Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A room of my own

I write too much about being retired, perhaps, but since that's what we are...well, it comes naturally. I wrote this one a few years back, about the shock of it all when it first happens. I'm still in my office at the desk in the picture--new computer, though. The seven quilts I promised to make have been completed. A few books and a lot of these slice-of-life essays. He has new knees and new guitars. We've had grief and loss in these years, occasional discontent, times of being alone even when we are together. We've also had a blessed amount of fun. Of music and laughter and family. Of the other side of being alone that comes of knowing we never really are.

Duane and I had been married nearly 40 years when we retired, sharing space with all the attendant noise, mess, and drama that comes with having three kids, a house, and two jobs. By the time we started collecting our pensions, of course, the kids were grown and all the noise, mess, and drama were our own. We looked forward to all the time we were going to have to pursue our own interests and also ones we shared. He wanted to play golf and music. I wanted to travel and eat meals I hadn’t chosen, shopped for, and cooked.
            Whenever anyone talks about retirement, there’s always a “however.” Have you ever noticed that?
            Sharing a house during evenings and weekends was a piece of cake. We’d always done that well. Okay, maybe not always, but most of the time. Then suddenly, we were sharing it 24/7.
            What were we thinking? I mean, really.
            I still got up at 4:00 AM. He slept until 8:00. I’d probably turned on the television three times in our married life—he didn’t realize it had an off switch. I wanted to travel…oh, maybe once a month, to a different place every time. He wanted to travel once a year to Florida. He didn’t care what he ate or when as long as there were pastries involved.
            One of the interests I wanted to pursue was quilting. I’d promised the grandkids—all seven of them—I would make each of them a bed-size quilt when I retired. Not that I even knew how to make one, mind you, but that’s a whole different story. However—there’s that word again—quilting has quite a volume of mess involved with it (at least when I’m the one doing it), and no small amount of drama when it came to me learning how to cut things out. Especially triangles.
            He still wanted to play golf, but his knees were wearing out, so it wasn’t much fun. He still played music, but having me there all the time he was doing it bothered him.
            It appeared we just might spend our happy golden years driving each other crazy. It was a learning time. With a steep curve. Oh, way steep.
But then my husband, with help from our boys, built an office/sewing room in the garage. It is the best of things, what Virginia Woolf wrote about in A Room of One’s Own, an essay which I must own to never having read, but one that embraces the theory that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." If Ms. Woolf had been a quilter, she’d have expanded that list of Must Haves a bit.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I spend so much time out here, but most of the time I’m just thrilled to have it. We are still together 24/7 (although the busyness of retirement makes that a gross exaggeration), but in addition to being a unit—the parental one, the grandparental one, the other halves of each other—we are also freely, happily ourselves. Virginia Woolf had it right.
Till next time. Have a great week.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Important Places

“All these places have their moments…” – Lennon and McCartney

My father-in-law was here this morning for a while. Seeing him, naturally enough, made me think about my mother-in-law, and miss her. And my mom—and miss her, too. I gave him a cup of coffee and thought about how many cups of coffee there had been at how many tables and then I thought of places that have been important to me.

          In case you didn’t know it, this is how a writer’s mind works. Forget any idea of sense or linearity or neatly dovetailing thoughts—there aren’t any of those. A writer’s mind is a whole lot like the junk drawer at the end of the cabinet, full and messy.

          But, yes, places. Starting with kitchen tables. My mother’s, where the homemade bread and sugar cookies cooled and she taught me to iron pillowcases. My sister’s, where no one was ever a stranger. My mother-in-law’s, where we sat while she cooked and gave the grandkids whatever they asked for. The tables from our 30s where girlfriends and I sat and shared coffee and confidences. Our kitchen island now, where we play Farkle and I write Christmas cards and make plans. Kitchen tables are so many things—pulpits, confessionals, meditation sites, places of both privacy and society. They are where we laugh and cry and make life-changing decisions. They are important.

          Desks have been instrumental since the first day of first grade, when I
learned the word “Look” and from there on couldn’t be stopped from reading every written page that crossed my path. It was at a desk where I learned to love American history although I never got good at it and where I had to stay through several recesses because of talking in class. It was where I was sitting when an editor first called and said, “I want to buy your book.”

