Archive for youth

Our First Love-A Young Man Looking for Courage- Poetry by W.B Yeats

 

William Bulter Yeats was born in 1865 in Ireland. He was a popular and accomplished poet, receiving the Nobel prize for Poetry at one time in his career. Brown Penny was written in 1910. It was published in a book of poetry called The Green Helmet and Other Poems. The poem tells of a young mans’ insecurity about a new emotion-love. He has seen others fall in and out of love and acknowledged both the joy and agony that could come from opening ourselves up to this “new” emotion.

 

Tossing the penny to make this decision is probably more an expression of his anxiety than of actually “doing” what the penny suggested, heads for yes, tails for no. I have always imagined that he had already decided to approach the young lady he had become enamored of.

 

One thing that I have wondered about the poem was how old the author imagined the young man in his poem to be. After all , he was 55 when he wrote the poem. In the world of 1865 Ireland or England, men were often much older than women when they married. They had established themselves in a career and it was important that he be able to show the young woman’s’ family that he could give her a good life.

 

Since Yeats spent a good bit of his life in England, he may have been subject to the custom of “The Season”, which was unofficially held in summertime in London and urban areas. There were many social occasions and opportunities for young woman, often in their late teens to meet young men who might offer then a good life.

 

Brown Penny

 

I whispered,” I am too young,”

and then “I am old enough.”

Wherefore, I threw a penny

to find out if I might love.

 

“Go and love, go and love, young man,

if the lady be young an fair.

Oh, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

I am looped by the loops of her hair.

 

Oh, love is a crooked thing,

There is nobody wise enough,

To find out all that is in it,

For he would be thinking of love-

 

Till the stars had run away.

And the shadows eaten the moon.

Oh, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

One cannot begin it too soon.

 

Photo from Google.com/victorian love scenes

reference:www.humanities360.com/index.php/peotry-analysis/Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats

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Life Upside-Down–Caring for our Elders

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It seems I have helped care for elderly relatives most of my adult life. HELP being the operative word here. I would have a “shift” which I shared with my mom when we were caring for my grandparents at home. There was no Hospice/Solace. We were pretty much on our own. My grandfather had a pacemaker ( he was on his third one when he died at 91) My grandmother spent 5 years in a wheel chair, passing away at age 96. We took grandma to the toilet, one of up holding her up with her hands locked behind our neck, the other pulling down her pants and sitting her on the toilet, cleaning her afterwords etc. Grandpa was mobile, but sometimes, his heart issues would cause him to just collapse on the floor. He would “wake up” after softly sinking to the floor and we would sit him down to rest.

When my mom had a health issue that left her weak and needing help, or when she broke her hip and had a hip replacement, my father was relatively well, and again, I was the HELPER, not the primary caregiver.

This time it is different. We have had a lot of trouble getting doctors to work with my father, just as I had after suddenly loosing my teenaged son. It seems they just don’t want to deal with the patient-passing them off to some other doctor who does the same thing-”We don’t treat that>” We were often referred to a doctor whose specialty was so far from my fathers real problem, it was laughable. My father had used catheters to urine for years, but it had gotten to where he frequently couldn’t “cath” himself. He would keep trying and end up with an infection. The doctor would prescribe antibiotics after examining a urine sample and schedule a re-check in a week or ten days at which time, dad would be “clear” of infection. A week or two later, it would be the same thing all over again.

Finally, in mid-May, father, very ill and in pain finally insisted that I call his “regular” doctor and hand him a phone. When he finally got though the annoying recordings and go to talk to a person, he simply said, “I need to see the doctor NOW!”. And surprisingly they had me bring him right in. That evening, after supper, the doctor called me and told me that dad’s calcium levels were extremely elevated, and to get him to the hospital ASAP. My father was living alone at the time, so my husband and I went to try to borrow a wheelchair from my aunt, who lived next door to him. She suggested we call an ambulance, because then they would take him straight in, and we did.

MY father had chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, one working kidney and several other intestinal issues beyond the catheterizing, so it took four antibiotics to get him over what ever the “Extreme calcium rise was”. Even though various doctors talked to us, all we were really told is that they didn’t know exactly why the “rise” in his calcium levels had happened. Since they ordered “small needle biopsies” on his abdominal lymph glands, we knew that the condition had to with his chronic condition.

One doctor came and talked to my father and I about the what kind of doctor he was. He asked dad if he knew what a “onocologist/Hemotologist” did and dad said, “Yes, they treat cancer”. The doctor tried to explain that at dads advanced age (87) and health, it would be more dangerous to do a biopsy where they had to make an incision than to just see what they came up with in the needle biopsies. They told us that he was the oldest patient they had ever treated with all these problems AND STILL FIGHTING.

