Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Standing up

Writing is different for me than it used to be, when I had to steal my hours at the keyboard from other times of the day, from social life, probably from my family--and no, that's not an easy thing to admit. But nowadays, although life is busy and for the most part happily so, I'm in the office as soon as I've finished that ten minutes of housework I require of myself. Sometimes fifteen if I've fallen behind. I worry about deadlines and sometimes push them a bit, but I never really reach the "I'll never get this done in time" point. I almost always have my column (if it's a new one) or guest blogs or my own blog posts ready the night before.

But it's 7:16 on Tuesday morning right now and I haven't written the post for this, my own blog, where the deadline is self-scheduled. But I've told people I'll post every Tuesday or beg a friend to do it in my place. However, I forgot to beg this week. I was busy enough I didn't write my own. It's not fair to anyone that I too often use essays I've used before. What to do, what to do.

Maybe I could steal from Joe DeRozier--he wouldn't mind. He wrote this the other day about his son Jeremiah...but, no, I can't swipe it without asking, and he's out of town. Where are you when I need you, Joe?

Or I could ask Debby Myers. People love her posts. But even I can't ask her to come up with 1000 words fifteen minutes ago. There are probably limits to friendship.

Or, hey, Brad McClain, could you be funny today? I'm behind and I need...but, no, not this time.

I have no one to blame--I'm the one who didn't get my "homework" done in a timely manner. These have been busy and disturbing days, but that has become the status quo and I need to work around it.

That being said, here I am without a subject. No beginning, no ending. I have words and thoughts, but they need to stay on this side of the Window. They have to do with politics and religion and I try not to do that here. But our pastor said in church Sunday that sometimes you just have to Stand Up, and I agree with him--it's important to Stand Up. But it needs to come with the warning that you'll lose friends, you'll be hurt and you'll hurt others, and sometimes it's lonely where your heart and your mind decree you must stand.

Rest in Peace, John McCain. Thanks for standing up. God bless America.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A small world and gentle pleasures

I took her picture but I won't post it here because I don't remember her name. She's African-American, on the tall side, with a smile that lit up the whole corridor of the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon when my friend Nan and I went to spend a couple of days writing. She was with a group of people going to spend the day at Mackinac Island. She walked with a quad cane. Very fast. She smiled at everyone she met, laughed and talked and twinkled. We told her she was everywhere and it was no wonder no one could keep up with her. The fourth or fifth time, she hugged us and kissed us and when she walked away we were a little silent and a lot moved.

She'd been a concert violinist, said the man who led their group, and a registered nurse. My first thought was, Oh, how much she lost. My second, as she walked away down the long hall, was, Oh, how much the rest of us gained.

The woman had a long blond braid and a medical walking boot. She walked past where we were working, barely limping. Behind her came a teenager wearing a boot. "We just saw one of those on someone else," we said.

"That was my aunt," she said. "We both have a broken foot. My mom has one, too, but she doesn't have a boot anymore. We're just a clumsy family."

We ordered eggs for breakfast. I asked for over easy. Nan asked for poached. I said, Oh, I want poached, too. Can I change that? The waitress narrowed her eyes at me and said, "I only do so much Monday," and started laughing. The eggs were perfect.

Lots of restaurants up here close on Mondays, but we found one that looked way interesting, took a couple of exits and missed a turn getting there, but pulled into the parking lot right in the middle of its lunchtime hours. A car pulled out. We could see someone walking around in the rustic log structure that housed the restaurant. Didn't matter what we saw--it was still closed.

We decided today we’d work outside. It took us several minutes to get settled at the table in the inn’s courtyard. Got the umbrella at just the right angle. Settled into the wooden chairs, coaxed the computer mice into working on the slatted table, and went to work. And then it thundered. We beat the rain inside.

Yesterday, we went to visit Gene Stratton-Porter’s home near Rome City. It was beautiful and seeing it brought back warm memories of reading her books. On the bottom shelf of a glass-fronted case lay Tom Mix’s chaps. “You won’t know who he was,” said the guide. Oh, my gosh, I said, his stagecoach is in the museum in the county seat where I live.

The world shrank to a three-way conversation in a lovely old house. “Miami County? I’ve been there. They’ve got somebody’s piano there, too. Cole Porter!”

It was a short trip, although we got a lot done and saw some things we’d never seen. It doesn’t take long to gain experiences, to feel sweet and gentle things, to be grateful, to find the comfort of a small world. It will be good to get home today—it’s always good to get home—but the gifts of being “away” are countless.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"And we were friends and it was good."

