Next Book?

I got three boxes of pictures in the mail that day.  Just a few after I got the call they were on the way.  Later I got a large packet envelope with more family treasures to peruse; birth and death certificates of family, more pictures, hair collections, bill receipts kept from ages ago – I don’t know why Mom kept all those.  Except maybe to remind her how hard she and Dad had worked for our family as we grew up.

I really don’t know if I can do this, if I can do justice to their legacy – my family’s legacy which brought me here where God has placed.   God will place again and still; He will show.  I pray He provide for me the words which need to be written, for me and my family.  I don’t tell, I just plug along and write as God feeds me to do. God will place – I’ve said that and believe that. Keep my path in this honest dear Lord and move me to do as your will. In Christ’ name I pray: effectual fervent prayer. And nobody can take it away.


(But I Need to Tell the Story)

I knew then, when I read his letters to us, in start “my darling and children”. I was two months old and my dad went to Iceland to help build the airport. I always thought it was probably a chance to earn good money, kinda’ like the pipelines in Alaska for good paying yet hard work. But it was more. When I read my dad’s letters – 63 years later – I realized it was dire straits to keep his family supported. He was 26 years old. Heartbreaking when you read how lonesome he was and how he missed his young family so desperately. But to pray to hang on for four more months to secure rumor of a $500 bonus and a guaranteed job back home in the states. Working twelve hour days and then no work on some due to storms – so no pay. He wrote of how sick he got but worked on through and assured Mom he’d be okay in a couple days (all the while working those 11-12 hour days). My heart breaks to imagine how his world was taken and how he endured what he did for us – his young family. Dad always did that; no matter what he had, it didn’t matter to him if he had it or not, just so we were taken care of. Always he did that.  I found out yesterday from my only living uncle, that my father also helped build the Interstate and Toll Road running through where I was raised and I wonder if that’s why we moved there.  Questions and ponderings each day now…over years ago in my life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And if I write all this down, there’s nothing that can stop. Freedom to do so, right? Compassion to a love so special and so missed, my family: my mom, dad, younger sister and son. And then I visit all my “angel army” in my heart; I miss and love all of them. And the pictures re-hash all the thoughts to the point I am overwhelmed with emotion all day long. So I break from the pictures for just a few. I get excited to see them and re-visit some, yet it wears me out mentally. The whole ordeal wears me out!

I can’t get the years back and I can’t re-live them. But as I age I am blessed to have the letters and the pictures and our family bibles of generations back. I am blessed so I can reflect and hopefully settle in all of this. God has given my heart what it needs, the true treasures of years past. Many steps and many paths my family has made throughout their lives. I am somehow passionate to tell their story. I feel all the work and love endured, need not be reduced by greed and dishonesty. For what is real was in their hearts and there will come a day, perhaps, others can be fed by the love and devotion there and also not there. For some try to take.

I pray as I go forward to tell a story I promised to tell. One which can’t be taken away!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

One of the first pictures I came upon was me and my sister in a snow fort Dad had made.  With the grins on our faces its no wonder to me we love snow now as we do.  I later found other pictures with us on the outside of the fort, then another one with Dad and shovel in hand building it.  He made it over a wooden box turned on it’s side.  I loved forts; we made one in the woods behind our house with large flattened cardboard boxes nailed to trees to make the walls.  It was cool.  I remember huckleberries and lady slippers grew in those woods.  What a treat of a treasure just behind my house.  I loved that house.  I occasionally have dreams of that house.  Dad painted it pink and brown and we called it an ice-cream cone!  We moved from there when I was in fourth grade, but I can tell you every room of it’s layout and especially the yard.  There was a huge snowball bush on the side and lavender Iris across the backyard, and a patio just at the back porch bordered with a flowerbed.  I remember on Easter, Dad told me to look and try to find an egg in those flowers.  I was about four years old I think.  So in my Easter crinolines I bent right over to look – as Dad had a movie camera just waiting, and I showed my butt to all.  He was forever doing stuff like that setting up a laugh.  He bought that movie camera just before my little sister passed away, just days after Christmas.  She was in the first movie but Dad didn’t know how to use it good yet so it was dark and I remember you could only make out figures walking, no faces.  We really enjoyed Dad’s cameraman amusement over the years, especially when he would show the film backwards, what a hoot.

Then I found a picture of me on the front porch to that house.  Me, holding my puppy, with a box camera dangling from my wrist.  That porch was like an adventure land to me then.  I look at the picture and see there were no railways, only lined by a few bushes and the backside was lined by windows into our living room.  I really liked those windows, two columns of squares top to bottom.  They gave my house a cool look, it was a little different from some of the other cookie-cutter houses.