          Bleachers are way up there on my list. They are where I watched my kids grow up and learn things that might have been missed outside the arenas of sports, drama, and music. They’re where I had my first experience with civil disobedience back in high school. When I was 19, I sat in the bleachers at the softball diamond in Maconaquah Park and tried to figure out what I was going to do next.

          Church. Obviously, it’s the accepted place to worship, but I believe you
can worship anywhere. It’s also where people are married, baptized, dedicated, and eulogized. It’s where we have chili suppers, noodle suppers, sauerkraut suppers, and tenderloin suppers—and that’s just in September and October; there are plenty more to be had throughout the year. It’s where, if we’re lucky, party affiliations and grudges are left outside the open-to-all doors. It is, when all else fails, a safe place.

          Norris Lake, Tennessee is important because our family in its entirety spent Thanksgiving weekend there a few years ago. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had—it’s also the last time we’ve all been in the same place at the same time. That could be bittersweet, but it’s not—it’s all sweet. Although it’s important not to live in the past, keeping good memories in a pocket inside your heart is just as important.

         The Nickel Plate Trail. I don’t walk much these days, but it’s still my favorite place when I do. I’ve done a lot of plotting there, spent quality time with family and friends, and remembered what a gift nature is.

          The school up the road is important if for no other reason than there have been family members in it ever since it was built. It’s where I have so many memory bank deposits I can’t begin to keep track of them all.

          There are so many others. Favorite vacation places, the side yard where the deer graze and the birds dive-bomb each other and the sun slips quietly and beautifully into the horizon, places I’ve voted, music that has been so stirring it created places of its own.

          The pleasure in important places is that you don’t have to go back to them to experience them. As faulty as memory becomes—and it does—happy times still live there. You may not be able to remember how to get back to the physical places that are important to you, but you’ll remember how you felt there. You’ll remember the perfect meal with 16 of you at the table and the day you were laughing so hard you were falling off the barstools in the kitchen and the taste of those sugar cookies that you’ve never once been able to emulate. And you’ll know those places—and times—were important. Capture the joy.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Super Man and Dad

