How Many Todays or Tomorrows ?

I just visited with my 93 year old neighbor, Mary. She was wiping off her hands when she answered the door. I asked if I was interrupting. “No” she replied, as she was cleaning paint off her trembling hands.

She showed me what she was working on. It was a scene from a cherished place in Alaska. She said she had always wanted to return to Alaska, but she felt that her traveling days were now officially over. (She had heart surgery last month.) Painting made her almost feel like she was back in those places again.

Alaska was one of her favorites. She and her husband lived there for 14 years. Her husband was a second-generation Alaskan. She said that her husband’s father had gone north to Alaska during the Gold Rush. Her husband was born when his father was 65.

She told me that summers are very nice but that the rest of the year was sometimes tough. She had a photograph of the thermometer at the bank showing -74 degrees. She said that it was often -40 but the kids still went outside and life went on.

They were there during the Earthquake. She said it was right around her birthday and her anniversary.

 I looked it up. The Good Friday Earthquake happened at 5:36 pm on March 27, 1964.

She was cooking dinner. When the rumbling first started her husband hollered up to their two young kids, “What are you two doing up there to make such a ruckus.” In seconds, they knew it was more than kids roughhousing.

The magnitude 9.2 megathrust earthquake was the most powerful earthquake recorded in North America.

She said there were large ships thrown miles inland. There were two types of tsunamis produced by this subduction zone earthquake. The tectonic tsunami and smaller, local tsunamis. The largest tsunami wave was in Shoup Bay with a height of 220 feet. That could toss a ship for sure!

Some areas were permanently raised up 30 feet and some places dropped 8 feet.

Her favorite town of Valdez in the Prince William Sound, was basically destroyed. Valdez moved to another location after its waterfront was wiped out from the massive underwater landslide.

She was painting what she fondly remembered from the pre-earthquake waterfront.

She advised me to go to Alaska as soon as I could.

You just never know how many todays or tomorrows you have.

Advertisement

Sabbatical

I meet a nun.  On a Sunday. She is at the Amtrak Station. Headed North to get off at an earlier stop than mine. I think she said Kelso / Longview.  (I am getting off at King Street Station in Seattle.) My introduction to nuns came when I went to First Grade at Our Lady of Fatima. The nun that I had for my teacher was so cruel that a girl in my class threw up every single day when she crossed the threshold into the classroom. The nun (Sister Wicked) hit the girl every single day on her hand with a ruler. Bad memories.

Hurricane Carla took me out of that school on September 11, 1961. I probably only had to endure Sister Wicked for a few weeks but it sure seemed to my miserable six-year-old self like a whole lifetime. I was absolutely certain she would hit me at some point during my First-Grade year. I forgot to wear my head covering every single day and she had to pin a tissue on my head when we went to mass. I was already one of the misfits.

Four years later, I saw Sound of Music when it came out and my wicked nun memory was modified by the lovely Julie Andrews and the other nuns in the movie. And then when The Flying Nun came out with fun loving Sally Fields, nuns were fully absolved of their sins.

This nun, at the age of 75 was going on a Road Scholar kayak trip on the Columbia River. (I am crossing the Columbia River as I type this.)  I have just left Oregon and entered Washington.

The conversation with this nun started at the Portland Amtrak Station. It is called Union Station; probably because the Union Pacific was the main railroad in the West. (I sat on the plane next to a man who works for the Railroad. That’s another story.)

I ride this train regularly. It’s been almost 10 years that I have done this route. I know where to sit at the station; where there are padded chairs and there is a plug to recharge a device. The main seating at both Union Station and King Street Station are simple wooden benches.

A woman walks over, plops her backpack down and says, “I am going to leave this here while I go to the restroom.” She is dressed very casually. There is not one shred of nun clothing evidence on her.  She has on a hat that looks like she is about to go on a water- based adventure, a t-shirt with a map of an island chain on it. She has on pants that look like athletic, water-resistant pants. She has on sneakers with colorful socks. I always notice the socks. (She did not look like a terrorist leaving unattended bags. She did not look like a nun.)

 I just nodded. She returned and then went off again and retrieved more bags. At this point, I asked, “Where are you headed?”

She told me about her trip. She told me she was a nun on Sabbatical. I don’t remember Julie Andrews or Sally Fields going on Sabbatical. (Maybe the assignment to the Von Trap Family was like a Sabbatical. No, that was more like penance.) After she told me she became a nun at 18, I heard a short version of her life story. For one nano second, I wondered if this was Sister Wicked but no, she was an Ohio nun.

I think I just like typing that word Sabbatical. I want to take one myself.

So, who wants to go kayak on the Columbia River and stay at the Skamokawa Resort? Let me know.

We all need a Sabbatical.

Missing

44 years ago, a 26 year old man that I had once loved enough to be engaged to, was tragically killed in what the newspaper reports of the day called a Holocaust. On 12/29/77, 6 more bodies were discovered. They had previously been listed as “Missing.”

I posted a FB post yesterday that mentioned the list of the dead. I only said “…not forgotten by me. Love Always…”

So as I write this, I am playing the album we always listened to together; Desperado by the Eagles.

I broke up with him before we got married, but after we had our wedding invitations, and I had purchased my super simple muslin wedding dress. I was young, way too young.

I was scared of something that I couldn’t put a name to. I had dreams of a very sad ending with this lovely young man. I called it off.

The break-up crushed him. But the grain elevator explosion literally crushed him. I cannot imagine the way it felt to literally have your life ended that way. I try to lead a life that would make him proud.

Every year on the day of his death, I allow myself to spend time dedicated to remembering what a lovely human being he was. He was truly lovely.

To the 15 FB friends who tried to FB comfort me, I say thank you. Many of you have no idea of the missing parts of my story. We all have stories. We all have missing parts. Part of me will always be missing.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Today is your first birthday! We want to celebrate. Gifts have been mailed to your house. Normally, we don’t do gifts- shared adventures are more our style.

Your 3 year old sister picked a mountain cabin for her last birthday celebration location last fall. You were there with us and we had a truly amazing time.
Shared adventures are what we pick to celebrate our special family occasions.
When your sister was a little baby we celebrated your mom’s birthday a bit early with an incredible trip to a river side cabin in a Frozen Winter Wonderland.
When your 6 year old brother was a baby, for your dad’s 30th and my 60th birthday combo we gathered at a beach house for an extra long weekend of family fun. I’d just returned from Hawaii and gave your dad a ukulele which he gladly played for us.  We traversed wide, wind swept sand dunes and combed the immense beach for driftwood. We spent hours each day creating a funky shelter out of our found treasures. 
Dear precious birthday girl, please know that one day – we will all gather together again as the family that cherishes you to celebrate with an extra special adventure.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

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.