My best buddy was across the street.  He was a year younger and I was a tom boy, so we just trudged around in our neighborhood adventures everyday.  We’d even cook mud pies on the water meter lid – then I ate one!  I can still remember the crunch.  I can remember fishing for tadpoles in the front ditch just after a rain.  I remember so many adventures and good times.  I won’t go into detail though of how my buddy’s diaper hung down from behind it seemed like all the time while we played.  And I myself wouldn’t stop playing long enough to be poddy trained when Mom needed me to.  I remember the goldfish even, that we won at the fair and the next morning they’d always be dead.  I even remember where we buried them, added one by one as Mom and Dad let us keep trying to keep one.  That must’ve been before dechlorane tabs.

I had cats, one by one I’d have a best friend I’d hardly let alone.  I put them in my baby carriage – still remember my solid black one wrapped in a purple cloth, and I would go meet my older sister at the bus stop.  I supposed Mom was walking with me, but I was in my own world with my kitty cat.

Dad worked at Sealtest ice cream for sometime then, don’t know how long though.  I found a picture of him in work uniform, hair all groomed and trimmed, standing by his big Sealtest truck.  When he brought his truck home, it was excitement in the air.  He’d park it in our driveway butted up to the Holly tree I always climbed.  I think I did that just to see better waiting on Dad to get home from work.  I loved that Holly tree too, even though it pricked me.

I am so grateful I was mailed all these pictures of my life, of my family’s life.  And as I often disgruntle at the means, I am blessed to have them and the treasures they bring to my heart.  Tears of treasures.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

It’s like reading a book and the anticipation to start it again.  That’s how it is as I go through all the many pictures.  I am blessed I get to relive it, as my eyes see moments I have lived through years ago.  I am not done yet.

I think deep down maybe there’ll be a clue or a secret something we’ve been praying for to guide this whole ordeal to a reasonable end.  An end my family planned for and prepared for my entire life.  Perhaps because my younger sister died at age two, by devastating accident and medical error.  And it seemed to be a waste, to have the youngest of three girls taken.  (although God tells us “good men taken, taken from the evil to come”…only He knows).  My parents were always over protective we felt, yet now I can understand fully.

I look at our faces just two years after her death, and the smiles of fun days tells me we survived and our life went on.  That’s how it is.  Over and over as our family has passed.  And Dad un-expectantly died too at a young age of sixty-one.  (Precautionary surgery, yet the test was in error) and he never recovered due to his smoking they said.  They said, they said…the medical world I now have not much faith in.  My faith in the Lord is what stands in my life.  Too many deaths, too many evils, too much suffer in this life.  I have faith God will place.

And nothing can take it away.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I feel like I’m with you.  To be given a chance to visit and be with all of you.  As if you’re in my life with me.  I find myself placing picture after picture around me where I readily see them.  They are not framed, just propped so I can see and revisit their setting.  As I come across one that melts my heart with joy, then is when I place it so I can see everyday.  I want to relish the moments to life they bring.

But now I’ve left the china behind.  It was about the only thing left I’d hoped to acquire of my family’s personal items.  You see, there’s an estate sale of her then re-married-to husband (after Dad’s passing).  It’s going on now, as I write, for three days twelve hours away, where Mom moved to.  I am in Virginia.  I found out just yesterday about this sale and what an emotional roller coaster my being is going through.  Dad died years ago now, and Mom almost six.  Now her husband died a few months ago and so there the ordeal is.  Do I walk away, as I and my sister have been treated and preyed upon as I feel Mom was, as victims in some scheme?  I just want to shut the door never to return to such, yet when I think of all the hard work and tears my parents have lived through for me and my older sister, I feel I can’t shut the door.  I have now the pictures and family bibles and birth and death certificates even back to my grandparents.  That’s all I need for my heart to inherit.

Yet I also have the many bills and statements showing how my parents suffered through to try and support their young family.  And blow after blow to their heart they survived through.  Seems only typical to be as it is…blow after blow to my own heart. God will place though, remember?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s funny how things can turn on a dime.  God moves things by powers and plans we haven’t even begun to imagine.   So as my mind changes in all of this, the fact and reason for my constant prayer, is to keep God in the center.  He will place.  I am blessed as the whole ordeal moves closer and closer…to a closure.  God’s glory in my heart, I am so blessed!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I almost feel like another death.  This estate sale should be over now – I was told all else would be donated to a non-profit.  I was really glad to see the videos the company showed on the sale.  They went through the house and showed upon all the many, many items and just stuff collected over the years; ‘course her husband horded, so…you can imagine.  But it was good for me and my sister to actually view the house now, that our mom lived in for many years, and to actually see all these items we grew up with.  Mom was taken away in that house – we did not know our mom, as Mom we knew, any longer. 