I guess that is good, but the continual passing from doctor to doctor, and after this hospital stay from nursing home to the hospital again for pneumonia was very hard on all of us. I have not been in good health since the sudden death of my son, so the constant “visiting was very hard on me.”When dad started out on every IV antibiotic hey could think of to fight the pneumonia, my daughter and I were literally courted by Solace, even given a tour because they thought he would not recover. Solace was in a nice, new facility, but they don’t give even the very amount of therapy the “nursing homes “ do. It is not in their protocol. I hate to be mean, and don’t intend to be insulting to Solace/Hospice, who have been very good to us, but when dad didn’t die right away, they began shuffling to another nursing home for so-called therapy.

This made 5 transfers within five weeks and it was talking its toll on dad and our family. We had other serious issues to deal with as well. The nursing home conditions were not what we were told they would be. He was in a double room with one chair (which was moved for some reason) and a room-mate who mumbled all the time and kept the window open which upset my dad a great deal. My father was miserable and the “nursing home smell was awful.

With my heart overriding my head, I decided to bring my dad to my home and care for him. By this time he had contracted another serious bladder infection which required shots twice a day because dad’s lymphatic leukemia makes him unable to fight off infections. My daughter an I had to really fight to get him released to my home, with a hospice nurse giving thee morning shot, and my daughter, an RN giving the evening shot. It didn’t take long for me to realize that doing the right thing, certainly didn’t mean doing the simple thing.

By the time the shots were over, I was so exhausted that I often simply collapsed on the bed after picking up my teen son from his I.T. Internship with the school system. My daughters were good to help with food, and of course the RN daughter helped with shots, but the burden was mainly on me. My husband helped, but was often not at home. I am sure Hospice is tired of our calls, but we were often confused and left with conflicting directions from the nursing home’s medications, Hospices recommendations and trying to get my father to doctor appointments that he simply was not able to go to. By day 6, I was a wreck. A family meeting was called to see what more could be done to help me as the problems with my father being uncooperative and his short-term memory minimal.

This is where I am right now. If you have read this much of my blog, you are probably feeling a bit of the exhaustion that I feel. We still have no answers. The biopsies that might have told us a little more could not be done. Dad could come down with a serious infection tomorrow, or go for weeks, we don’t know.

My point in writing this long diatribe is two-fold. Number one, you are not superman (or woman)even when the conditions at nursing homes are not up to your standards, home care planning should be made with more care BEFORE the parent comes home.

Number two-make sure that the people who say they will help have a schedule of WHEN they will help and that they are committed to do it. In my cause the girls all work and/or have children under two. One daughter-in-law now had a sick newborn at home to care for-along with two older, active boys. The best of intentions may be hard to fulfill.

In closing, I commend all of the baby boomers like me, who are caring for parents, children and grandchildren. We deserve some kind of heroism medal, but that wouldn’t help either. Plan carefully and don’t let guilt rule your decisions, you are only human. As for me, I will just do the best I can and hope my help comes through.

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The Gifts that She Left

 

Together, we sing a special song, “Morning has Broken” as we sat together at the Celebration of Life of a woman who was taken before her time, but faced her illness bravely, with unbounded love from her family and friends.

I will always remember our talks as we strolled down her driveway or stood admiring each others gardens. She was a school counselor, a mother, a wife, a friend. Only a few years ago, she was full of life, taking the vacations of her dreams, planning additions to their house, planting new flowers. It never occurred to anyone that her dreams would be stolen by illness.

As a mother who has lost a child, I still feel the unfairness of my friends and cousins who have lost their battles with disease as adults. It seems so wrong, they had so much yet to give. I lost my best friend of 35 years to cancer when she was just 48. Oh, how I could have used her shoulder to cry on in the times yet to come!

Today, though, I look at the gifts that my friend and neighbor left for us to keep her alive within our hearts. Every time I see a flower blowing in the wind, I will smile and think of her. When I see a child walk across the stage to accept their hard-earned diploma, I will think of her. When I see her husband, walking, alone, I will see her there beside him. I believe with everything inside me that her life will always hold more meaning than her untimely death.

I struggle to allow myself to have these feelings for my 15-year-old son. I STILL struggle. I will always struggle. But somehow, now, when I see the sunrise up into the brilliant magenta sky I will think of her, perhaps laughing and talking to my son in a different realm. Perhaps the most important gift she left me was the realization that no matter how much time we are given on this earth, there will be those who love us-present tense-LOVE us, and that kind of love does not die as the sun crosses the sky and night falls upon us. It simply becomes a different part of our lives.

