Growing Up, and Letting Go.

Thought I would post these today, with permission of course.  Time slips away and these moments are gone before you realize it.  Thank You Baby Girl – for allowing me to save them and share them. You’re beautiful!  May 3, 2014

Happy Birthday America!

I am posting this as a birthday wish. I wish we could treat everyone equally, with respect, with dignity, and with courtesy. Every day.  This young woman illustrates the best in us.  Blind and developmentally disabled – she soars – and becomes the most able. There is hope, but we have to – we MUST – work at it. Happy Birthday everyone, love and light to all!

Road Trip

There’s something to be said for seeing the country the old fashioned way.  I’ve been in the mood to take a road trip for quite some time and was fortunate enough to both get some time off to do so, and to have a friend willing to give me a destination point. There’s a connected-ness that happens when you put wheels on the road.  Very distinct, and much much different from air travel.  I’m always a little off balance when I arrive in a city by air ; and that’s not just due to my inner ear pressure being scrambled.  Travel by car allows me to experience the places I travel through directly; and allow my mind and body to acclimate.

Let me talk for a minute about the interstate highways.  Arguably, one of the most significant achievements of the Eisenhower Administration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956.   American lives have not been the same since.  At this point our future as the United States was about to become a reality. (Coincidentally for you trivia buffs – Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in White Plains, New York on that very evening)   There’s not an item you have that has not traveled on an interstate highway to get to you – thanks to the truck drivers of America.

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s I can’t remember a time when one was not able to travel on the interstate. My mom can tell you stories of literally all day drives to get from southwestern MA to upstate Vermont taking what we now call “the back roads” all the way. You can still take back roads anywhere but with the interstate, why bother? You can get there much quicker on the highway.  That said, there’s something very pleasurable to me in driving myself somewhere; and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of each region.  My car wheels roll and hum on the roadway; the tires softly thudding at predictable intervals as they cross the thin lines dividing each section of pavement.  My navigator and sidekick for this adventure – my fourteen year old daughter.  Our destination:  The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley – Virginia.

Our GPS guided path took us south through Connecticut and into New York City on the I-95. A hot concrete and chrome fast/slow crush – smelling of exhaust fumes and faintly, low tide.  The City Proper – hazily visible to our left under thundery skies.  The Freedom Tower a beautiful soft focus exclamation point on the mid-afternoon skyline. Next, the crowded hustle and bustle of Newark NJ and the Garden State Parkway.  Everything’s close together and moving fast.

Things slow down and spread out as we reach Pennsylvania on I-78.  Farm country, the Lehigh Valley. Rolling hills divided by neat white fences that  enclose single and twin siloed red barns. Barns with stone foundations that seem to come straight up from the ground itself.  White farmhouses with wraparound porches. Everything neat – spic and span; as the saying goes. The first haying has come and gone, the second, now rolled up and drying on the fields. Horses and cows graze contentedly in green gold pastures.  Closer to the road, fence lines are covered with fuzzy, dusty pink flowers,

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

wild roses, and creeping vines.  Thunderstorms are coming in from west to east and it rains on us sporadically. It also creates splendid cloudscapes as the afternoon sun  lowers behind them.  We stop for a break, and I’m struck  by how similar things are on and around the interstate.  Mile-high signs announcing food, fuel, and lodging. Restaurant and Hotel chains providing the same services all up and down the road.  There’s a standard level of service on the interstate; which gives the traveler a sense of stability as they go along their merry ways.

We resume after refueling ourselves – and the car, and as we leave Pennsylvania behind crossing the Delaware and the Mighty Susquehanna, I am suddenly aware of a difference in the air quality. It’s become softer.  The thunderstorms have now tracked well to our east, but continue to provide a spectacular sky show to my left – as the late afternoon sun turns the line of massive thunderhead tops berry-pink with alpen-glow; with bruised purple foundations underneath. A dramatic, stunning backdrop for the farms dotting the low hills.  On I-81 now, we arrive in Virginia where the air seems even softer and smells sweeter.  I later discover that the scent is a luscious, heavenly combination of honeysuckle and sweet pea.  The Blue Ridge Mountains live up to their name as the sun sets behind the last ridge in Virginia in a purple, gold, and peach blaze of glory. Getting off the highway, we now take the back road directly to my friend’s house. On the way, a white tailed deer is grazing by the side of the road. We slow down to take a look and startle her into bounding off – back into the woods.  It was a nice “a-ha” moment to appreciate.

After arriving at  TL’s house, we settle in and relax, chatting up a storm with her and her son Ceej.  Getting to know the rest of the family – the cats: Miss Katie Scarlett, Paul Newman, Jack Sparrow, and Gandalf. And the dogs: Ruby Thewes and Miss Daisy. (TL has an affinity for literary characters). Mayhem and I felt welcome and at home; bonding with the entire cast of characters instantly.   I  doubt TL and I stopped talking the whole time we visited.  It was great fun.  Next post will be about our profoundly affecting trip to the Civil War Battlefield of New Market  – with pictures – and then later, our trip home.

To end this particular post, I thought I would leave you with a list of my favorite “Road/Road Trip” movies.  What are some of yours? And, do you have a favorite recollection of a road trip you might like to share?