What a zoo she lived in.  I remember I asked her not long before she died if she felt under duress with a certain someone there.  She said she felt under duress with the whole situation.  And living in a crazy zoo it seemed to me each time I’d call  her.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Though blow by blow for my family once more.  You see, the inheritance worked for from my father and mother blew away in what appears to be a scheme by the one she married into.  Take heed to go to this southern state parents; for your plans may not be your own.  Your children may be left to the air, not having right to their heritage.  For what you may will, may be preyed upon and taken away.  Support grows the dishonest with inheritance in that place.  They enable them.

But as I read, I can deal with it.  I can give it to God once more.  God feeds me when I’m weak.  See Luke 12:33,

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupt.

Forgive my thoughts dear God, ease forgiveness not reproach in my heart.  For the evils before me canker my heart, surround me I pray, with your love and your glory dear God.  

Look as God places, and he does.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

An honest conversation approach huh?  A conversation pulling out all the stops, dredging all that faceted this situation.  A phone call with she who sent my pictures.  And sometimes all I can do is write it down.  I yearn in writing this now.  I want to gather all the information I’ve not had for both my parents.  I want to end an end to the lives so torn within that house, and so far from me.  I want to gather all the edges and embrace them.  And so with many, many tears I write.

I’ve had my mind in this matter it seems for so long now.  It’s hard to let go, seeing my dad’s face in my mind and knowing all of what my mom’s life was, is so against what we were taught and knew in how to live.  We didn’t know there were those who set out to take.  Schemes it seems, to take advantage is where some hearts are.  And Dad did not teach nor show us to live that way.  He always wanted better for us, his children, as well as to be better persons.  He taught by how he was to others.  To see his legacy in what he worked hard for, to be reduced to such dishonesty, is what I really struggle with.  Dad was such a gift to others, with a heart that would melt your own.  Love showed in him.  He put his own needs last and to make sure his family was first.  I remember he skipped a bill once, just to buy a dress we said we needed (selfish young us really just wanted it, probably didn’t need it) for an upcoming event.  He in a house with three females.  Poor Dad.  I miss him so much.

I miss all my angel army.  In the flesh, that’s when I weaken and begin to ache in my soul for them. And so I bring myself to reflect spiritually.  Then I see, the Kingdom of God is in me.  And my angel army is with Him in His Kingdom.  And so they live forever in the heart of my soul, with me.  I can do all things in Christ...He helps me survive the terrible woes and loss in this life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I decided today I’ll go through more pictures.  I need to move on.  My mind scatters with every thought weighing on my heart.  This morning I woke up and before I knew it, I was in tears.  Desperate I feel sometimes; grasping at thoughts to comfort a closure and peace in folding all this up.

I feel I lay dormant with thoughts of Dad for so many years.  Thoughts yes, and very often, yet to stir not a spirit in me I know is him.  I look to God and praise Him in all my dad means and is and was.  He opens my heart to delve all the years ahead to include Dad.  To carry him with my life and to open a space in my heart forever yearning to be open.  He brings joy to my heart in knowing he is with God in spirit and safe from hurt.  He went through so much for me.  I owe Dad for many good things; things through his caring to show me; things man can’t measure.  I caused pain and worry to both my parents, yet not only myself but most who turn eighteen.  Oh those years were doozies!  I’m sorry I caused anguish, yet I’m not sorry for who I am.  I am a daughter whose heart has melted at every thought of her dad.  From childhood to her motherhood, Dad has a special place.  He always will, safe in my heart from this world.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I knew it would take a lot out of me in writing this, but I am to do it; so I will.  Sometimes the paths we take are not the ones, yet when they are, there may be anguish.  Held up by the one within us, within the inner of our being and the one who guides our spirit.  As I am reminded, I give it all over to Him.

When I look at a picture of my favorite cousin when she was nine, I can only put myself  back when.  Yet I was not yet.  Her sun-kissed skin, shining from what I’m sure was a sweltering day.  There were no AC’s then in ’54.  And where she lived, it was oh-so humid.  Mosquito bites and bruise jewels on her tanned legs, let  me know she was not a pampered girl.  Even though she wore a dress, I imagine her as myself – a true tomboy.  Besides we all wore dresses then, unless it was cold and we put long pants under our dresses.  Out of necessity and to learn, I know she worked hard at home.  Her parents taught life’s lessons well.

With a gentle smile, her face just shined and gleaned as she looked down at my older sister, when she was only months old.  And my sister’s eyes as well, were fixed upon her’s.  My cousin held her arm around her securely while they both sat on the sofa.  Both met in the focus of their hearts, and they would bond forever.