 

 

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Fresh Flowers on the Grave

 

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

 

I walked up the hill as I so often did. My 15-year-old son rested there with a black obsidian stone that we had ordered from Africa standing guard. Many people had left mementos over the 7 ½ years since that night of hell when we lost him. There were tiny figurines, glass etchings, a link of chains with the number of people who were supposed to be in our family, notes, items from his favorite ball teams. Then, along with Christmas ornaments and coins, we kept a vase of artificial flowers.

Ironically, I often found black widow spiders on the flowers or near the stone. Since I study arachnids, it was like a special message from me-one that spoke of the anger we both felt from the loss of his life through mistakes and excuses. When I looked at other graves in the large cemetery, I found only one other place with a black widow spider-my mother’s grave.

As I walked up the hill on this early summer day, I noticed a new container of flowers sitting in front of the stone. They were light orange with delicate leaves dancing in the breeze. As I reached the grave, I realized that the flowers were fresh. It was unusual to find fresh flowers on a grave that was not a new grave because they do not last long in the heat and wind.

I knelt down to look at a small note attached to the vase that held the flowers. On the front , I could see a set of fading initials-it had rained the night before and I couldn’t read them. As I turned the little note over, I saw a delicate pink heart. I smiled. He never got the chance to experience true love, but after all these years, someone still loved him, thought of him. Without coming to a conclusion about who the flowers were from, I smiled, ran my fingers across his name as I always did and knelt down by the stone, whispering, “I love you.”

I was reminded of something my grandfather used to tell me. “As long as someone loves you, and remembers what you loved and dreamed, you will never be forgotten.” The scent of fresh flowers wafted in the air. For just a moment, I was with him and this time, we were not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Father-A Man Among Men

29720194     My Father-A Man among Men

 

I started this story many years ago, but this week, in honor of his 87th birthday and Father’s Day, I have revised it and added a little sentiment. You see, this will be my father’s last Father’s Day or birthday, if he even lives another week and a half. I found out this week that he has terminal cancer. I have spent the last month in a downhill spiral with him. I have gone from trying to keep him from driving, to trying to keep him able to walk, to admitting him to hospitals, therapy programs and now, the hospital again. Rather than change what I wrote before, I decided to leave it, and simply add the thoughts that come to an only child whose mother is dead when she is loosing her father too.

 

This is the beginning of the story I put on wordpress last year. With some additions that came to me as I wrote this year, tears running down my cheeks.

A few years ago, I wrote this story for my father on Father’s day. I had hope to put it on my blog, but it didn’t happen. I found it today after I got home from my third day accompanying my father to a surgeon and decided that I wanted to honor him every day. It was time to write the blog. My father did not have cancer this time.

I had been looking for a poem that I had written my father years ago, when I felt so young and innocent. Life has never been particularly kind to me, bu the last ten years have seen so many changes in my world that it has been hard to hold onto who I am. I realized more than ever that the only way that I have made it through these time was the love and strength I had received from my father (and my mother.)

Within these past ten years, I have lost my best friend and three cousins to cancer. I saw four of my children marry in only four years and have been blessed with seven grandchildren, with number eight due next week.. Not long after my second child got married, I lost my precious 15 year old son very suddenly while he was playing baseball. I lost my health because of this loss and have come close to death myself five times. Not quite four years ago, when I was still recovering from a hip transplant, I lost my beloved mother. The grief that my father felt after 61 years of marriage took a tremendous toll on him.

This story, however, is about my father, one of the most amazing men I have ever known. My father never had an easy life. His dad was a tenant farmer in Upper South Carolina and then Western North Carolina. His family moved nearly every year when he was young. They moved six times in his first six years. He and his brother would nick-name the houses. For instance, my dad would call the house they lived in by a nick-name so that  he and his brother would remember the houses and the places they lived . One house, they called the “smoky house” because the chimney flue was faulty and the house would fill up with smoke.

He and his brother, who was three years older were out earning money doing chores when they were in grade school. They were raised by their dad, with some help from a maiden aunt. She was kind, but very strict and religious. Their dad spent a good deal of time in a Veteran’s Hospital in Tennessee and they would be passed among aunts and uncles while he was ill. His mother, who had been sickly most of his life died when he was five years old. During the 1920′s, it was practically unknown for a single father to raise his children. They were fortunate that this maiden aunt agreed to come and help him raise them. She cooked them good meals and allowed for a a woman’s influence in their lives.