On August 12, 1993, my father, Hal W. McClain, had to step back from his usual role of the funeral director and allow his friends to serve our family. He was the one that was used to caring for other families, not being the family that was being cared for by others. August 12, 1993, was not a good day for our family. It was the day my mom took her last breath on this earth. It was a day that the man who cared for others needed his friends to care for him. It was also the day that my dad started to show me his secret life. See, my dad was Super Man, and until that day, I had never seen it. 
Like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, my dad prepared for my mom’s death with a severe case of denial. He stuck his head in the sand and pretended everything tomorrow would be the same as yesterday. In my family, Mom took care of the house, and Dad took care of the checkbook, making sure there was enough money in it for Mom to provide for whatever our family needed. We ate dinner together every night and we went to church together every Sunday, but when it was time for family excursions and vacations, Dad stayed at home…he had others to take care of and they needed him. I learned that at a young age that Dad wasn’t avoiding us; he was taking care of others. We all knew my mom’s time on earth was limited and that cancer would soon end her life. Nobody wanted to face that, so we carried on like nothing had changed until the day it did.
I’m not sure I had ever spent the night at home alone with my dad until the week after the funeral. Even several days after the service, we had one of my dad’s best friends staying over with us at the house. Two days after the funeral, my dad woke me up. Breakfast was on the table in the kitchen: orange juice and biscuits and gravy. Dad drove me to school that morning, and I began my sixth-grade year.
Life in our home wasn’t perfect. Dad still had others to take care of... it was his job, and he had to take on the role of a single father for the second time in his life on top of his career responsibilities. It wasn’t perfect! At times, it was downright unpleasant for both of us, but we managed. At some point over the next year, I think we realized that spending time with each other was often miserable and we didn’t have any common ground that we could share. That started to change in the spring of 1994.
I remember the first time my dad got me up on a Saturday morning too early. He was excited to go to an auction sale at the Miami County Fairgrounds. I was not excited to get out of bed, but the concession stand always had good food. I went with my dad down to the fairgrounds, and I sat there BORED OUT OF MY MIND! Over a hundred people had gathered at the auction to buy a bunch of old, ugly, sometimes chipped and broken glass. There wasn’t anything at that sale for me to be interested in. It was just glass. HOW MUCH MORE BORING COULD IT GET? At some point during the sale, I became fascinated with watching people bid, and I thought they were crazy for spending ridiculous amounts of money on glass.
There were a lot of people at the auction. We met a lady and her handicapped brother from Wisconsin. They sat next to us, and she was nice. I spent most of the morning thinking about what snack I would get next from the concession stand. Now, as I look back, if we had owned a cellphone, I would have called someone to rescue me from the hell I had found myself in that morning, but that was only the beginning of our auction adventures together.
 Over the next few years, we traveled to other auctions, and I got less and less bored with our trips. At some point, my dad bought a reference book and price guide for Greentown Glass, and I found myself browsing the pages and the pictures as we traveled. I became fascinated by the story of the glass factory in Greentown, Indiana, that had burned to the ground nearly a hundred years prior, and I realized that I had a mind capable of soaking up more information than I ever realized. I also learned that my dad started to rely on the knowledge that I had soaked up and he would ask me questions about the glass at the sales we were visiting. I’m not sure at what point I realized I enjoyed the auctions or the fellowship, but it soon became ritual for Dad and me to travel on quests for Greentown Glass and then share the stories of our excursions and the treasures we collected.
A year or so into our collecting, roughly 1996, my dad went to an auction by himself in Logansport, Indiana. He brought home a small child’s size patterned glass creamer in cobalt blue. It was his prize find. See, that Austrian pattern creamer is RARE! Dad was so proud of his purchase, and he then joked for a couple years that it was the only piece in the collection that was just his; everything else was ours! Dad boasted at an annual Greentown Glass convention about his prize find, and he turned down a lot of money for his creamer. To be honest, at the time, I wasn’t as excited about his creamer. To me, it was the wrong pattern and the wrong color for me to care.
The winter of 1998 was my dad’s worst year in business. Business was slow at the funeral home, and the checkbook suffered greatly. I don’t remember even being aware of the troubles at the time. I guess secrecy was part of my dad’s superpowers. Christmas was approaching, and I was expecting the usual haul of meaningless gifts that I only thought were important at the time. I was also expecting a special piece of glass. Dad always got me a special piece of Greentown for my birthday or Christmas.
Christmas didn’t disappoint. That year under the tree, I found a box all wrapped up with a special bow over fancy paper…that was always the signal of something special from Dad. Inside was a chocolate glass Chrysanthemum leaf bowl. My FAVORITE Greentown pattern, and until that day, I had never owned an entire piece in that pattern. My only piece was a solitary, orphaned sugar bowl lid. I admit, I may have been a bit of a dork, because at the age of seventeen, this treasure was something more valuable than any video game, car accessory, article of clothing, or anything else I could imagine. It was perfect, and my dad was an awesome dad for scoring the best gift ever award!
The following summer we attended an auction in Greentown, Indiana. There were two bidders that kept competing for the same things, and the prices got a bit out of hand. The war was real! Several times a very frustrated bidder, nicknamed “Tall Tex,” because he was from Texas, lowered his card and gave up something he desired to someone else. Then, in the middle of the sale, a cobalt blue Austrian creamer went up for sale. Nobody had ever seen one sell at auction, and I had commented to Dad before we left that this would be great so he could see what his was worth. The bidding started and the previously frustrated man kept bidding until he secured his treasure…for TWENTY-FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! I was so excited because I finally saw beauty in that piece that my dad had so long treasured. My dad didn’t look overly excited that day, but he smiled and we went home.