As I think back on the time in this picture, I can even seem to remember.  The sofa a rough chenille, and reddish-brown; I can feel the roughness as I brush my hand across it.  I look at the end table and the lamp thereon, which is very similar to the one in my own home now.  It’s old too.  There’s a crocheted doily under it; which I grew up with decorated upon many things.  People would put those doilies on the back and arms of their sofas and arm chairs to sort of decorate it up and protect it; placed just where wear and tear would touch the couch.  They were very detailed and pretty and surely painstakingly made.  So they were placed and could decorate all around the house.

My cousin always seemed to connect with both myself and my sister.  She lived closer to my sister over the years and they frequented and kept contacted with one another more.  But we were all grown and kept our bond.  I was so blessed to have known her heart and soul before she passed away.  She’s been hard to give up in this life.  And again I try and explain the spiritual part of our life.  Each day I pray my sister feels God’s Comforter ease her struggles, as we all struggle with death.  Look beyond what you see!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some days I want to fight for what is our’s, what my family worked hard for over many, many years.  Just as typical to most.  I have the pictures showing the modest years of their lives; the weathered look and the tired eyes of the adults around us children.  Yet we all had smiles; we all had each other and we had security in our family that we’d be treated right and taken care of and we were secure in that.  We didn’t think any other way, we didn’t know any other way.  Even through years of God’s calling to Him of the loved ones once here, love prevailed in our life, and we went on.

I’m so grateful I have the memory to recall even the little dresses I wore back then.  When I see me in it, I remember wearing it.  All little girls wore dresses then, but at least they weren’t long to the ankles, what havoc that would’ve been on my playing.

Pictures that carry me through time.  Pictures that open a door in my mind not ever, or dormant for many years.  Pictures reveal the history of those around me my youthful life.  Thank you God they are revealed to me now.  To ponder them and enjoy the glow which comes to life in each face.  Oh how I am so blessed in my “getting old” days.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Today the china returns to us – bought at auction by the ones it always belonged to.  Carried by friendship to the rightful owners.  Lady Greenbriar – a dinner party needs be to special the return and to honor such a name we never knew was.  My family’s heirloom, my family’s gift to us now.

Even though I know material possessions aren’t the matter, this family possession is important to me.  Pictures, papers (although not the will) and a treasure my mom cherished for many years.  As though the china marked a family meal.  Like a family crest seal sort of.  Anyway, I’ll be glad when it makes it to my cabinet and family for years ahead.  When the china returns home.

I feel like everything’s where it belongs now.  My dear husband went to who brought it and gave to me for our anniversary.  How perfect!  The china is home.  How beautifully blessed I feel.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Yesterday I spoke with my uncle, my only living…Mom’s brother.  I let him know of the treasures my heart had received.  And the china, that was his mom’s too, had been rescued back to safe haven, family haven where all these things belong.  Family bibles, old-oldie photos depicting all our lives, and now the family china.  How awesome.  He said he remembered they ate on it at Christmas.  We did too at our house, with our own set to match; Mom and her mother’s to match.  We love our Homer Laughlin.  I know it sounds superficial to say this, but when I see their china in my cabinet now, all placed with settings ready to be used – all sorted and resting in it’s new home – I feel complete in this and free from strife over it all.  The bibles, photos, the papers and letters, and now the family china – all resting in their new home, but more importantly with family.

I had all sorts of questions for my uncle, realizing he was all I had to know these things I now search.  And to recall my memories to him, only to receive his own memories of their life prior to me.  And he told me of a dog they had, who had walked up into the yard, so young they fed it with a bottle.  They had the dog as grown too.  He said they came to visit us over Christmas one year…years ago, and when they returned home, that night the dog howled at the moon all night long.  They couldn’t sleep he said.  Then he told me Grandma said to them that something bad was going to happen in the family.  The next morning, “Sis”, they called Mom, phoned and said my little sister had died.  Chills and a breaking heart to hear those words from him.  I can only imagine what Grandma must have felt for her daughter and loss of a “baby” granddaughter.  A very profound time in all our lives.

I’m so glad he told me that though, I don’t even know if he ever told Mom and Dad but I’m glad to know what he remembers these sixty-some years.  How profound.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I find myself feeling desperate with excitement to get pictures copied and sent to ones I want to share.  That’s what life’s about, right?  To feed and pleasure those we are near to, and those we love and are not.

A cousin my age whom I haven’t seen for a lifetime, I’ve finally heard back from.  Alone it seems in his life, I am praying this be perfect timing for his need.  I want to share and be a part of his life; to help feed a joy he must yearn for.  We all  yearn for it, especially as we age and know where joy soothes the soul and swells the heart…with love.  Joy, in family, in friends, in strangers…in the earth around us…but joy feeding from within, that’s where love grows.  If I can be even a part of that love for someone, then by all means bring it on!  That joy will stir, I know, when those pictures are seen.  Being dormant for many years, our lifetime – and are now before our eyes.  I will share to recall of my family.

