Tuesday, July 14, 2015

'I have a problem'......

Daddy in his garden patch
My cell phone rings, and it's Daddy. Daddy who rarely calls my cell phone, but he remembers I'm in Idaho, not Texas. We don't have a land line in Idaho, not that he would call it that. He'd call it a telephone...

He starts by telling me a cousin I haven't seen in 50 years died yesterday, Pedro who was about the age of my older brother, Gary. Pedro who was a lot like Gary, and died of the same thing Gary did this past February.

As Daddy put it, they were both 'wild as a briar patch hare'.  Ten years from now I'm going to want to remember all those sayings Daddy had, so today I grab a pad of paper and jot it down. And I smile for maybe the first time today.

Baking Snickerdoodles with Daddy in his little kitchen. Please ignore bra rolls...

We talk a bit, then he says, "Beverly, I have a problem." It's been one of those mornings when I can feel the tears just behind the surface, pressing to get out, but if they start they might not stop, so I hold onto them. Frustrations with my mother, whose world is spinning out of control faster every day, have started my morning off tough. So I'm not at all sure I can handle hearing about yet another problem, especially if someone is counting on me to fix it.

'Okay, what's wrong?' I ask, not really wanting to hear.

'Well, I've got gallons of beets sitting here in my kitchen and I can't find whole allspice. I've been to Walmart, and the spice store here in town, and nobody has any. I need the whole allspice to can my beets, and they're already picked, so I wondered if you can get them on that Amazon?'

Oh Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you that at 90 years old your only pressing problem is whole allspice. And that you are clear enough to remember Amazon, even though you don't own a computer.

And thank you, whoever invented Amazon, that for $9.62 I was able to ship him a pound of whole allspice, scheduled to be delivered in two days to the edge of Kansas.

And yes, Daddy, you can pay me back in a jar of beets. That would be absolutely perfect.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Gatherings

We're not the kind of family that draws together very often. Mostly for funerals, sad to say. Once in awhile for a wedding, or a big birthday, but mostly for funerals. 

But Daddy is turning 90 this year, and that's a big deal in anybody's book. So we're coming in from all corners, to make a honkin' big deal of this one, for him.

I've been working on a memorabilia book, based on a journal he filled out for me 12 years ago. Sidenote: do it now, have those older members of your family write down their memories. You'll want to know later, to share the stories. I'm so glad I even thought to do this awhile back.  I took the book to the printer and had 20 copies made, for him, for us kids, for grandkids, and a few extras for him to hand out as he pleases.

Here are a handful of photos from his life's journey book:

This man - Jessie Calvin Boaz,

and this woman, Frances Levador Seago,
met. He was 32, she was 16. He needed some sons to work the farm. They married. That was the way they did it back then.

My father, sitting on his mother's lap, when he was two years old, in 1931. 

This is my grandmother's house, the one I remember. She got indoor plumbing a few years before she died.
My father met my mother, and they married when he was 23 and she was 15. He said she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, so he married her. 
Within 7 1/2 years all six of us came along. Here we are in birth order.  Barb, Jerry, Gary, Bev, Dwain, Derrell
Another of our family, sometime in the 1960's. We drove, all 8 of us, in that dinky station wagon.

This was taken in 1965, the one family vacation we ever went on, to Estes Park, Colorado. 
My parents on our Colorado vacation. I love how young they look here.
Daddy worked a lot of jobs, often more than one at a time, but the one he did for the most years, the one he retired from was as a mailman. I don't even know how many times he was bitten by dogs. 

The four boys who survived to adulthood. One died from pneumonia when he was 4 years old. 

My Dad and his big sister, Jessie Mae. He said they fought like cats and dogs when she bossed him around. 

My father and his brother, Dorman. He was 20 and Dorman was 22. 

Here they are many years later. Both have / had a life-long love of gardening. 

My father and his second wife, Mary. They were married 12 years before she died of cancer. 

The second family Mary gave my father. Dad still lives in Kansas with his step-daughter, Sharon and her gang, all nearby. 

Dad started playing golf in his mid-50's, and still, at 90 years old, plays 18 holes 3 days a week. 
Dad and Mom when they remarried about 12 years ago. Sadly, they didn't stay married, but they did remain life-long friends. 

So we've got big doings planned. An open house for family and all the friends Daddy has made in the years he's lived in his small town in Kansas. Then we'll all head to the fairgrounds for a carnival, watermelon eating contest, a country band, and finally fireworks. It happens to be Mom's 82nd birthday that day, so we'll have two birthday cakes to celebrate both of them. 