My father has told me stories of his life since I was a child. I would beg him to tell me a particular story. I called him, “Huckleberry Ken” because his life had been so full of both hard work and mischief. After becoming a parent myself, I suggested that he should write down his stories, so that we could pass them on to his grandchildren, along with others who had enjoyed his art of storytelling.

He took my suggestion, and with me acting as editor, he published four books about his childhood, teen years before World War Two, his time in the Navy in Guam, and his years working on both the Highway and Railway Post Office. He has another book that we never officially officially published. Today, I got a check in the mail for someone who had read about his books and ordered some of them.

Helping him with his books was both a chore and a privilege. I has to order photos from museums, obtain permission to use them, hunt down friends he had known 50 years before and record their stories, then scan and edit everything on the computer. In the early 1990′s a home computer was much more complicated than it is today. Ironically, my laptop computer seems more difficult for me to figure out than that old, but expensive computer that we used to prepare his books for publishing. I often wonder why I ever suggested the idea of publishing the books. To my father, it was the dream of a lifetime. Still, I look upon those difficult days, when I had a house full of little children to deal with as well, as some of the most hectic and yet some of the best days of my life.

My dad was the good student, the hard worker, his dad’s “favorite”. His brother had more difficulty in school and would probably be labeled “ADHD” in this day and time. When the school would send home letters about his brothers lack of progress, my father would read them and tear them up, knowing that his brother would be unjustly scolded by their father and realizing that no one at school would follow up on the letters. In the decade when he and his brother were students, kids from impoverished families were looked down on by teachers and administrators. Many of the children had parents who could not read or write and children started school with little knowledge of “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic” as it was often called. Often, in rural areas,there was a shortage of materials and children who could not pay for books, never received any. There was little chance for these children to get an education when no one could help at home and no one at school seemed to care.  Most of the children from poor families has quit school by their early teens, with boys working late shifts in factories and girls staying home to work on the farm. Many girls were married by their mid-teens. Though there were child labor laws “on the books”, it was easy to lie about your age and not be questioned.

Once, when my father was in the 5th grade, he decided to change schools. After hearing from friends that a nearby school was better than the one he was attending, he made up a simple plan. All he had to do was walk a little further and catch another bus. Without ever discussing it with his father, he simply started the new school year at his “new” school. It was nearly Thanksgiving before his father found out, and since my father was doing quite well in his “new” school, his father just let it ride.

When my father and his brother were still in grade school, they would be out looking for jobs on weekends and in the summer, in order to get enough money for “soda crackers, a can of Vienna sausages and a soft drink for lunch.” In summer, it was easy to pick berries and sell them to the wealthy families who would come south “to summer” in the low country of the Western Carolinas.

He and his brother learned to work hard for very little pay. Often, they were asked to tear down old barns and storage buildings, and do odd jobs. When a wealthy resident or better yet a local contractor would ask if they could “fix cars, lay brick or haul cement”, their answer was always, “sure”. It was in this way that country boys like my father and his brother got most of their “education”.

When World War II was on the horizon, my dad and some friends headed north seeking manufacturing jobs that they had heard were plentiful in the growing automobile industry. A few of them stayed, but my father and a friend, who owned a car, did not. They came home and found work in the construction business, taking any job they could get. They learned to drive trucks, build houses, and any other job that might lead to a “step up” on the employment ladder.

Not long after returning from their adventure “up north”, my father received his draft notice and decided to join the Navy before the decision of which branch of the service he would be drafted into wold no longer be his choice.

His brother had injured his knee when he was a child and did not pass the physical to be placed into the “service”. One of my father’s most poignant memories was hearing his dad’s last words to him as he boarded the bus for basic training.

His father had bowed his head, hiding a tear and whispered, “Son, I don’t think I will ever see you again.” He didn’t. While on Guam during the Christmas holiday of 1945, my dad was called into the chaplains office and told that his father had died of a heart attack. He still has the letter hr received four days later from his father, saying that, “everything was fine.” Communications were very slow in those days but the letter was profound, his father’s prediction had come true.

Upon landing in Guam in the fall of 1945, my father was asked by his commanders if he could drive a truck. Even though he had never held an official driver’s license, he replied confidently, “Sure.” and thus found his job with the Navy would be that of a truck driver as our military men struggled to wipe out the final skirmishes of war and rebuild the devastated countries that had been left in its rubble.

His book about this time of his life is titled, “Two Hundred Thousand Boys on a Rock Called Guam. On the cover is a photo of he and two friends sitting on the top of a captured Japanese submarine, the “rising sun” that was the Japanese flag was seen right below their young, smiling faces. To me, this book is the story of a group of boys being thrust into an unthinkable situation and showing their determination and fortitude. It is the story of “boys” becoming “men”.