You may think you know where this story is headed, but you’re wrong. No, dad hadn’t put his creamer up for auction; however, he no longer owned his blue creamer, and I never even noticed it was missing from our house. Dad had struggled with how he was going to pay for Christmas that year. I learned later in life it was only because of a personal loan from a relative and the fact that he had traded his blue creamer for my “best gift ever” that there was anything under the tree that year. I also learned that during the winter of that year, my dad had almost lost his business due to not being able to pay his bills. He chose to share his love for his family with gifts that year without anyone knowing for years that he feared it would be our last Christmas together in that home if business hadn’t turned around.
I learned the truth about Dad trading his creamer by accident when the person who sold the creamer at that auction recalled it in a conversation to me as the “best selling piece” he had ever owned. The gentleman said, “It was the most money I ever made off of a piece of glass” and he figured that it was the only one known to exist at the time. I then corrected the man and said, “Well, my dad has one of those, too!” The man’s simple reply told me everything I needed to know, “He found another one?” It was at that moment that I realized the only way my dad could have afforded my special chocolate Chrysanthemum leaf bowl that year was to have traded it or sold it for my gift.
I never confronted my dad directly about the deal that he traded his best piece for something for me, but he knew I’d figure it out. We got very close working together over the years, and I learned more about some of the financial struggles of his career. To this day, I look back and feel guilty that my dad gave up something he prized so much out of love for one of his children, but I can’t look back without feeling how much my dad loved me!
When my dad died, I lost my best friend. We had been together for almost twenty years, and we made it. We had each other to lean on when there were troubles, and I was able to work each day with my best friend. After my dad died, I ran across another cobalt blue Austrian child’s creamer. It didn’t cost me near what the original one had sold for, but I had a piece to think back on my dad and to serve as a special sentimental trophy of our collecting accomplishments.
Over the years, I took that single piece of chocolate Chrysanthemum leaf glass, and I turned it into the first ever known completed collection in that pattern. I was able to finally purchase a long-sought punch cup in that pattern that I had missed many years ago. While it was a financial burden on my checkbook, the punch cup sat right next to that creamer as a very special reminder of the end of a special collection started by my awesome dad who gave me my first piece. I wish dad could have seen the joy on my face the day that punch cup arrived in the mail.
When I look back on the struggles my dad faced in his life, I see his overwhelming ability to survive and get through whatever life had thrown at him. He survived the death of a spouse, the challenge of single parenthood, the difficulty of owning a small business, and he survived. He adopted both of my brothers, my oldest brother ten years before my birth, and my younger brother as a teenager who moved in with us after I had graduated from college. Due to the distance between our ages, we were all taken care of by him as a single parent, and being our father was his greatest joy and accomplishment in life. He gave us all that we needed, but more than meeting our needs, he gave us love! The cobalt blue Austrian creamer wasn’t an item of value for my dad. It was an ability for him to express his love for one of his children at a time he didn’t have any other way. He willingly showed each of us that amount of love each day. While we didn’t always have everything in life we wanted, there wasn’t a day in our lives we could ever feel unloved!
Our collecting has led to some of the most important relationships in my life. The lady from Wisconsin died in 1999 from cancer, but her sister, brother-in-law, and brother, remain some of the most important relationships that I have. They have become more than family to a degree that the sister was the one that drove down from Wisconsin to care for me after surgery earlier this year. Our friends from the National Greentown Glass Association remain some of my closest friends, and I can smile because I am loved by some of these friends and treated like one of their own children/grandchildren. The friendships I have made over the years from our glass collecting are treasured more than the glass I collected, and now as these people pass, I don’t buy possessions of theirs to add to my collection because they are desired for monetary value: I buy and collect items that belonged to people to serve as visual reminders of the amazing friendships that were created from all the great times, trips, auctions, and conventions I attended over the years.
Earlier this year, I was in contact with a man who had a few pieces of glass to sell. I remembered from many years ago that he was the one who had paid the ridiculous price for that dainty blue creamer.  While we were visiting, I shared with him the story about my dad giving up his cobalt blue creamer in exchange for my Christmas gift. I thanked him for selling me the items that he had for sale, but I asked one final question, “Would you consider trading blue creamers?” Several weeks later, my dad’s original creamer had arrived back home again to Indiana. It sits in a china cabinet at the funeral home next to a picture of my dad that I walk past every day. I collect my dad’s other favorite pattern, Herringbone Buttress, to add to the shelves of that cabinet, and maybe with my luck, I’ll complete that pattern in his honor as well.
Dad passed on June 28, 2013. I don’t have the ability to tell my dad how much I love him every day, but I get to remember every day how much he loved me.  Happy Father’s Day to my dad, Super Man. He may not have had the ability to move mountains, lift cars, or fly, but he had a supernatural ability and willingness to share his amazing love for his children every day of his life without ever putting himself first. He had the ability to use his overwhelming compassion to serve his community in the ministering role of a local funeral director, never turning down a family that couldn’t afford his services and always taking care of them despite their ability to pay. It wasn’t strength that set him apart or other common superpowers, it was love. Super Man, he was my dad! - Brad McClain