With Easter soon approaching, I think back to oh so many egg hunts I’ve shared in and pleasured in my entire life.  Building memories indeed we have.  A jar or a pot of gold those memories bring.  Joy…from within our hearts to think of the smiles and laughter from all my cousins back when in my dad’s family.  At Grandma’s we’d scurry around the yard on our hunt and in our play.  I’m sure my dad was the main one securing a full proof hiding place to challenge our skills (or to trick us).  And I can see his laughter in my mind when if not found too.

There was a big dirt embankment down beside Grandma’s house and we’d slide down it as if on a carnival ride or a way long slide.  We’d land in the ditch at the bottom and walk up the road some to get back up.  I also remember how mad our moms would get ’cause we all had “red clay” bottoms on our clothes.  But talk about fun!

I get on a roll of writing and I can hardly keep up as I’m fed of the words by my memories.  Some awesome, some not.  Seems like I recall in the back of my mind how my cousins (and me probably too) would spat with one another sometimes.  We pretty much had equal boys/girls and you’d think there was separate play.  But I don’t ever remember it not being all of us.  Adults and children…we were all part of each other at Grandma’s.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

There are times when I fear to write.  I never want to cross that line of where I need to go and where evil thoughts try to take me.  But there is a bridge where connects the two.  And when I cross it, I must feel safe on the other side, for thoughts there can perish the soul.  I can’t imagine the paths our life has taken since our dad passed away, and the world we were carried to.  Yet not to taint the memories…I’ll pass on it for now.

My memories even with my father though, were not always so rosie either.  We (or I rather) stirred up strife, usually to my wrong.  Although my paths veered it seemed from others, I could not control the contrite.  Not to agitate or anger, just to venture my own paths and ways.  I did not even ponder to a right and wrong.  And so it caused hurt and anger and turmoil in our lives throughout with me.  My poor parents and sister for me taking them where I didn’t need to go.

But we prevailed in love and it never stopped.  Unconditional love, that’s what family is and needs to be.  God’s gift.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

A few weeks have passed since I ventured into that big box of pictures.  So today I reach to get a handful.  It’s amazing what I find each time I delve in.  Today I found letters, from almost sixty years ago.  One was a birthday card sent my older sister when she turned eight, in 1962, and sent by “grandma and uncles”.  What a sweet little card.  Back then there seemed to be a monopoly of themes on cards of “flowers and birds” and ribbons streaming throughout.  No matter what the occasion, and they were all small – no large and fancy ones like today.  And no funny ones either.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have to fake funny then.  Or put it in print to the one sending to – we just had good and humorous conversation.  No text, just words written and words spoken.  Way cool!  (Boy do I sound old now…)

There were my other grandma’s letters to us also.  I recall when we’d get her letters, fairly often, I’d get excited.  I could read them – not everyone could though – the words were hard to put together.  But if you read it fast, I remember this, the words would just flow.  And whether perfect or not, you’d get the jest of it.  She was so much fun and I knew she missed us kids, all the time.  I think she’d welcome kids (and to go fishing) any and all days.  My sister really doesn’t like fishing now and I’m not sure if she enjoyed our ventures then either.  Boy I did, Grandma was the best buddy – just like Dad was to us and our kids.  And yes, she’s now told me she did like fishing then…except her memory was of eating the fish and our dad laying all the bones to the side.  I ate the tail too!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I opened our family bible to the place names are handwritten.  Back to my great grandparents; my mom always had them written – right in the center where the records were for.  But one thing my sister and I always remember was that it was white.  The family bible that sat on a table in our front-entrance hallway for years…was white.  And now it’s black.  The same picture of Jesus as a boy on the cover’s center, just as I recall.  But it’s black, as though someone used shoe polish or something to change it.  Surely not, but so weird we both remember it one way and it’s not.  I even closely rubbed my hand on the cover to try and figure out if it was burned “blackened” or what…how it got this way.  Then to open an even older bible – my grandma’s.  She had many names; generations to follow as she wrote names, birth dates AND TIMES born of each of her six children.  And then as some passed, she wrote too – with hardships and broken-heart as she recorded of her family.  I am so blessed to be the cherishing keeper of her recordings.  My family’s records I am so grateful to see once more.

Sometimes I think of the horrible baggage that comes with all this.  To acquire any items is remarkable given the ones we now deal with.  The same my mom had to deal with for fifteen or more years…and twelve hours away from us…with a family she married into after our father passed.  Why didn’t I somehow just bring her home, where we could protect her life as she grew older?

Then there’s the question I’ve lived with for years.  Is this how she deserved and thought she always wanted?  The more and the more?  Even so, this ordeal shouldn’t be.  But we are here now and God will place and get us through.  As I empty my heart and give it to Him.