My father did not come home from World War II with the ticker tape parades and tearful families rushing up to their ships as it was shown in the newspaper. He got off of a bus in Upper South Carolina and walked several miles down a dusty unpaved road to an uncles’ house where he had lived for a while when he was a child. When he got there, tired and thirsty, no one was home. After walking to a country store to get a soda, he returned to his less than excited family who had been away selling produce. He stayed at their house one night, and realizing he wasn’t wanted, he took a bus to the home of a friend in Western North Carolina, hoping only for an invitation to supper and a bed for the night.

 Surprisingly, the reception he got there was one of love and acceptance. The idea of a third son to help around the farm seemed good to the father, Mr. Jackson. A warm smile came from his wife, Mabel, who had always loved my father as if he was her own. Aunt Mabel, as I was taught to call her, had always had an affinity for this long, lean, hard working young boy. Hoping only for a good nights’ sleep, he stayed there four years, until he met and married my mother.  Mr. Jackson taught my father the skills to help him get construction and truck driving jobs, and was happy to have him “pay for his keep” by helping out around the farm. My father earned enough money to buy an old truck, which he nick-named, “Old Hully”. This allowed him to move up the ladder in the construction business to the hauling of materials, rather than carrying the heavy rocks and such to the construction site. The Jackson family called my dad, “Kenny”. And the name stayed with him in that neighborhood throughout his life.

My father had always valued an education and enrolled in a local Junior College under the G.I. Bill, which had allocated him funds for attaining an education. He took a double major in Accounting and Truck management at the Business School in the larger town nearby. It was there that he met my mother, who was also taking Accounting, riding the bus to night school while working in a bakery during the day.

When they married several years after meeting, my father was working at a Trucking Company and my mother still held her job at the bakery. They soon moved in to a small house on the street where my mother had grown up. I wasn’t born until nearly six years later. I had my father under my spell even before I was born, but when he laid eyes on a little girl with golden curls, his heart melted. After growing up with men and living in a home with only sons, having a little girl was both frightening and a blessing to him.

My father worked two jobs most of his life. He worked in the insurance industry, but decided not to move to Ohio when the company transferred there. I was nearly five years old when my dad was offered a job with The Life of Georgia Insurance Company in Atlanta. Hoping that my mother would be happy in Atlanta, where her mothers’ family lived, he took the job and rented an apartment. Most of the time, my mother and I remained in our new house that he had built in our home town, and my father came home on weekends. When he moved our family to Atlanta, my mother was miserable. It wasn’t long before dad turned in his resignation and came back to our home town hoping one of his applications would be in the mail.

Surprisingly, an application did await him. It was for a job at the Postal Service! The hours were bad, the schemes, where an employee had to put cards into the correct hole in a large stand-up desk were a nightmare, but my dad was up to the challenge and while keeping his part time job with the Tennessee Valley Authority, he passed the test and got the job! His early years at the Postal Service lead to his book about his years riding a highway mail bus that was so long that it required a bolted back section to traverse the country roads, and his years working on a railway mail car, sorting mail and throwing it out onto poles made for this purpose in rural areas. These jobs often required “lay-overs” of several hours or even a whole night and the Postal Service rented out rooms for their employees to rest in as they caught their next “run”.

My father’s job at the Tennessee Valley Authority was my favorite. He often let me help him decode the machine-made charts from places up in the mountains with lovely names like “Sunburst”, which sparked my poetic soul. There was a secret phone number with a coded message on it that told the depth of the river at different locations. Dad trusted me with the number and I would call to check the gauges which sent a piece of equipment down into the different rivers and let out a series of beeps to tell the worker the depth of the river. The office also held volumes of books filled with photographs of the famous 1916 flood which devastated our area and caused several deaths.

More importantly, the TVA office was where I saw my first computer! It was in the late 1960′s and the machine took up a whole room. Its only job was to make the charts that we read to compare the depths of the river at different locations. The most exciting part of being “daddy’s girl” on his TVA job, was that I got to ride with him to observe and record data about floods that occurred in Western North Carolina. I loved telling my friend the stories of seeing houses, flooded up to their porch rails, with a cat sitting forlornly on the roof.

Being a girl, and an only child, I had to be my father’s “son” as well as his daughter. That meant I got to learn all the “boy” jobs, unlike my friends. My father taught me about the stock market, investing and he shared his love of learning with me. We played geography games, such as “who could name the most states, state capitols, or fill in a blank map”. We read books together, he taught me the love of reading and learning. He helped me with my homework. He would stay up hours doing math with me, a man who had only a 7th grade education before he took a double major at a Junior college. He would wrap my curls around his finger and assure me that if he didn’t know how to help me with an assignment, he would learn it with me.

