Saturday, September 25, 2021

At the end of the day...

I'm sorry-not sorry to repeat this yet again, but it's a favorite. And Tuesday would be my parents' anniversary. Maybe it's a favorite because it reminds me of not only the goods in a long relationship, but the bads as well--and that we can get...not over them, but through them. Thanks for reading this again. 

In 2012. I had a book out called A Soft Place to Fall, about a marriage gone wrong and how two people found ways to make it right. I still have a soft spot for that book and for long marriages. I regret that I sometimes get a little too glib when I talk about it--I make it all sound easy when it's not at all. At the end of the day, though, marriage is private and what goes on within it is not to be shared. No one really understands anyone else's. Looking back on this, my feelings toward my parents' marriage haven't changed, but I have come to realize that--at the end of that day I just mentioned--it wasn't really any of my business.

“A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” ― Dave Meurer

On September 28, 1935, my parents went to a minister’s house and got married. My dad wore a double-breasted suit and my mom had on a hat. They stayed married through the rest of the Great Depression and three wars, through the births of six children and the death of one at the age of three, through failing health and the loss of all their parents and some of my father’s siblings. Dad died in 1981, Mom in 1982. They were still married.

From the viewpoint of their youngest child, who was born in their early 40s when they thought they were finished with all that, it was the marriage from hell. I never saw them as a loving couple, never saw them laugh together or show affection or even hold hands. They didn’t buy each other gifts, sit on the couch together, or bring each other cups of coffee. The only thing I was sure they shared was that—unlike my husband and me—they didn’t cancel out each other’s vote on Election Day.

“Why on earth,” I asked my sister once, “did they stay together all those years? Mom could have gone home to her family, even if she did have to take a whole litter of kids. Heaven knows Dad could have.” (He was the adored youngest son and brother—he could do no wrong.)

Nancy gave me the look all youngest siblings know, the one that says, “Are you stupid?” When you’re grown up, it replaces the look that says, “You’re a nasty little brat.” But I regress.

“Don’t you get it?” my sister asked. Her blue eyes softened. So did her voice. “They loved each other. Always. They just didn’t do it the way you wanted them to.”


I remembered then. When they stopped for ice cream because Mom loved ice cream. How they sat at the kitchen table across from each other drinking coffee. How thin my dad got during Mom’s long illness because “I can’t eat if she can’t.” When they watched Lawrence Welk reruns together and loud because—although neither would admit it—their hearing was seriously compromised.
And the letters. The account of their courtship. We found them after Mom’s death, kept in neat stacks. They wrote each other, in those days of multiple daily mail deliveries, at least once a day and sometimes twice. When I read those letters, I cried because I’d never known the people who wrote them.

I have to admit, my parents’ lives had nothing to do with why I chose to write romantic fiction. I got my staunch belief in Happily Ever After from my own marriage, not theirs. But how you feel about things and what you know—those change over the years.

As much as I hated my parents’ marriage—and I truly did hate it—I admire how they stuck with it. I’ve never appreciated the love they had for each other, but I’ve come to understand that it never ended. I still feel sorry sometimes for the little girl I was, whose childhood was so far from storybook that she wrote her own, but I’m so grateful to have become the adult I am. The one who still writes her own stories.

But—and this is the good part—these are the things I know.

Saying “I love you” doesn’t always require words. Sometimes it’s being unable to eat because someone else isn’t. Sometimes it’s stopping for ice cream. Sometimes—and I realized this the other day when my husband and I were bellowing “Footloose” in the car—it’s hearing music the same way, regardless of how it sounds to anyone else.

Marriage is different for different people. So is love. So is Happily Ever After.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Christine's Coat

It was wool, its color dimmed and lost in time. It had mud on it, the kind a three-year-old gets when she plays outside on December days when the weather warms up. It was folded away in a dress box tied closed with...something. I don't know what the binding was, just that what was in the box was saved to protect part of my mother's heart. It was Christine's coat. Christine who died the winter of 1941 when she was three.

My mother saved a lot of stuff. So did my mother-in-law. The sheer amount of it lent me a determination not to save that much. I think I'm safe in saying 99 percent of the people in my generation feel exactly the same way. 

But we need to be careful. In what we save. What we use. What we throw away. 

Other than being a trifle excessive when it comes to shoes, I don't think I'm a "things" person. If I don't use it, I don't want to have it. However, sometimes a memory will be connected to a thing, and there you go. Upstairs in a closet hangs a blue nylon dress my sister bought for me when she was still in high school and worked at Senger's in the 50s. I wore it and my daughter wore it. Since my shortest granddaughter is in the six-foot range, I doubt she'll be interested in it. 

