Reunion

Yesterday I attended a reunion of my mom’s classmates. It was a last minute invite; arriving via email mid-day from my mom’s best friend. Mom and dad were born in the Valley. So was I. They met at half-time, at a football game, fell in love and the rest is history.
Oddly enough, this reunion was being held just down the street from where I now live in one of the classmate’s island vacation homes. The valley is four hundred miles away. I was compelled to go.
As chance would have it, today is a class reunion for my own high school classmates. Many of us have not seen one another for decades. Myself; I moved away to another part of this vast state and went to college. From college, I moved farther on to a very different part of the US and a very different part of my life.
The crowd at yesterday’s gathering was very small. I stood in the kitchen and chatted with the charming hostess. She had enough food to feed a small army. 24 people had RSVP’d but at the very last minute, many of their plans had changed and they could not make the journey. Eight octogenarians made it.
In the living room, on the coffee table, their cherished old year books were on display. Off to the side on a desk, there was a book for the guests to sign-in. There was also a few newspaper clippings of the obituaries of some of their classmates. Mom’s obituary was included.
Being around people who knew my mom as a girl was truly gratifying. Some of them had known my dad too and that added another layer to the level of connection. One of them reminded me of the story of how some of our families had relocated together from the Valley to this part of the state, following jobs.
These friends had gathered together to re-connect. This dedicated group does it annually.
I’ve not been to a high-school class reunion for about a decade. It’s been 46 years since my high school class graduated. It has been 65 years since my mom’s classmates graduated.
Connection really defined the gathering. They had all been rooted to a place and a time that still meant enough to them to remember it and honor it. They were paying tribute to their shared past.
May we all be inspired enough to genuinely reconnect with people who once deeply mattered to us.
I felt intensely connected to my mom and dad being surrounded by people who once knew and valued them.
Take a moment to connect with valuable old friends. I will certainly aspire to do this at today’s reunion.

I still hear you

I was still young enough to want to hear what my dad had to say. And he was still young enough to be attending college. It was just the local community college and I don’t remember what he was studying but I knew he loved to draw. He had an easel/drafting table set up in the laundry room.

My mom’s sister had given it to him. I think it was to inspire him to follow his dream. Maybe he was studying art; he would draw cartoons on our bellies with a ball-point pen – until our pediatrician lovingly scolded him.

The laundry room was not air-conditioned or as they say now, climate-controlled.  I can’t imagine how dreams could stay alive in that South Texas heat and humidity; or how the sketch pad didn’t melt.

With just barely enough room to stand in front of the washer and dryer, he squeezed that table in. Our small house was already crowded. We didn’t just bring home abandoned dogs; one of us was regularly bringing home a stray kid.

After dad started going to college, (and while he was still working shift-work at the plant and coaching little-league) he brought home some albums for us to listen to. Mostly I remember Simon and Garfunkel, Santana and Carol King. He painted the boy’s room with black-light paint, and put up posters. I remember the one poster that said “Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast.”

He knew our lives were moving fast and that we would stop listening to him soon. It happens to every parent and child.Dad died in 2002. He was 66. He wasn’t that much older than I am now (63.999…) My life continued on.

Recently, I got to be around my grown children. They all live in the Pacific Northwest. They were very connected to my dad, and we were fortunate enough to have shared both simple times and amazing adventures with him.

During this visit, I saw parts of my dad in the way my grown children have matured into solid, loving parents. Seeing him in some of their mannerisms, hearing my son’s happy laugh sounding so much like my dad’s was a true gift.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. Lucky me, I still hear you.

Patient

Patient or Standardized Patient ?

My friend has a friend that does this as a side job. She said he makes pretty good money so I checked it out. I signed up. 

Didn’t hear anything for long enough to have almost forgotten about it. Got an email telling me to call in for an interview. Did that. Was invited to the next step. Consented. 

Went to the campus for the Orientation Meeting. As I scanned the names of the dozens of buildings for the correct one, something dropped out of the sky and hit me right smack on top of my head. It was bigger than an acorn and smaller than a stick but it was something. OK. That was odd.

Found the building, sat through the hour long orientation. Left the building. Walked back to the parking lot where I’d had to park on the fourth level.

Had to get in the serpentine line for the exit. The car in front of the car ahead of me was hit by another car as they were making the sharp turn to merge into the exit line. They just stopped their cars, got out and started yelling at each other.