We worked in the garden, build sidewalks and fancy brick walls and made crafts out of wood. He taught me the names of the flowers, trees and insects where ever we went. Although I spent many hours with my mother, aunt and grandparents next door, it was my father who taught me about life beyond our valley.

I had thought about sending a copy of this story only to my father, but later decided that it would make an interesting blog. ab A little girl and her devoted father would make a heart-warming story. He always reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, which did not please him. But he was tall, with curly, dark hair and a serious face, much like our 16th President.

My hope now, years after I first wrote this letter, is that my children and grandchildren will look back on this simple tribute to my father as one of love and respect. At only a few days from 87 and in extremely poor health, he still commands our respect, still teaches us the lessons that he has learned in his life and still remembers our names. Last night, as I left the hospital, he had not spoken in hours. He turned to me and touched my hand. “We live and we die.” he said simply. I kissed his cheek, fighting tears and he said, “Goodbye, Brenda. “ I honestly didn’t know if I would ever seen him again, he was so very sick. He slept all morning but this afternoon was able to listen as his youngest grandson (my youngest son) told him that he had been awarded an internship in his school’s district office. It was an honor only two kids were chosen for . My father looked up and whispered, “I knew I didn’t save all that money for college for nothing and smiled at my 15-year-old son, nearly 6 foot three, tall and thin like my father, who lay before him, sometimes cringing in pain. My father has been generous with his help, strict with his rules and filled with an unequaled devotion to his family.

Though he has not always been agreeable with our modern ideas, he has tried to keep up with technology, taught us to invest and “save for a rainy day”. He reminded us of HIS “Golden Rule” which is “Who ever has the gold makes the rules.” and that, of course , was him.

I cannot imagine having a father who loved his errant, non-conformist, self-proclaimed “hippie” daughter with any more patience and unabashed devotion than he has had with me. It goes without saying that he has had this same love and patience with my children and grandchildren.

I can only hope that in years to come, that my children will have even half as much love and respect for me as we all have towards him. As the old saying goes, “He has learned to turn lemons into lemonade.” The gifts that my father has given have been many, but none were more important than his time. He chose being with me over friends or hobbies. When I asked him what “the most important thing that we had , as young people in this crazy world ” and he would squeeze our hands together and softly say, “Time.” You can’t buy it, or even earn it, but you sure can waste it.” I wish I had listened more closely to his simple wisdom. I feel so fortunate that I have had so much time to spend with him.

This past few weeks , doctors have told me that I was fortunate that he had lived past his very close bout with death, when I was 11 years old. Many doctors and nurses said that it was so rare to see such resilience in a man with a body that had been in pain for nearly 50 years, that they were all amazed by him, that he could smile, still hope, still say “It wasn’t easy, but the rewards were greater than the pain. Next June, I will try to honor him by remembering his determination, his talent, his stern but loving voice. I will try not to cry, but instead, to tell my children and grandchildren what hearty stock they came from and simply, to live to make him proud.

 

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Cooking from the Grain to the Table

 

Mo’lasses!

I could smell the fragrance of the thick molasses all the way in the upstairs room my brother and I shared. My grandpa’s molasses making trays and tools were still tucked under the shed, waiting to be washed today before the bugs went crazy

The lightning storm that had crept up suddenly the night before had almost ruined this years molasses run, be together, our neighbors, my father and brother finished the load.

I don’t think any one who has never gone through the grinding of cane stalks, the shuttling of the sugary fluid through the zig-zag trays, or stood sweating in the August heat should be allowed to savor the incomparable taste of warm biscuits slathered in molasses!

When we were young, our family had a joke. If you asked for ‘lasses, that meant that you were asking for your first serving. If you wanted a second service you asked for “molasses!”.

Not many people get to see the metal trays set up for molasses making these days They done see horses turning the machine that grinds the stalks of sugar cane, they don’t watch the paddle moving the molasses along the divided trays above the flames. Indeed the love of molasses has nearly disappeared in some areas.

Oh, go on to the store, buy a bottle and try to imagine the making of molasses I have described, use the little honey stirring device to drizzle the molasses on your canned biscuits. I guarantee, you will get a glimpse of the way grandpa make then as you close your eyes and savor the first bite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could smell the fragrance of the thick molasses all the way in the upstairs room my brother and I shared. My grandpa’s molasses making trays and tools were still tucked under the shed, waiting to be washed today before the bugs went crazy

 

The lightning storm that had crept up suddenly the night before had almost ruined this years molasses run, be together, our neighbors, my father and brother finished the load.