In a world we have now it seems senseless to even try and plan out for a secure future and a happy life.  We can try, but our life is not guided by only ourselves.  Even God in my days does not vanish all the wrongs I have to deal with.  Wrongs as dishonesty and greed from others who entered our path…our family’s path along life’s way.  Disgust they can bring to the days they abide with our loved one.  Pain they induce in our life.

In a world we are made and seem to tolerate even more unthinkable ways, each day brings even more of our tolerance.  How much do we endure – how far to cross over the line…when it seems to be no line any longer?

God will place as He knows it all.  And He’s been there already where this is going.  He will place for us to see.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I also received my parents’ 25th Anniversary vase sort of thing.  It has a lid so I’m not sure what it is.  It says 25th Anniversary so I know that’s what it’s from.  All wrapped in bubble wrap for the trip to me in that big box.  I don’t remember the gift but I found a list Mom kept of all their gifts received that day…and the cards.  And pictures of my relatives attended, dad’s mom and my new son making four generations in a picture I’ve kept framed in my house for many years.  Some I don’t recall ever coming to our house.  But there in those pictures were aunts and uncles and then some (one I didn’t even know in the pic, but she was there with an uncle) – the one I try and forget.

This was a big deal for Mom, I remember that, but living four hours away and just having my firstborn four months prior, my mind wasn’t on it’s planning.  Although we gave the celebration (me and my sister).  Thank God she lived near and for all the hard work I’m sure I didn’t help with.

I think my mind was on the ball field that day.  It was doublefold, my trip to my parents.  I played on a bank softball team and we were in the state finals (being held there in our state capitol).  Big time for us mountain girls, and we kicked butt!  We played five games straight and we won them all…’til it got dark and they called the last to be played the next day.  Next day?  We were pumped for this day – I even got the game ball.  Crazy end but I managed an out on second base, floundering around in the dirt with the tackling opponent runner (I often seemed to stand in the base-line… ooops).  I drew the ball up from the dust and tagged the base…she was out and we won.  She even broke my watch tackling me though.  Man-o-man was that fun!

I won’t say how much we partied that night with those girls we were to play the next day.  State put on a big spread of everything and we had lots of hospitality from those girls.  And not to mention the pain our bodies were in, from the five games prior.  Hurt set in the next morning from “head” to toe.  But we had to play that last game.  And we lost, by one run. 

Doesn’t really matter though, we won a super, super experience and joy to make memories from.  My best friend, from there, was there at the games and I even have her signing on the “game ball” I won when I got tackled.  What a trophy.  It’s still in my hope chest; where my special little treasures are kept.  And as I think about it, that anniversary thing must just be a candy dish.  No matter, it’s here now.

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Grandma died young – fifties is young.  I never thought about her age because she was a grandma.  She passed away when I was twelve.  I remember this old lady I didn’t know came up to me at the church after the burial and said “oh, you don’t have a grandma anymore”.  I thought…well, I won’t say what I thought, but that seemed so stupid and mean to say to a child.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling when she said that.

I found a picture of her and Granddad all dressed up.  My first thought was “well look at you”.  They were all dolled up – cool looking old car behind their pose and they were not what I’d expect to see of my farmer grandparents.  I’d never seen that fancy-fancy attire in their few pictures I’d seen.  And the 20’s-style bucket hat Grandma wore, jacket with fur collar and cuffs – fancy-fancy.  Granddad looked as if he could be head of the mob or something with that suit and hat and car behind him.  Very handsome pair.  All dolled up – I hope they smiled down at me when I smiled upon this picture.

I never met my granddad so he never saw me.  He passed away before I was born and my sister was only one.  But we are able to see him now in the pictures I’m sent of our life…as he lived and raised his farm and family.  They had two sets of children it seemed.  Mom’s youngest three brothers were like cousins to me back then.  And now only one.

I was thinking about that and it’s as though when the eldest of children on a farm back then grew up and dispersed…well, it was time for more kids.  Cost wasn’t the issue, help was.  We don’t have that mindset anymore.  We don’t think to have ample children so we have help at home.  We just don’t.  We may go back to there one day.

Grandma’s brother, my great uncle, and great aunt never had children and they were old too like grandparents so they always seemed like my grandparents growing up.  There are so many memories on their farm too; most of which involved food one way or the other.  And my aunt was the best cook I ever knew.  Whether garden or fish pond or hogs or cows or fruit trees, all of what she prepared they raised.  Awesome to be self-sufficient.  Or was it?