As I sat there, I rubbed the top of my head where I’d been bonked. I felt a little bump. I turned off my car because I couldn’t back up or go forward or go anywhere. I was in the middle of the line. 

I looked at all the paperwork that would have to be completed to qualify for the next step. 

I looked over at the library book I’d brought along just in case. I decided to read the library book and not look the paperwork I’d been given. 

At that point, the bump on my head along with the parking lot bumper-car experience made me question what I was getting myself into.

I’ve finished my library book. I will return it. I have not started the paperwork. I might not return that. I’m not sure if I will proceed with this.  What would you do?

Inspired AmeriCan

I hope no one was watching. Some of my neighbors, though I’ve now resided here for a few years, have judgmental views about me living in this neighborhood. On my side of the street, I’m the ‘minority.’ With the alley behind my house still torn up for major repairs, I can’t park back on the paved pad where I normally do.

My inspired attempt to parallel park was evident to anyone who was looking out.

I’d been in Boston all week for work. I’ve flown through Boston before on connecting flights but never had been out of the airport. This time I got to spend nearly a week in Boston; it was truly incredible.

Friends encouraged me to do all the typical touristy things, but the place I had to visit was the JFK Library and Museum. Magically, I was transported back to that enchanted time of being a 5 year old disciple, helping my Hispanic grandmother campaign for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

She was devoutly zealous about politics; truly believed in Social Justice and was All-In for getting JFK elected. We drove around to local migrant labor camps and transported the workers to the polls to vote.

Her sedan would literally be packed with as many human bodies as it would hold. No seat belts. No air conditioning. Miles of  bumpy, unpaved roads. Cameron County, Texas; sandy, dry, dusty, gritty, sweaty and HOT.

I believe I became the political person I am today because of an inherited passion.

Approaching the majestic JFK museum, the first thing I saw was the US flag flying at half-mast for Sen. John McCain. That view included the sailboat that had been given to JFK on his 16th birthday, the Victura. JFK eventually joined the Navy, though initially he’d been rejected for military service. He’d failed the physical, but he went on to serve in WWII, saving 10 of his PT Boat 109 crew in 1943.

My favorite display of the museum was the typed pages from his Inauguration Speech. On page 13, in red ink, he changed the speech at the last minute; the word ‘will’ was replaced by the word “CAN.”

“And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  Once again, words that I heard as a young child still ring true and I’m my grandmother’s faithful disciple, an inspired AmeriCan.

Start with C…

A very sweet note via Social media greeted me first thing when I woke up. It was sent by my cousin.  Izzie is actually, technically, my ‘second’ cousin. We never cared what that ranking meant; we just knew we were closely related to the same group of mostly old people. We were cousins. That was enough.

Reading her message, a tender tribute to our family’s deceased matriarchs, was a lovely way to begin the day. Once upon a time, I started each morning with a love note. The Big Love of My Life left me a ‘seven letter word’ message on the Scrabble board daily, on his way out the door. First one he ever left me was: COURAGE. To match his, with my seven letters; I spelled the word: CHERISH.

We played that One Word game the whole time were together; about one thousand days. One thousand, seven letter word days. You can do the A-Z a whole lot of ways in 1000 seven letter days.

He’s been dead over a month now. We’d said our final good byes long ago. He gave me enough true love to last a life time. By perfect coincidence, the nick name I called him, started with a C. (Charlie) So really, it’s that first C that is the premise for the rest of this.

Jumping back to today, C is first for cousins (or second cousins.) Secondly, C for me is for Caribou. That is ‘where’ – – a big part of the ‘why’ this whole “C” chapter occurred. Third C is for Chapter.

Fourth C is for Colorado; there are a lot of Cs…I’d arrived in Colorado in a pick-up truck. It was a Chevy with a camper-top. Determined to change or attempt to alter what seem pre-ordained as my destiny; soon after I graduated from college, I’d moved over one thousand miles away to live in another state.

With no legitimate income strategy to speak of, I was subsisting in a small, salmon- pink, 1950’s travel trailer in a low-rent R.V. park with 2 large dogs and zero revenue. One of my dogs, Zuma, was pregnant. Too soon, I had 9 dogs and no job. A friendly neighbor living in the lone  frame house in the Rocky Mountain R.V. ghetto, New Jersey Patti, asked if I wanted to help out at a local ranch.

