother-in-law has, for the first time, invited his family to Martinsville for the holiday, so they are going.

Me?  Well, I think I’m going to grab a friend and go to the Muppet Movie. 🙂

I am having a Thanksgiving, though.  One I am actually excited about.  At my house, and I”m even going to cook turkey–even if it is a turkey tenderloin.  This Saturday I have 10-12 people coming over.  It’s a group that I hang with on Tuesday nights.  I originally started hanging out with them because we would get together to watch the last few seasons of Lost.  We have progressed to still getting together every week, and now we watch old episodes of Charmed.  I go when I can, as work gets in the way more often than not, but I think we’re up to season five.  And the group has grown, and new friends are made.  We try to get together for every major holiday, and this year I offered to host Thanksgiving.

The family you choose to be with is sometimes more enjoyable than the family you’re born with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but it’s not the same.  I had lunch with someone today who nailed it for me for the first time–I see my family so often, that Thanksgiving just isn’t special.  It’s just dinner.  So this surrogate family, this group of friends, this gang of people who I haven’t seen regularly in months because of work–they’re the ones that I am going to be dining with this Saturday.  They’re the ones that are making this holiday enjoyable again for me.

The only problem with this, well, I guess it goes back to the fact I’m working insane hours.  My house is TOAST.  I have got about two weeks of cleaning to do, and I have done none.  The summer/winter closet switch is still in progress (week seven).  The bridesmaids dresses I have tried and rejected, etc. are hanging all over.  The dog toys are everywhere.  The big bin of photos from Grandma’s house is still sitting in the recycling bin in my kitchen–right where I put it back in September when I got it.  The scrappy supplies from making my future sister-in-law’s shower gift is all over the kitchen table–along with the crystal I couldn’t find a place for from that same trip to Grandma’s in September.  I have had lists and plans and intentions out the wazoo for cleaning, and so far nothing has happened.

So come Thanksgiving this Saturday, I shall be a giant neurotic mess.

Wow. Just, well, wow!

So tonight was the production of the WeKids choir at church.  The second year we’ve done it, and it was awesome.  1100 people showed up, and it was amazing to see what the children were capable of doing.  The drama, sign language, sticks, and dance was great, and the 104 children sang their hearts out.  Once again, we had the plastic poster to have the names of those we invited on it, and I was thrilled to see H and her boys come again, as well as C and her girls, and B and E and baby B.  Prior to the show I was (again) the official hair braider of the girls, and did about eight girls for the show.  Such a stinkin’ cute group, and I am so proud of them.

Then after the show I received the absolute shock of my life.  Continue reading

Snapshot of Americana

I have been gone all day.  I was at church, home long enough to change clothes, at a church function, then at a revised Sunday dinner before discovering a missed phone call and spending an hour on the phone with an old friend.  When I finally got in the house, I checked Facebook and email to catch up.  Upon which, I discovered, the new health care package was passed.

If I were to take this at face value among my Facebook friends, there is an interesting conundrum.  Evidently 2/3 of my vocal (i.e., post all opinions on Facebook) friends think this country is now going straight to hell in a handbasket.  Then there are the few vocals ones that say thank god for finally doing something about health care.

What I find interesting about this ratio is that the majority of my Facebook friends are staunch supporters of health care reform.  They have just remained silent compared to those that are die-hard Republicans and think that supporting health care reform or President Barack Obama is akin to aligning oneself with the devil.  The decry the desecration of the Constitution in the past day, that the national decision makers have forgotten the principles upon which the country was founded, and that we are now, essentially Europe.

Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t read the news all day.  I just find this humorous.  I disagree with much of those opinions, and the one thing that keeps coming back to me is this:

Founding Fathers never had to deal with HMOs or insurance companies.  They could trade a side of beef or a wheel of cheese for decent medical care.  If you can find a doctor that will work for such wages in today’s economy then please, by all means, let me know.  I’m moving to your town.

Interesting nighttime reading!  Time to check on the news reports and see what all the hooplah is about!