Daddy will be seeing his one surviving brother, who he hasn't seen in a good number of years; also grandchildren he hasn't seen in two decades, and he'll meet for the first time many spouses of grandkids and great-grandkids he's been sending birthday cards to for years and years. All in all we are so excited to have this day to celebrate a remarkable man, one whose only goal in life was to have all six of his children graduate from high school, own his home and be able to pay his bills. 

Well done, Daddy. You make us awfully proud. 

I'll be back in a few days with photos from our big day of celebrating. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Some things never change, others do

In a constantly changing world, I find comfort in the fact that some things never change. It doesn't matter if it was 100 years ago, or 50 or 20 or now, you can count on it that little boys don't like to have their hair cut. 

What has changed is that we appeal to their inner child more, and maybe that's good. 

My parents just told me to sit still and stop crying. 

We did tell him that. Be still, not stop crying. He didn't cry, although he may have considered it a couple of times. We told him if he moved too much he'd have a bald spot like his Grandpa Chester, which his mama would not love.

Little boys don't like their hair cut because the buzz of clippers and snippy noises of scissors scare them. 

Mothers, on the other hand, don't like their little boys'  hair cut because when the deed is done anyone can clearly see what they'll look like in the not too far off future.  


Sunday, June 28, 2015

an ordinary Sunday....

“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.” 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

If Fishes Were Wishes....the World Would Be an Ocean.

We pilfered from Papa's bank, grabbing handfuls of pennies, and headed to the nearest fountain.

Conversations were had on penny throwing etiquette. Close your eyes, make a wish, never say it out loud, then throw high and hard.

Unfortunately, this particular fountain was designed more for safety than penny pitching. The net worth of those shrubs went up considerably.

 Then conversations were had that even Grammy doesn't throw the big, silver coins into bushes.

Perhaps next time we'll find a fountain less safety conscious, or wear life jackets and get closer to the edge.

For today, though, it's likely nobody is going to turn into Simba or a unicorn. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Necessary Endings

I had a friendship die last week. It was a long-term one, almost 20 years.  A relationship that spans about one third of my life is too many years to say goodbye to lightly.

About twenty years ago, when this friendship was in its baby stages, actually for me it was the 'teenage-crush, hope she likes me' stage, there was an evening. I still remember sitting at her dining room table, working on scrapbooks, and I naively told her, 'I can't think of a single thing I don't like about you." She said, without hesitation, 'there will be.'

And of course there were. On both sides. But we never spoke of them. At least not to each other, which is a much worse evil. Sitting here now, at this point, I wonder if it would have done any good to have a regular meeting-of-the-minds. Keep the air clear between us. That takes two, and I'll never know.

Over thirty-four years into a marriage, I know that airing works for us. We spend at least thirty minutes every single night talking. Sometimes it's fun and light-hearted, sometimes we dream together, and sometimes we sit there wanting to wring each other's neck. But we talk, and we keep the air clear. So I have to wonder - would that have helped keep the friendship alive?

As time went on, lives got busy, kids grew up, interests came and went, and we drifted. That was maybe to be expected. That could have been weathered. What couldn't was, a good number of years ago, when something happened between us, and an ultimatum was given. 'Do this or the friendship is over.'

I told myself for years that I only caved to make things easy for those around me. That sounded and felt nobel. I told myself our overlapping friendships would have become awkward in a small town, small church. That was probably true, but more true is that I don't like conflict. I don't like others to be unhappy with me, disappointed with me, or (pride raising it's ugly head) to be misunderstood and not allowed to set the record straight.

So I did what was demanded, licked wounds, but actually it felt better to caress the hurts than to forgive and forget, and either stay in the friendship or let it go.

Because I never was honest, I never said what I was really feeling. Time passed, the hurt scabbed over and she forgot. Everything seemed fine between us. It wasn't. The truth is that I'd been given an ultimatum that if I did not do this one thing, the friendship would go to a different level, so I fulfilled the requirement and the friendship changed anyway.

Then I moved over one thousand miles away, where distance added to our separateness. It became easier to talk now and then, and pretend all was fine between us. Sad to say, this past week I made some choices that made it clear the friendship was still alive for me, but not as she thought it was or should be. How I now saw our friendship, especially compared to other friendships I had, was made evident, and she chose another, unspoken ultimatum - to finally end ours with silence that spoke volumes.