Seeing the pickup truck with Texas license plates gave the misguided impression that I was an authentic cowgirl. Though I had been comfortable enough around horses growing up and had recently hand- raised an orphaned two month old colt, I wasn’t anything close to a genuine horse-wrangling cowgirl.

With hounds to feed, I was confident that I could be enough of a cowgirl for the part-time job. Luckily, my first morning at the job of cowgirl morphed into me being a stand- in for the missing, grill cook. I was far more competent in the kitchen than I was in a barn. And it was far more of a Recording Studio than a ranch. Employee absenteeism plagued the owners. My part time job became a full time job; before the day was over, the owner had offered me employment.

It was at this Ranch that artists would come for the high altitude that allowed them vocally  to hit that High C. Many big name stars visited the Ranch. With this job, came the added responsibility of driving stars to Red Rocks to perform. I dutifully drove Willie Nelson and humbly stood backstage while he and Kris Kristopherson serenaded the enchanted, concert crowd under a crystal clear Colorado starlit night. Brilliant stars under the brilliant stars. Both of those star-men were also truly kind-hearted souls.

Want more about the days that started at Caribou Ranch? Can I confide in you? (This wasn’t an actual attempt at a concise summary; I was just playing the 7 letter word game with you! See how many of these words contain seven letters each.)  What seven letter word would you play? Start with C…

Completely Surrounded by Love

You died last night. You were only 43. We met when we were younger. I was in my 40s. You said you were in your 30s. We were both at the edges of those still youthful but actual adult decades. I was leaving mine. You were just entering yours yet we found a place, a safe haven in between ages to meet.

You told me that you were in town to help your cousin run his business. Your fathers were brothers; you were their only sons. Your mutual grandfather had stumbled out into the road after drinking too much and had been hit and killed instantly by a fast moving, log- laden semi, in a one-horse mountain town.

We met at an audition for the local community theater in another one-horse town, in another Western state. We were cast as a married couple. We sang off-key duets and danced and play acted our parts. When the play was over and our characters took their final curtain call, we kept on acting married.

For three years we kept at it. I knew it was not going to be a forever kind of deal. You wanted children and my last child was graduating from High School that June. I was not going to stop you from being a parent. Being a parent had been, and still is, one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved you enough to urge you to leave me, find another woman to marry and start the family you desired and deserved.

You did leave. Your last words to me echo in my memory’s heart like it was yesterday. It was a decade ago. You did marry and have a family. And then you got sick. You died last night surrounded by your wife and very young children, your parents, your sister and your cousin; completely surrounded by love.

When we were together, we loved each other. I loved you more than my words can express or explain.

Those days with you are a treasured gift. My memories of our life together will continue to be a safe haven, and there, I can always return, to remember the gift of being completely surrounded by love.

Temporary Blindness

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Is it a coincidence that there’s a ‘Help Wanted’ posting for the neighborhood eye clinic? They are hiring, both part-time and full time. Is this in anticipation of vision eclipsed clients?

The warning from the 70 year old, who on a teen-aged dare, stared at an eclipse in 1962, here in Oregon, is all over the local news. He still has a partial vision impairment 55 years later; hardly temporary.

I’ve been temporarily blinded a few times. The dreaded Flash from my grandpa’s beloved camera always made me see dancing black spots. Bright white, midday snow fields, when I lived at the Range View Cabin on the Continental Divide temporarily blinded me. Welding caused ‘Arc Eye.’ ( Welding was a requirement for my Agriculture degree…another BS story…)

There are non-lethal weapons; flash grenades and laser dazzlers that are intended to deliberately, temporarily blind you. The term ‘dazzler’ is impossible for me to accept in a military context; ‘Dazzler’ makes more sense as a part of Barbie’s prom wardrobe, not GI Joe’s action gear.

My Oregon daughter wants me to be sure the eclipse glasses I was given are approved. She ordered eclipse glasses for her and her daughters. They were delivered but someone took the box off her steps before she got home.

She was then notified that the (stolen) glasses had been recalled so they credited her account. She has replaced the stolen glasses with genuine, NASA approved, eclipse viewing glasses.

The miserable thief will perhaps suffer temporary blindness.