Thursday, June 14, 2018

...all the affections...all the stars...

Welcome to Day Three of the Window's Father's Day celebration. What an inspiring week it has been so far, with today's offerings being no exception. - Liz

"Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars." - Victor Hugo

William Conway Kelly
My memories of my father were pretty ordinary. He wasn't a demonstrative man, although his love for his family (especially his grandsons) was a given. He passed away back in 1988. After my mother died, I came across a shoe box filled with memories. In it were love letters from my father, written while she was recovering from a miscarriage at her mother's home in TN. He hadn't yet been discharged from the military so he couldn't leave MI.

The letters showed me a side of my father I'd never known. Not only were they beautifully written but he'd hand-drawn beautiful scenes at the top of each letter. I'd had no idea he had such artistic talent. - Nancy Fraser

“Hold your mitt in front of your body.”
Dean Spillers

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

“Let’s try that song one more time.”

My dad’s influence on my life was wide and has endured past his death. He passed on to me an appreciation for vegetable gardening. He taught me how to catch and throw and hit a baseball when I was in elementary school. And most of all, he filled my life with music. He was a bugler in the Army. He played the trumpet from age fourteen and never quit until he had struggles with getting breath to play in old age. He sang tenor in a quartet. In my family, the question was not do you want to play an instrument; it was what instrument do you want to play?

Today, the music bug he gave me still enriches my experiences in many ways. Watching a movie, I hear the score by individual instruments. I know that when a trumpet player hits a very high note, that player is extremely skilled. Music remains a part of my daily life. I write to music.

It wasn’t always fun to be my father’s daughter when it came to music. I played my first solo in front of my second grade class, his doing. He demanded regular practice. He would sit me down beside him to practice my saxophone. His reputation was “let’s try that one more time,” and the one more time always meant numerous times.

I learned the hard way to always keep my eye on the ball and hold my mitt correctly. One time when I was about eight, a ball came my way and hit me in the head. I didn’t get injured but it did hurt. “Keep your eye on the ball, Lynn,” my dad said. I think that advice has help me focus on getting what I want in my writing career.

He was a quiet person, generally. He tended our family ½ acre garden for hours on end, content standing alone among the tomato plants and rows of sweet corn. When I became a writer, he didn’t say much about my essays, articles, or stories. But one sentence he said I’ll never forget. It meant so much to me, coming from my dad. He had read something I’d written and commented to my mom, “She sure can write.”

When I hear a famous tenor sing, or hear a trumpeter play, I think of my dad’s beautiful music and his love for it. And sometimes I think of those words from him about my writing, and my heart expands and I say, Thanks Dad. - Lynn Crandall
My dad would take us along when did his fuel
Dillman Family
deliveries. I went with him to the base once. I fell off the seat while watching a plane take off. He would always wait until all seven of us were in the car, then decide to check the oil. Verl Dillman was his name. The first letter in Dad's name and my brothers spelled his. Edward, Robert, and Larry. - Kay Riggs

This is my dad. He gave me two very good lessons. He taught me to never make a bet with money I didn’t have after I made a bet with my cousins and lost and had to get the five cents from my dad. I also had to work that five cents off to repay it...and he told me he didn’t care where I went to church. Just that he wanted me to go. His telling me that gave me the freedom to try out several different religions and I chose what worked best for me, even though it wasn’t my original religion. ๐Ÿ™‚ - Cathie Kahle


Paul Kingery

In memory of my Father in law Paul F. Kingery Sr. I was so blessed to have such a wonderful father in my life I lost my Dad at young age. I remember the times he would come and visit. I'll always treasure. - Deloris DeWald Kingery


Mike Farnham

I would like to do a son-in-law tribute for Father’s Day if I could. My son-in-law is such an inspirational man to my family. He fell in love with my daughter when they were around 14. Although she liked him as a friend she fell in love with him years later. He’s such an important part of our family. His personality is that he never met a stranger. I have never met anyone who didn’t like him. 