One of the letters I read was from her to my mom, “Dear Sis” it said.  They all called her that; Mom, the only girl with five brothers…their Sis.  They gave all of us coins for Christmas; silver dollars, sometimes fifty-cent piece, later it was a check.  Minimal gift to some, but to them and to us, of their year-long earnings they’d broken their backs for, given back to their loved ones; shared with their family.  There were later years of receiving checks for each entire family, and the amount showed me it must’ve been a good hog or cattle or crop harvest and sale year.  Modest yet more than the usual coin.  Mom had written the amounts on the gift envelopes she kept all these years.  And each envelope still has it’s coin.  As time went on it must have been hard too for them to collect so many silver dollars.  In the letter it also referred to my great uncle needing a surgery, but they’d have to wait on colder weather to slaughter a hog so they could afford it.  My heart broke reading that, for he was the most gentle and kind man, glowing of grace.

The coins they gave my parents, my sister already had before my mom had passed.  Or we’d not have them now…for there were thieves in that house.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I feel so ready for this to move forward.  While I feel I am spinning wheels in all my thoughts, it dawns on me a fail to mention.  The only pictures I even ventured to ask for – begging it seemed – were the two which hung over our parents’ bed forever.  That was where they belonged.  But as time moved on and lives as well, those pictures traveled twelve hours away.  Carried by our mother, those pictures of my sister and me, made so many years ago.  Those Olan Mills portraits we never had made again.  And Mom put them back over her bed in her new home.

But when it wasn’t just her bed any longer, the pictures made way to her closet.  With other cherished items of her life, with us and with Dad, and with memories of my little sister.  Her treasure chest within her home.  New items and themes filled the house now as her new husband slowly saturated her heart.  Our family items…her items, seemed to junk up with the hording she inherited from him.

I now have those two pictures.  Sent smack in the bottom of that big box.  Without their frames and smiling with the snaggle teeth and new teeth and cute little “finger propping the chin” poses.  Just alike, dressed alike and picture perfect.  How could we ever know the years which lie ahead?  How could we ever know where those same pictures would travel?  Lying dormant for many years, and hidden, they now are copied and awaiting frames to try and match what we once had.  Giving to my sister the originals, and once again they will hang side by side in their new home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

As I look at more pictures I’ve lain before me, I just want to talk to the friends of long ago whose parents’ pictures I now look at.  Do they have a copy of what I have or perhaps never seen before?  Especially the ones like my best buddy who lived across the street.  What a little cutie pie he was with his always buzzed hair; he was always nice.  And his sister played with my sister as her best friend.  We lost track of one another.  I never ever hear of her.

I just want to send these pictures of their parents.  Perhaps their minded memories will bless their hearts as mine.  I can only reflect so.  I must share to try and bring the joy back to life of so many years ago.  To recall of the “good ole'” days’ memories when we had no worries as kids.  And our parents to be the center of our lives after playtime.  They were always there and continued us on as a family.  Our families shared of the joy and day-to-day living not only, but vacations, church, family outings; all of us seemed to click and pleasure in life together for several years.  And then through times when my family’s loss penetrated, I’m sure, our entire neighborhood.  I can’t imagine yet I was there.  They loved us as their own.  Those parents – they’re the ones I clung to when mine were away when my sister passed; they hurt as we did.  They were there.  They later named a child for her.

But then they moved.  I don’t recall my tears and screams pouring, yet I can’t imagine they were not.  I just remember we’d go to their new home, a ways away from us.  They had a tomato farm – and a built in swimming pool.  I never felt comfortable using that pool though…as if it somehow removed our bonds.  But they had moved and we would gradually grow away from each other as friends often do.  How sad to lose but blessed to have made those memories.

I can still taste of the good and early Hanover tomatoes they raised; fields of them.  And as kids would help pick them.  The taste of a garden fresh, sun warmed, just picked tomato was awesome.  They were at their best then.  I can still recall looking at the pigs they had too – just in the bend of their dirt road to the house.  That’s where their pig home was.  I can remember in my mind now just looking down at them as we stood outside their wooden pen.  We’d venture dirt roads to the edge of their fields.  We visited for several years.

What a giving family to have known from a child.  What a gift to have the memories of them…always.  I remember my friend’s father told me later, after I had my own child, to know “you cannot be a friend and a parent.”  I never understood nor agreed, but because they had many, many foster children by then, he probably did know what he was talking about.  My memories of church seemed to center from them.  I think they were the influence my dad needed to get us there.  I had (and still do) a large book as a child, of a family going to church.  It shows all the ones approaching from many directions with gladness and focus of their church.  And smiles upon smiles greeting each other.  The feeling I had then when I’d read that book, I still to this day have when I open it.  I suddenly wonder if that’s where that book came from, our family’s best friends back when.  Yet another blessing into my life.