And yet...

I broke the spoon rest that had belonged to Aunt Gladys. I moaned about it, glued it back together, and put it up in the cabinet where I wouldn't damage it anymore. Yesterday, I got it out and returned it to its rightful place beside the stove. I'll use it and wash it every day. I'll think of Aunt Gladys playing pool on her lunch hour and sending cards with violets on them to my mom to let her know she wasn't alone with memories and thoughts of a little girl who'd left them too soon.

So I'll keep the blue dress and the spoon rest just as Mom kept the coat. For memories of my own. And that's reason enough.

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

On this Day... by Liz Flaherty

On this day, we grieve as a nation. We have mourned the losses of 9/11/2001 for 20 years. Regardless of Facebook memes and accusing tweets and ghastly opinion pieces to the contrary, we have not forgotten. Not for a single day.

I went to a meeting the night it happened, and Bobette Miller told me what she'd been doing on December 7, 1941. She remembered it in detail.

On November 22, 1963, I was sitting in study hall when President Kennedy was shot. The girl across the table said, "I wanted him out of office, but not that way," and it was my first realization that the political divide went deeper than I'd imagined.

Martin Luther King was killed on April 4, 1968. I will be forever ashamed that although I was so sorry it had happened, I didn't realize the depth and breadth of the pain that loss caused.

On June 5, 1968, my mom woke me to tell me Bobby Kennedy had been shot. That was when, more than a political divide, I learned about hate. My own. Sirhan Sirhan, who killed RFK, has been recommended for parole. Fifty-three years after he committed his crime, I am still horrified by the thought that he'll be free to walk the streets.

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since Columbine, according to the Washington Post, more than 256,000 children at 278 schools have been exposed to gun violence. At least 151 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 323 have been injured.

I remember Nine Eleven. Where I was and what I was doing and that at first I thought it was just a dreadful accident.

I remember those other days, too. As I said, we grieve as a nation. We grieve, but we don't learn, do we? We never learn.

Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

About the time change...and other things


There is little I like less than the biannual time change. It takes me two weeks to get used to it and a good deal longer than that to stop complaining about it. I have asked many times over the years for legitimate documentation that demonstrates that the change is good for the majority. Or that the majority wants the time change. I have pleaded with lawmakers to explain its reasoning and to at least take some kind of poll to see how their constituency feels about having their lives upended by a tyrannical clock twice a year.

No documentation has been forthcoming. Ever. If lawmakers do bother answering my requests, it is with form replies that appear to address a multitude of possible situations that have never affected any Hoosier in the 200-plus years of our statehood. None of which have anything to do with changing time.

Since the time change isn’t scheduled until November, you may wonder why I’m starting my complaints so early. Do I really intend to keep going on about this until Thanksgiving, when my mind turns to more important things like food and family? Did I just hear mumbles of Get over it already! wafting through cyberspace?

Well, maybe, but I’m talking about it now because of how the sky looked when I came out to my office at six-something this morning. It was so beautiful I stopped in the driveway with the cats and just enjoyed it. Watching the changes that had nothing to do with legislation and taking a picture that isn’t a hundredth as good as the real thing was.

Now I’m at the point—perhaps you recognize it, since it happens almost every week—where I realize I don’t know where I’m going with this.

I think I’ll go this way.

Although the lawmakers have seen fit to legislate the clock, they haven’t yet found a way to shut down or charge for the ongoing and ever-changing beauty of the sky. I’m fairly certain they’ll find a way to tax it or perhaps put a bounty on people who’ve watched too many sunrises and sunsets to suit them, but we’re not there yet.

I’d just about bet it ticks them off that even though they’re able to make six o’clock into five o’clock come November, they can’t make the sky change its stripes accordingly. The days will still have only 24 hours in them and just as many of those hours will be dark as before.

Think about it. Government can mandate how we set our clocks and what women do with their bodies, but they won’t insist people wear masks as a safety measure. They permit all kinds of chemicals and endless fossil fuel emissions to permeate the air we all breathe, but understate the importance of a vaccine.

At the same time, they’ll encourage the use of an unapproved mostly-for-animals medication. Not just for themselves, which would be fine with me, but for others who will take their medical advice because they almost certainly know more than medical personnel and other scientists, don’t they?

Sometimes I wish they’d just leave things alone when they don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t you?

And while they’re at it, getting rid of the time change would be nice, too.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.