He treats his wife wonderfully. He loves his children. He takes them fishing, shopping, picks them up after their activities. Very rarely complaining. He lets them paint his toe nails, wears a crown if the occasion calls for it, but most of all had been great to my other daughter’s family and me. 

He has taken me to chemo, had to almost carry me when I couldn’t walk, has worked on my car when I need it, and helped me through tough times. Not all sons-in-law help their moms-in-law so willingly. He is my hero this Father’s Day for being such a great Father throughout all year. - Paula McKinney

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

...little scraps of wisdom...

"I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom." - Umberto Eco

Day Two of the Window's Father's Day celebration. I was thinking about
Chester Shafer
my own dad. We weren't close by any means, and I spent some time thinking my life would probably have been perfect if Jimmy Stewart had really been my father, but there were things. Number One was to always take my foot off the brake when driving across railroad tracks--he told me this the only time I ever remember him riding in the car with me. Number Two was that when his life came to an end, he waited until the day after my birthday to pass away. It has been 37 years, and I still choose to believe he did that because he cared. - Liz

Jessie Davenport and Family
I think my best memories of my dad is his singing to my mom and dancing with me. I remember as a little girl of him dancing with me at a father/daughter dance. teaching me how to do the twist and catching him practicing the twist behind the dry-cleaning machines in the Laundromat we owned. The last time I remember him dancing with me was after I was married at a club in Houston. He would sing to Mom but the one song i remember is his singing "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" to her. Have lots of great memories of my dad and of course some not so good, but he was always a special person in my life and I miss him everyday. – Nancy Davenport Massey 
Robert Sears

Robert Sears & Judy McKay
I found my dad when I was 47 but it was like we had never been apart. He always told me he loved me and always made me laugh. He always told me he would live to be a hundred since I found him. He died two and a half years ago at 87. His name was Robert Sears and he was one of the best men I ever knew. He was a hard-working man. He always had women flirting with him no matter his age and he would always say, “Honey, I don't want any young gal because I couldn't keep up with them anymore.” His favorite song was “As Good As I Once Was” and he would always grin and laugh when he heard it. Love and miss my dad very much. – Judy McKay

My dad had a running bet that lasted for decades. He challenged his coworkers to guess his middle name. His coworkers knew his middle initial was an “A.” They tried for years guessing the most outrageous names that started with an “A.” My dad didn’t have a middle name. My grandparents just gave him a middle initial of “A.” We fessed up to one of his former coworkers about Dad not having a middle name at his funeral. – Patty Lawrence Sanai

Willie Lowe, with Cathy, Linda, and Terri
My Dad has always been what I would consider very wise. When my sisters and I were young, and sometimes made huge mistakes, such as getting into a fender-bender, we were quick to come home and confess to our parents. His calm response was always, "Did you learn anything?" He guided us with kindness and understanding. Even to this day--he'll be 90 years old on Thursday--if you jokingly "tell on yourself," he'll ask, "So, did you learn anything?" Yes, Dad, I've learned that you loved us unconditionally and only wanted the best for your three daughters. – Cathy Lowe Clark

Kenneth Robert Hatfield
My Dad worked two jobs. He was gone when we got up in the morning and not home yet when we went to bed. Every Friday night he stopped at the local bar and had a couple of beers. He would then bring home pizza, hoagies or steak sandwiches for my two sisters and me. This was our time with Daddy. Just him and his three girls. Sometimes
Kenneth and Millie
my Mom would send us to bed, he would come in and wake us up. It was a Friday night tradition that all three of us looked forward to every week. My Dad passed on May 2, 2017. He had just turned 80. – Millie Swank

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

...most ordinary men...

"Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, and singers of song." - Pam Brown

I invited people to share father stories with us here at the Window to celebrate Father's Day. Happily, there were too many stories for one day, so I'm going to have posts each day until we're done. I have a few of my own to share. If you have more to add, please send them to me or just add them in comments. To all the dads and everyone else who does their jobs--a lot of moms!--thank you and Happy Father's Day!

Thadd Flaherty
My father-in-law's birthday was two days before our wedding anniversary. One of the last things he said to me before he passed away in 1991 was that I was the  best birthday present he ever had. Dad was always a charmer. I can't say we always got along splendidly--we disagreed on virtually everything--but he charmed me every day. I still miss him. - Liz Flaherty

Dale DeRozier
Whomp...whomp...whomp... What is that? Whomp..whomp... I'm trying to sleep.
Whomp...whomp... It's so early. I can't be mad because people are out. Whomp..whomp..... It sounds so...happy. I'm smiling... Whomp....whomp.
Dale and Joe DeRozier
My dad used to play basketball with me in all weather. Cold northern Wisconsin mornings... below 0ยบ. Snow. We had 3 basketballs. When it's really cold, the ball will freeze and not bounce. I would run inside, grab a fresh ball that was sitting on the heat vent, and we'd keep playing... Whomp...whomp.
It would be dark....Dad and I would still shoot. Hook shot from the free throw line while looking at the garage. I can't see the hoop, but it sounds like it went in....your shot, Dad. Whomp..whomp.... It's pouring rain. Mom is mad because we look silly. I can't look up at the basket because of the water. Dad is drenched. His glasses look like an unwiped windshield...he's laughing Whomp..whomp... One more shot, Joe Joe. Then we have to go in...but you have to make it! Whomp...whomp...
I miss my dad.... I'm glad I can hear Mr. Dawalt playing with his grandson.. Whomp.....whomp............ – Joe DeRozier
William, Shirley, Don, & Deloris DeWald

My dad left this world 55 years ago. Way too soon. I miss him and I think of him often. 
He was a farmer and he was there at home all the time. I am so thankful for the 17 years I had with him. I started helping him when I was a kid just like all farm kids did years ago. We had time together doing the morning and evening milking.
He taught me to hunt and fish. He played ball with me and we went to games together. He taught me a good work ethic. He taught me to believe in myself.
I liked to hear his life stories about growing up on the farm and farming with horses. It was the same farm where I grew up. That always made it extra special. He also had sermons about life and appreciating every day.
In the summer after he woke me up he would go out on the back steps and drop his shoes on the steps and sit down. That sound was my signal to hit the floor and get moving. That was the case on his last day at home. We were getting ready to bale hay that day and it was hot. He had a heart attack that morning. Before mom took him to the hospital he called me over to the car and said, "I will be back in a few days." The next morning he had a fatal heart attack and died.
When I think about him I think about how he lived and not how he died. I wish we could have just one more day and he could see me now. But I am so thankful for the time that we had and all the happy memories. – Don DeWald

Theron (Buck) Comer
Theron (Buck) Comer

My dad was in charge of a POW camp during World War II for a short time. He had this German officer who was being a real pain. So he made him stand on one of those big vegetable cans at the gate and salute all the privates and such that were coming in the camp. He was punishing him like a child. - Beth Comer Jones

Herb Everett

One of the best things I learned from my dad was how to avoid boredom. When I'd complain there was nothing to do, my dad would give me three suggestions. Two ideas were always fun things he knew I'd enjoy, like ride my bike or read a book. But the third idea was always a chore, like clean the bathroom or iron some clothes. I learned to choose quickly and with no complaint, or else dad chose for me. Dad passed away a few years ago but he taught me well! - Peggy Emard

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Thanks, Mr. Kennedy

I'm not positive when I wrote this--I think somewhere around 2011, at a time when I'd taken a hard tumble off the fence I usually make my political home. But it was 50 years ago June 6 that Bobby Kennedy died. I remember the day and how I felt. At first I felt hopeless with him gone. There wasn’t anyone else in politics who listened, who wanted the good of all. But the hopelessness didn’t last, because he was all about hope. 