 

I don’t think any one who has never gone through the grinding of cane stalks, the shuttling of the sugary fluid through the zig-zag trays, or stood sweating in the August heat should be allowed to savor the incomparable taste of warm biscuits slathered in molasses!

 

When we were young, our family had a joke. If you asked for ‘lasses, that meant that you were asking for your first serving. If you anted a second service you asked for “molasses!”.

 

Not many people get to see the metal trays set up for molasses making these days They done see horses turning the machine that grinds the stalks of sugar cane, they don’t watch the paddle moving the molasses along the divided trays above the flames. Indeed the love of molasses has nearly disappeared in some areas.

 

Oh, go on to thee store, buy a bottle and try to imagine the making of molasses I have described, use the little honey stirring devise to drizzle the molasses on your canned biscuits. I guarantee, you will get a glimpse of the way grandpa make then as you close your eyes and savor the first bite!

 

 

 

 

 

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Tales of the Lost

 

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

At last the tiny ship saw land ahead. Lost for two days on the shores of the Black Sea, Tony was beginning to panic. His food was running short, he was heading into hostile territory and his communications gear was not picking up the “Mayday” signals he was blasting over his communications system.

 

As Tony got closer to the land, his heart sank. There was not a sign of human life in sight. The banks were steep and rocky, small bays fooling him every few miles, he decided to stay in sight of land until he came upon some sign of life.

 

Where was he? Would the place he finally found be friendly, or some random terrorist camp, far away from those hunting them? As nightfall came, he began to worry again. Still, no civilization, still no good harbor site close to shore. He decided to keep on until the sun set and the light had faded from thee sky and then put down his anchor for the night.

 

Up ahead, Tony thought he saw a flash of light. Though his first emotion was excitement, it quickly turned to fear. He turned on a small light on his starboard to gauge the reaction of the light on shore. Relieved, the light flashed back at him-three times, he took this as a friendly sign and started toward the light.

 

As he neared the beach, he could see a campfire glowing on the shore. He packed up what gear he could carry on the life boat-gun ammo, water, a little food, dry clothes and a blanket ,anchored the little ship and hopped in. As he approached the sandy inlet, he yelled out, “Hello, there! Anyone home?”

 

Feeling rather silly at his lack of a better greeting, he heard a voice come back towards him. “Please, come on up!” said a voice that sounded rather feminine. He wondered what a woman would be doing out here? Who was she with-was it a trap? He could see in the moonlights shadows the figures of three people.

 

As he drug the life boat up the bank, past the tide line, the three figures raced down towards him.

 

“Oh, my God!” shouted one of the figures, definitely a woman. “We thought they had given up on us!”

 

“Who?” Tony asked, puzzled.

 

“We were on our way to an island for research, said the third woman.” The ship was called the Morning Dawn. It went down in a storm after taking on water We fought the storm for maybe a day, and realized we were the only survivors.”

 

Well, now there are four lost explorers, sighed Tony as he sat down on the edge of a rock.

 

 

 

 

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Sleepless Night

Its 2a.m. darkness and
Cobwebs fill my head.
What am i going to do?
I have nothing left here,
No hope, no dreams to hold,
Only pain and fear-like vampires
They feed and leave me empty.

Where did i go wrong?
Did i love too much-
Care too much?
Did i put to much
Of my damaged soul
Out there to be shattered?

All the things i used to
Cling to, have been taken.
What matters to me so much
Is a joke now to others.

Why am i here? Darkness,silence
Why don’t the ones
Who cause the pain hurt like i do?
I needed that sleep-
The alarm doesn’t care.

Another day in hell-black candles
Flickering, yet,Lost,waiting for the
Love i gave my life for over and over.
Just let me go,blow the candle out
Or make them feel the pain like i do.

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Every War Has Brought Us Here

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The times and experiences of today may differ, however, when we take a close look, they often easily add up to the situations we find ourselves in today.

The Revolutionary War was a victory for the obvious underdog-US-the United states of America. There were celebrations all along the East Coast of the Colonies, now States of a new Country. No doubt, the world found its self in a bit of shock. Citizens shouted that we were free. We were of one soul, one mind-freedom. We read the declaration of Independence, the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even with the knowledge that the fight was far from over, we felt victorious. But who among us, was really “free.”

Women? People of color? The poor, illiterate immigrant? No. On paper, we had freedom of (or from) religion, freedom of taxation without representation and so much more. The document that stated these things was beautifully written. Unfortunately, those old prejudices lived on. Many still do.

We had another war with Great Britain in 1812-again, the United States of America “won”.