  • Duel (1971)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar (1995)
  • The Gumball Rally (1976)
  • Thelma and Louise (1991)
  • Psycho (1961)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • The Wild One (1954)
  • The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
  • Smokey and The Bandit (1977)
  • Speed (1994)
  • From Dusk to Dawn (1996)

Formal Florals

I decided to get crafty yesterday and this morning and try some flower arranging. Then, I tried to see if I could capture my efforts for posterity. The Roses and the Lavender are direct from my garden; and the conch shell was brought back from the Caribbean by my father after he took a Windjammer cruise – back in the 80’s. Originally he had planned to make a nightlight out of it. Somehow it ended up at my house. The Viking learned how to sound a conch in Hawaii back in his younger days – and occasionally he greets the sunset with a blast or three. It really does work,and we’ve gotten calls wondering what the noise was! 😉 Here’s how the photos turned out.  Please let me know what you think, and what your favorites are if you have any!IMG_9200 watermarked IMG_9203 watermarked IMG_9212 WATERMARKED IMG_9215 watermarked IMG_9242 watermarked IMG_9245 watermarked IMG_9257 watermarked IMG_9255 watermarked IMG_9251 watermarked IMG_9252 watermarked IMG_9311 watermarked IMG_9313 watermarked IMG_9321 watermarked IMG_9327 watermarked IMG_9326 watermarkedI’m including this youtube video because it came up on my playlist while I was editing this. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today so it fits! Enjoy the Kingston Trio!  The answer to the question is apparently  “My House!”  Hahahaha!!!

Selena’s Peonies

These were Selena Jacques Lahue (my Great- Grandmother)’s peonies.  My Grandpa dug them up and brought them to his front garden when she passed away, and my mother brought them to her backyard when Grandpa left us. Peonies also happen to be my sister Susan’s  favorite flower.  I went over to my Mom’s this morning and together we managed to get these photographs. Mom held up the blooms with a stick since they are so darn top- heavy.  It was great to share this time with her, and listen to a couple of the family stories while I snapped away.  I’m normally not a fan of white flowers per se, but these have a spattering of red to boost the visual interest; kind of like an artist lined the center whorls with crimson.  Nature, gotta love her  -even when she’s off her HRT. 😉IMG_8551 watermarked IMG_8566 watermarked IMG_8570 watermarked IMG_8558 watermarkedI hope you enjoy these!  Thanks for stopping by.

 

Through the Door: 6 Years Gone…

I know I just recently wrote this (a creative writing challenge) and posted it but…. its the date before THE date….  So much time, so VERY VERY missed – every day.  Especially this year, as his youngest granddaughter starts high school, and his oldest granddaughter gets married. You were here for dinner 6 years ago tonight, and I never saw you again.  I miss you and think of you so much,  Daddy! Today, and every day. …… So here it is again

 

I pull in the driveway just as the shadows are starting to lengthen and the afternoon is at its golden magical moment. Its been a long day and my feet are killing me. As I walk up the deck steps to the back door I don’t hear our two dogs barking – which is strange,  because they usually bark when a leaf blows by the window – never mind when they hear footsteps on the trex decking. But no matter – I’m tired. I open the door and take a step into the dim coolness of my kitchen – shedding my sweater as I walk in.

I’m greeted by Miss Nellie – our old greyhound, who lifts her head off the couch and grins at me, tail thumping. For a millisecond I accept this – then I freeze. Nellie’s been at the Rainbow Bridge for close to two years now.  Then I hear his voice behind me –  “What’s for supper, Donna Jean?”   Dad?  Oh, Daddy…. I spin around and RUN, fast as I can,  hugging him tightly. He’s real, and I’m not hallucinating.   “Take it easy kiddo”, he says, “I’m still recuperating. I just got the OK to drive again today.”  That’s when I know.  It’s June 6, 2007.  Its not the date I woke up to this morning – but when I stepped through my back door this afternoon it’s where I ended up.  And I’ve been given a rare gift.  One more last afternoon with my father.

I frantically try and think of any way to keep him at my house for as long as possible, as we chat about the girls and wait for them and my husband, to get home. Its surreal. My brain is telling me this isn’t possible, but oh, my heart…. my heart.  I don’t know how I manage to keep it together; as this great big lump of emotion in the center of my chest tries to work its way up my throat and explode out of me.  But I do keep it together, barely.  Dad doesn’t seem to notice. There’s so much I want to tell him, but can’t.    The crew gets home just as I think  I can’t stand any more and they prove a distraction.  I’m in for another shock – when I left them this morning they were 20 and 14.  Now, they’re 14 and 8. We decide on pizza for dinner and Grandpa is highly encouraged to stay. As usual, the girls have him wrapped around their fingers,  and so he does.  I content myself watching him with them, remembering how much they mean/t to him and how much he loves/loved being their grandfather.

Time slows, I start to almost feel like this is normal – and then it suddenly accelerates as Dad gets ready to leave – he’s heading for an AA meeting – just like he did before. My heart sinks because I know he’s leaving and this is the last time I’ll see him – again. Don’t go Dad. Stay awhile. But the time arrives. I know it, and I know I can’t stop him.  I tell him unequivocally to take it easy – reminding him (as I follow him out to the car this time) that he has to see the surgeon before he goes back to mowing lawns and landscaping. But I know it won’t make any difference.   There really are no do-overs. What was, was. What is, is. And what will be, will be. The timeline is locked in, and on June 7, 2007 he will have a massive heart attack while unloading his lawn mower at a clients house and he will pass away before I can get to the hospital to say goodbye.   “I know,” he says.  “Love you.  Sayonara, Kemosabe.  Keep the Faith.”  “Bye Dad, I love you too!” And with that, he leaves – just like before.

As I turn and walk back up the driveway the light shifts back to golden for an instant.  I hear the dogs barking inside the house. I go back through the door again, back to my future. I smile through the tears I can now let loose –  because I got my chance to say goodbye, after all.

The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.