In truth, I've visited hopelessness--and anger--often since then. I don't know that either emotion had positive results. My optimism has dimmed and so has my belief in what we euphemistically refer to as "the system," but reading back over this and remembering that June day in 1968 has given me back a little. It's okay to be mad, to have our rose-colored glasses smudged sometimes, but it's not okay to give up. I changed the title of this column at first today, to RIP, Mr. Kennedy, but I'm fairly certain he's not resting in peace. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't give up, so I'm not. And you shouldn't, either.

I never wanted to be a liberal. Truth be told, I never wanted to be political at all. It’s all Bobby Kennedy’s fault, because way back in the 1960s, he made me think all things were possible. For everybody.

It’s that “everybody” part that got me.

In case you don’t know anything about me, I am a stereotype to end all stereotypes. I’m Christian, white, straight, married, and retired. You know those people who say they worked their butts off for 40 years and now it’s their turn to sit on them and draw their “entitlement?” — I’m one of them.

I love Christmas for all the “right” reasons — I love the Lord, peace on earth, good will toward men — and the “wrong” ones — I love presents, parties, and Christmas songs. My clothing and the stuff in my house is traditional. I drive an SUV. I am happy to be an American and I’m proud of it, too, though … oh, good Lord, do I think we have problems!

Most of them, I’m prone to believe, have to do with two things:  (1) Greed. And, no, I’m not going to explain that one. If you don’t get it on your own, you’re not going to, and (2) People are always mad at other people. For such a myriad of reasons it would be silly to make a list.

However, besides being a stereotype, I occasionally step across the line from sane to silly in a heartbeat. Or a keystroke if you want to get literal about it. So here’s my list of why I think people are mad at others:

  • Because the other person is of the wrong religion. (This one includes no religion at all.)
  • Because the other person is of the wrong color, nationality, or ethnicity. (A really big umbrella — it probably deserves more than one slot, but I’m trying to keep this list reasonable.)
  • Because the other person is of the wrong sexual orientation.
  • Wrong gender.
  • Wrong profession.
  • Wrong neighborhood.
  • Wrong political party. (This includes, besides the official party designations, conservative and liberal. While I’m pretty much a liberal — thanks a lot, Bobby — I’m not really a democrat and I doubt I’m the only one who’s tired of being told she is.)
  • Wrong tax bracket. Yes, I’m serious. I’m part of the begging-for-relief middle class — you think I’m not mad?
  • Wrong age.
 Well, I was going to go for an even ten, but I couldn’t think of anyone else to be mad at right now. You can make your own list.

As usual, I seem to have swerved slightly from where I started this little soliloquy — okay, I’ve veered wildly and may get arrested for writing while incensed — so I guess I’ll try to connect the middle to the beginning and see if I can arrange an end.

Back to me being a liberal. And a stereotype. And mad. (I don’t think I’m greedy, so I’m leaving that out.)

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with being mad at people because they are different from us. Well, actually, I do, but I’m trying to be realistic here — are you going to be less mad because I tell you it’s wrong? Where we run into those problems I mentioned earlier is when we try to hurt the ones we’re mad at. I feel another list coming on, but I’m going to see if I can avoid that.

In truth, most of us probably don’t intend to do harm. Other than the bullies of the world, who do of course want to hurt everyone except their own closed circle of cronies. It’s what they do.

Some conservative groups want to deny basic civil rights to gay people. And women. And people of retirement age. And children. White supremacists think “white is right.” Some black activists think just the opposite. There are people in the world who think what happened on Nine-Eleven was okay, that we “deserved” it. There are Christians who think the doors to the house of God should be closed to ones whose beliefs don’t exactly mirror theirs. There are atheists and agnostics who think the word God — complete with a capital G — should be drummed out of, well, everything. There are feminists who think if you don’t believe in late-term abortion, you’re not a real feminist. There are … well, crap, it’s another list, isn’t it? And it’s way too long.

Good grief, are we all bullies? The “everybody” that Bobby Kennedy made me believe deserved All Things Are Possible? Can that be?

Maybe we are. Maybe realizing that would be a good first step. Maybe if each of us did our own little part to fix it — look inside yourself, dummy, not at the “wrong” people — that would be an even better second step. Maybe …