And when I think of the lives that family has touched, I know they are blessed too.  Thank you dear God for such paths you provide as we need you.  For some are the ones that hold us up when we can’t stand alone.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I think back on how much fun my dad had with us while we were little.  Knowing him the way I do – he was in pure heaven then – joy and laughter filled his day.  He was one of those people who had laugh lines grown in his face.  Wrinkles some call it but they were permanent laugh-marked lines on his tanned face.  He always had a tanned face from where he worked and stayed outside a lot.  I remember the blonde red hair on his tanned arms too, bleached by the sun.  And very hairy arms.  He told me once he used to cut the hairs on his arms with scissors and then it grew back really thick.  Makes sense but I wonder if it was one of those “trying to trick me” tales as he was always good for.  Amusement was in his blood, always wanting and trying to make someone laugh.  So much fun he was.  I remember Mom would say to stop all that foolishness.  She never seemed to be amused by his frolic – but I was.  As a child I always looked forward to my dad.

I think of all the crazy stories we were expected to believe from the one she remarried.  And I recalled the times she wasn’t amused at all by our dad even hinting of a non-true or foolish story.  She’d refute him every time.  But no, not this dude.  Guess because (she thought) he had much money to impress; then he was fine to tale as he did in just a normal conversation.  Where tales weren’t to be told, not needed to be said.  Impressive stories though on himself, that was the conversation.  Always on him.  And talk about tall-tales, oh my, and he really expected and thought we believed his lala world.  Only to appease my mom was I ever impressed.  And then only in patronize.  Some of the stories one could only wonder where he concocted such as truth of his life.  And as it turns out, there was none.

I truly think my mother paid her hell living with that man.  And I dare to ever compare him to my father; only as married to her.  What I feel she searched for and never found, she had a glimpse to show her, she never really wanted it at all.  As she aged (not that she was old when she passed) I feel what she really yearned for was family, her family.  And peace and quiet and no craziness as she was placed.  But she moved away and none followed.

Everyone wonders in their own life the “what ifs”.  I too wonder if my mother could’ve grown much older and much at peace in our home she had before our dad passed.  The home they and we, over many years, sculpted to become the secure and pleasant space they lived in.  A space one would yearn for in solitude with quiet and peace and a place with God.  Among others, yet in quiet on it’s own…a home giving room for to notice what is really important in our lives.  Not things but just the blessing of the space in being there.  The arms around you being there.

Yet that’s not where life has taken.  But God will place.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I turn the page and things change.  Do I reach back in that picture box or do I write these words?  I think this morning it hit me as to why I am compelled on the topic.  There’s a lot on one’s thoughts as the age process gains.  Sometimes it’s good just to get it off your mind and your heart.  Write it down; clears the mind and binds the heart with all that matters.  A lifetime to summarize after the fact.  Seems that’s the really backwards way of our life.  Seems in mine anyway.  And so I write the cruel words upon myself.

I search now to ease my empty.  As I read in devotion this morning, I re-read the commandments.  Rules to live by which I never felt worthy.  But today the words of honor thy father and mother seem to spot on where I am unworthy.  Guilt has always followed me due to my faulted ways with both parents, and I feared it would.  Guilt in not doing and being everything they needed?  No.  But the attitude from my heart when suddenly I felt the adult.  As though when a parent for their own pleasure, corrects a child, even if no need there to do so.  A reversal of who has the upper hand; the control of myself.  I remember really resenting anyone telling me what I would or would not do…or would or would not think, or feel.  How could someone engage that on my life?  I remember I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to “not have to listen to anyone” telling me what ifs or not ifs.  Is this why I felt and acted as I did, and to my parents, as I grew through our years?

When you reach a certain age and finally feel you’re worthy to be called adult in your own mind – those attitudes seemingly imposed there, are changed.  And eased.  And in retrospect there has been guilt that grew through those years.

My husband tells me often of his good pleasure in the care for and time spent with his own aged parents.  And I know he reflects on that blessing even more often than said.  He truly feels so.  Yet he and they are exceptions in our life of busy years before us.  It seemed to me the distractions and aggravations of inconvenience or encroachment set in.  Sometimes there seems to be so much in our voice or our words to those we love the dearest, yet forget how those words may sound to their hearts.  More and more, year after year my loved ones seemed to be pushed to another life.  Now I’m grown and they’re gone from my life.

One may regret – don’t leave where your home has been, never to remember and enjoy each day, until you see you’ve lived your whole life without them.  The ones I pushed to another life, I yearn to embrace in mine now.  Honor thy father and mother?  As I try now to replace all I took from our love, the stronger it grows in my soul.  Jesus saves me.  With all the empty I have, He heals me by love.  And love has shown me honor to my parents.  They are filling my heart as I write.  God is healing.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To be continued real soon!