About 85 years after the Revolutionary War,, we were fighting amongst ourselves. Was it about “states rights” or“slavery” . Most likely, it was about much more. A new and restless nation, part which had become a leader in world industry and another which had become an agrarian based society with little modern industry. It had found itself dependent on slave labor to make the growing and harvesting of it’s crops profitable. In Europe, such differences in culture and life-style generally produced a new “kingdom. Here, many saw the power of a nation of such size being “one country” as vital to being a world power. Among these men was Abraham Lincoln.

My great-grandfather spent three years without this “freedom”, as a Confederate Officer during the War between the States. He was called up to serve, went with quite a few family members to sing up and was later captured in what was written up as a cowardly surrender by his superior officer near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The letters that he wrote to his wife and children are still tucked in a drawer in my mother’s cedar chest.

This man did not have slaves, he fought for hearth and home, as the average Southern man did. He, in fact, went to court to support a “black” woman’s claim to freedom, and helped her win. He was not wealthy. Neither was the common Northerner who got caught up in this horrible tragedy. My Southern family had its homes burned, crops destroyed, women raped, cattle stolen. Does this make slavery right-absolutely not. Brothers were fighting cousins and uncles. Neighbors, who had gone to church together were suddenly enemies.

Over 500,00 Americans killed-still, we have to pay attention to the question that brought our country into being-are we free yet? The Civil War, The War Between the States, which ever one might call it, it was a tragedy that was not healed by the war, not necessary by any means and set our country back decades from what we should have been doing-upholding the constitution that we fought the British Empire to gain.

It is 1918. World war I has just ended. The Unitted States had tried to stay out of the war, sending supplies, money and support but not troops. Finally, seeing Great Britain and France falling, we were forced to enter this war with our troops. Then, as the war ended, our troops come home to confetti parades, electrically-light arches built in cities across the country to celebrate the end of “The War to End All Wars”. Were we “free” yet?

A terribly written and enforced “Peace Treaty”, The Treaty of Versailles” humiliated Germany, Italy and its neighbors, setting the stage for yet another unthinkably horrible war, only 30 years later. These people were ripe fr anyone who would help them regain their dignity and place in world power. Unfortunately, the “men” who showed up to help with this cause were those like Hitler and Mussolini.Even our “Allies”, such as Stalin were to become a scourge to freedom very soon after a war we fought on both sides of our country was ended in a most unthinkable way-the race for the creation of the atomic bomb. We “won.” Were we now “free?”

I think of slogans, some made popular in earlier wars, that each war fought was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. Throughout history, the poor, the weak, slaves, simple farmers have fought and died while the wealthy, for the most part, sat it out, making plans that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

There were wars across the world, the Greek Revolution, the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, the chill of the Korean war, the steaming jungles of Viet Nam, they all haunted the concept of freedom. The violence over human rights and dignity here at home have only gradually began to find some answers. We still have a long way to go. Again, the idea of freedom for all is more a hope than a reality, even in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

I look at the use of religious beliefs as a cause of war. It is not a topic that many like to address. Yet, it is true,historically, many battles have been fought over religion, many people tortured and killed for holding the “wrong” beliefs at that particular time. There are fanatics in every faith. That makes no sense. If we are Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Catholic, Judaic or any other in our belief, why can we not just live in peace and have respect fr the views of others? Will we every find this illusive “freedom” as long as fighting over just about any difference of opinion continues?

How many rows of graves, or ancient crypts will it take to obtain peace? This is a question without answer. I humbly remember and deeply respect all of those who gave their lives in the quest for what some leader demanded was necessary to finally procure “peace’. I will never understand how we can, “fight for peace”. What a horrible oxymoron. There has been so much loss, over and over. This essay may be too long, but it barely touches the history of war.

Why can we not coexist-live in a world where everyone is free from war and hate? The first step is to simply live our lives in a way that is respectful of others, moral, and honest . To continue to repeat the mistakes of the past is entirely useless.

 

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On a Stormy Night

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As I listen to the rain spattering against my cabin’s window,
I think of that night when we were stranded here.
The roads were washed out and the creek overflowing,
but I was in your arms , safe, warm, a long-awaited dream.

I saw the lights blink on the alarm clock, the bang on the transmitter.
I smiled, we were alone, you and I , no one would check on us.
I tugged on grandma’s quilt and you tugged back-asleep.
I listened to the sweet sound of your breath, soft, even.

When I awoke, stars glimmered in the window, the clock was flashing.
Darkness still surrounded me, along with your strong, hard arms.
I wanted this night to last forever, the moon seemed satisfied with just a peek at us.
You and I, finally in a place where life brought a freshness-alone, together.

 

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