Henry Cloud, in his book 'Necessary Endings' says much about moving on, doing it right, and for the right reasons. Possibly I should have read this book years ago. Possibly it would have shown much more respect for me and for my friend, to at least give her the gift of my honesty, refuse the ultimatum, even if the friendship had died then and there, which I suspect it would have.
Cloud says this: 
Life has seasons, stages, and phases. For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them.... Endings are also an important factor in our personal lives. There are relationships that should go away, practices and phases that must be relinquished, and life stages that should come to an end to open up the space for the next one. A breakup, an ending of some friendships or activities, or an unplugging from some commitments often signals the beginning of a whole new life. 
I suspect there are a lot of women out there who struggle with friendships. Men can get together, hit a ball across acres of grass and be just fine. Women expect so much more than that, need so much more. I'm trusting that this happening finally is a good thing for both of us, that we both have learned lessons from it that will help us to be better friends with others in the future. God knows what's in both our hearts, and that's enough for me to lay it down for good.

Food for thought,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Following that thought on food as communion.....

Daddy with a rattlesnake he killed on the golf course, using a 9 iron.
Our family is getting ready to celebrate Daddy's 90th birthday, in just a couple more weeks. We've ordered a big sheet cake, all the food you would expect at an old fashioned pot luck. Plans are being made for kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, siblings, old friends, young friends to fly in, fly down, drive up, drive over. Swanky mom-and-pop motels costing around $56 a night are being reserved, not that there's any chance of them being filled where we're going. (Yes, they have free continental breakfast, and no, they don't have a pool.)

One of the presents I have planned for Daddy is a T-shirt that says "it took me 90 years to look this good." Which is completely true - he looks sooooo great for his age! The other is a typed-up version of a journal he filled out for me 12 years ago, when he was a mere 78. I got the idea from those 'gift-in-a-jar' books, typed up a long list of questions for him, pasted them in a book and had him write his answers.

Here's one of his questions and answers that hits on my post earlier this week:

What was your favorite dish that your mother made when you were a child?
We only had this about one time a year, which was Christmas, but by far it was chicken and cornbread dressing. She would take an old hen that was about too old to lay eggs anymore and boil it for several hours, then stuff it with a dressing made from cornbread and several other things and bake it in a bread pan until it was brown. She would use the liquid it was boiled in to mix with the cornbread. If we could have had that every Sunday instead of every Christmas we would have thought we were rich.

My Grandma Fanny (Frances Lavader) kept track of her laying hens, who was falling down on production. She knew which one was next in line to have its neck wrung. She did that without flinching, plucked those feathers off, threw it into a cook pot on a wood-burning stove. She made her cornbread, likely most every day, and took that and broke it up, threw things together and came up with Chicken and Cornbread Dressing. 

A chicken certainly couldn't be sacrificed daily, but once a year she did just that, sacrificed that chicken, and cooked this special dish for her family. Then they sat at a table, likely built by my grandfather, and had Christmas dinner together. My Daddy said his mother cooked three meals, every single day, to keep her family fed. Once a year they had a meal with food as communion. 

That recipe, in my father's squiggly hand-writing, blue ink on white lined paper, is a treasure to me. A sharing of his boyhood memories, something I can pass down through the ages, in our family, for years to come.  

Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food) says one way to know if food is 'real' is to ask if it's something your grandmother would recognize. He gives Go-gurt as an example of not so much. Grandma Fanny   grew her own, including the parts with blinking eyes, and came up with this dish without going to a grocery store, or rolling down her car window and handing over a debit card. 

If you asked my kids their favorite dish, at least two would say 'Enchilada Style Chili Burros' and one might say Taco Salad or meatloaf. I wouldn't have to kill anything to recreate it for them, but I'm happy to say none of them would answer Hamburger Helper, which I mostly cooked when I was between the ages of 19 and 30 and learning to keep kids full on a budget stretched thin. 

The dishes my own mother made for us, the ones I'd love to pull up to her kitchen table and eat once more are chicken and dumplings, cornbread, potato soup, and coconut cake baked once a year, every June, just for me. Even the tuna casserole my mother fed us was made from scratch, not from a box like it is today.

So what's your favorite meal from childhood? What do you remember? Can you go back as far as your grandmother and remember the meal that said, "I love you, I'm glad you're here with me."? Was it real, honest to goodness food? And what would your own kids answer if you asked them? 
Food for thought,