I’ve been lifting weights. I kind of like it, but I must tell you, if the idea of an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman lifting weights sounds funny to you, you’re absolutely right. It looks pretty funny, too.
          I work out on Nautilus machines, instruments of torture conceived of and built by men who hate squishy women. Then, when I am winded, sweaty, and exhausted, I do leg lifts, crunches, and things like curls and flys. No matter which way I turn when I’m in the weight room, there’s a mirror in front of me. Mocking me.
          Why am I doing this? Because, like every other year of my adult life, I gained weight over the winter. Because, when I was trying on a dress and had my stomach sucked in, my daughter said, “Just suck your stomach in, Mom. It’ll look fine.”
          Because 1993 is the year of my 25th high school class reunion.
          I remember thinking, when I’d been out of school eight years, that I could have been a doctor by then if I’d wanted to. Now I’m thinking, I could have a kid who’s a doctor if any of them had wanted to. Admittedly the kid would be a really young doctor whose only house calls were to home to have his or her laundry done.
          I remember my 20th class reunion, when I went on a diet and got my hair done and even borrowed my friend’s shoes because they matched my new shirt. I remember my relief because that our name tags had our senior pictures on them because I knew without a doubt that no one would remember me except for the ones I see all the time at school and at the grocery store and once a year at the fair. “Stay with me,” I told my husband. “If no one knows me, I want to go home.”
          “What if you don’t know them?” he asked.
          “I’ll know them.” I was as sure of that as I was that they wouldn’t know me.
          Some knew me and some didn’t. I knew some of them and some of them I didn’t. Some of us had changed dramatically and some of us hadn’t changed at all. Some of us had children who were nearly grown and some had toddlers. A few were grandparents.
          I had a really wonderful time. My husband checked on me periodically. We got home at three AM.
          So here it is five years later. I’m still on a diet and still wondering if anyone will know me when we all get there. Many more of us are grandparents by now and have probably changed even more, so that people will squint at our name tags and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember…” (You say that a lot at class reunions.)
          And it’s a joyous thing, being with people who remember the same things you do. If you’re feeling old, you can look at them and think how young they still look and know you’re the same age. You remember sitting in the same classes, on the same bleachers, riding the school bus for what seemed like hours every day.
          It makes me wonder, while I’m lifting weights and checking to see if I have yet developed triceps and calf muscles (I haven’t), if others are doing the same thing or facsimiles thereof.
          I’m glad my class reunion isn’t the only reason for the diet and exercise, because it’s not a very good one. No one there cares what size you are, what color your hair is, or how much money you made last year. Because, although not all classmates love each other even after 25 years, there is a sense of togetherness developed by memories shared that makes us see each other in a kind light. We delight in each other’s glories and mourn each other’s losses. It is the best of times.
North Miami Class of 1968
          Still dieting, and I’ve only gained about 40 more pounds since 1993. I’m calling that a success.
          Our 50th class reunion was this past weekend. We partied and ate and talked and took a million pictures. We remembered…oh, a lot. We were different now. Our hearing is compromised, our joints either wearing out or replacement models. Doctors’ appointments are a much bigger reality than we’re happy with. We’ve suffered losses and we’ve experienced glories. We mourned and we delighted. And we laughed, walking around and around the room and trying to make sure we greeted everyone. “I missed a few,” I said on the way home. “I missed a few,” a friend texted the next day.
          But not many, not intentionally, and we’ll catch them the next time the class of ’68 converges and gathers in celebration of that sense of togetherness the shared memories gave us both then and now.
          It was the best of times.

Someday many years from now
We'll sit beside the candles glow
Exchanging tales about our past
And laughing as the memories flow
And when that distant day arrives
I know it will be understood
That friendship is the key to live
And we were friends and it was good. - Eileen Hehl

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


by Debby Myers

Elvin Myers
My husband just got a phone call that his father has passed away. My father-in-law was 86 and he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Although I didn’t meet him until seven years ago, I’ve heard from many that he had a long, wonderful life. When an older person dies, that is often the comment you hear most.

What I see in him is a man who had many experiences―some breathtaking, some tragic, some hysterical―and he was strong, proud and loved. As he began to deteriorate from the man I knew, I didn’t want to remember him in that way. I couldn’t bring myself to go see him the past few months, knowing he was dying. I think it was because every time I lose someone I love, my memories of them come flooding back. I want my memories of him to be when he was talking and smiling…living. It may sound selfish to some.

My own father died almost 30 years ago at the age of 48. No one said he had a long,
Ernie Range
wonderful life. On the contrary, he’d had a rough one. It was a heart attack, sudden but not really unexpected. My parents were divorced and I hadn’t see him much―not since I was a teenager. Yet he was still my dad. That connection was there.

I’ve been told you can see him in me. My memories of him are so vague. I wish I’d known him better and I wish I’d spent more time with him. I wish we had talked about his childhood, his memories. Hindsight is definitely 20/20.

The death of a parent is different than any other. They gave you life and it feels like a part of who you are dies with them. In my case, the loss was overwhelming. I needed to fill that void with memories―the good ones—of my dad. I was angry because there were so few, so long ago.

None of my children ever knew my dad, so I am their only link to him. Whenever I got the chance, I would tell them something about him. That he loved basketball, that he made up little nicknames for me and all my friends, that he liked to drive, and loved Elvis Presley.

I’m so glad my husband will have so many memories of his father to share with our grandchildren about their great-grandfather. That’s the circle of life we speak about. It’s so important to keep one’s spirit alive after they pass. In truth, it’s the one thing I think they want―not to be forgotten. It’s so important to tell our children and grandchildren stories of those who have gone. I wonder what my children will remember about me. I like to think I’ve given them many good memories.

In all aspects of my life, I’ve stuck by a phrase. In 4th grade I was cast in a play at school called “Cowboy on the Moon.” From a young age, I remember wanting to be in the spotlight and I had no fear of performing, sometimes to a fault. At one of our final rehearsals, my teacher, Mrs. Demuth, said to me, “Take your moments up there and help others have their moments too. Your moments are how you will be remembered.”

So, readers―do it! Take your moments! Over the next several weeks, our family will be sharing their moments of my father-in-law. May he now rest in peace and know he will be remembered.