May 27, 2011

Loving Paul...

Dedicated to Paul, Ella, Dawn, Mark, Sue, Brownie, Debbie, Terri, Raymond, Lisa, Susan and Jill and all our family, especially loved ones who could not be here.

                    LOVING PAUL


    I was age five when I met Paul. He was holding Ella’s hand. Ella’s my sister, and she and Paul WERE a match from the start. When he met me I did not make a good impression. I wasn’t pretty like Ella and wear red lipstick. Mostly I threw  tantrums. I’d never been on “A DATE.” And I wanted to go on one --- with them!
    Paul was the tallest man I’d ever seen and the most handsome. With his black curly hair, he was called Curly by his friends.
    When Ella and Paul married they became book ends, holding each other up and the life they built between them. Oh, he might have been a step behind ELLA. BUT he never faltered. When Dawn came along I’ve never seen prouder parents. I didn’t even know Dawn had legs until she was two or three. BECAUSE Paul NEVER put DAWN  down. THEN along came his beautiful son AND he had to put Dawn DOWN. HE had to chase Mark, his busy wonderful little boy. BUT he did it with a smile. ALWAYS. His  family  was complete AND  life was good.
    Ella energized Paul’s slow methodic ways. He softened her edges. (Yes, the girls in my family have a bit of an edge!)
    Paul walked slower than the rest of us OBSERVING what WE missed. He smelled the roses. WE WALKED PAST OR ON the bushes.
    Paul’s destination and purpose has been to walk closer to the Lord.
    I saw him change and grow. He’s  always been tall among men but now he’s taller than the highest cloud.  
    Most of us will never come close to where Paul was in his walk with the Lord, but   WE can always get  on that path PAUL walked. 
    I’m on that PATH. And I pray you are too. 
    Paul’s never really been my brother in law. He’s always been my brother.
    Rest in peace my beloved brother.
   


   

May 20, 2011

RAKES AND FLOWERS AND MEMORIES...

  
    When I was a child, the Saturday before Memorial Day was always reserved for going to the cemetery. Grandma would be up at dawn and waiting for us on her front porch. By the time our car rounded her street corner and rolled to a stop in a cloud of dust, she’d be out the gate, smoothing her crisp, cotton house dress and adjusting her starched sunbonnet. Her thick heeled shoes were no nonsense, her stockings sturdy. Though she was thin there was nothing sheer about Grandma.
    Yellow peonies, red geraniums and purple pansies spilled from the large wooden basket on her arm. She’d stow the basket and a variety of rakes and gardening tools into the trunk before climbing into the front seat beside mother.
    I didn’t know then about measuring love with rakes and flowers. But Grandma did.
    As the car snaked its way along winding country lanes, the somber mood in the front seat failed to inhibit my behavior. Hanging out the back seat window, with the wind rushing in my face, I’d laugh with delight and grab at the long stemmed wildflowers that slapped the sides of the car. The world was mine: the tall white farmhouses, the lush green fields, even the blue sky overhead.
    Eventually I would settle down, push myself primly into a corner of the back seat, and breathe deeply the scent of fried chicken drifting up from the car trunk. Occasionally, I’d look out the window to see a farmer with a horse drawn plow cutting furrows in reddish brown earth.
    The minute the car stopped I jumped out into the gravel driveway of the little country church and cemetery, scrambling to see if everything was the way I remembered.
    The old metal money box was still there, securely fastened to the cemetery gate with a piece of wire.
    “That box,” Grandma would say, “is to remind folks who come to visit but never to mow or clean that a cemetery has an image to keep. Besides,” she’d add, “the old caretaker has to eat.”
    Pushing open the rusty gate, I could hear coins rattling in the box.
    Inside the fence I’d stop, overwhelmed by the sight before me. Tombstones covered the little hillside. Some were huge and ornately carved. Others were small and simple. A few had been hand hewn from ordinary rock. It’s too bad,” Grandma said, shaking her head, “that even in death, money sets people apart.”
    When my eyes found our family plots, I didn’t have to count. I could tell by looking. All our graves were there.
    While the grown ups unloaded the car, I scurried over to the little white steepled church. On tiptoe, I’d stand at one of the dusty windows, and peer inside. I liked the purple attendance banner with the gold lettering that hung near the altar. Black hymnals were neatly lined in racks at the back of each polished pew. The church was ready for the next day’s memorial service.
    I’d wander out back of the church to the old oak tree. There, I’d sit at the picnic table, swinging my legs and watching the cows graze in a neighboring field.
    “There’s work to be done today,” Grandma’s voice would ring out, drawing me back to the cemetery.
    The old caretaker had been there with his mowing machine. Great sweeping paths had been made around the hillside. Yellowed bits of newspaper and debris had blown in from the roadway below and wedged against the tombstones. Weeds stood tall in every corner. Winter had, indeed, been long.
    Mother was in charge of the planting. She patted rich, black dirt around each plant. Then, she’d water all the flowers, old and new, from the Mason jar she’d brought from home. No matter how many flowers mother put on a grave, Grandma always came along and added one more. To her, there was no such thing as “over-decorating.”
    While Grandma raked, I carried baskets of twigs and leaves and dumped them into a rusty barrel by the fence. Sometimes a strong wind would swirl around us and the leaves would blow away faster than I could scoop them into my basket.
    Grandma’s bonnet would fly off her head and tumble pell mell down the hillside. Running between tombstones, I’d capture it in a corner.
    “Be careful,” my three aunts would cry out, almost in unison, “you’re going to step on someone.” My aunts always joined us early in th afternoon, bringing their own rakes, their own flowers, and their own ideas.
    “Will you pleeezzzeee be quiet!” They’d scowl at me. “You’re making enough noise to wake the dead!”
    In between the twig carrying, bonnet chasing and aunt dodging, I’d pause frequently to study two graves. They were the ones I got to put fancy floral wreaths on. Relationships were spelled out in red satin ribbon. FATHER. BROTHER. Mother became unusually busy during the time I arranged the wreaths on those graves.
    At last, Grandma put down her rake and wiped her brow. Mother would walk down by the fence near the road. Her hands shaded her eyes as she looked back up at us standing between the graves. Finally, she waved. Grandma smiled. Our decorations could be seen by everyone who traveled the little country lane.
    After loading the tools into the car, the adults slipped some folded bills through the slot in the metal money box on the fence and carried the picnic boxes to the table under the shade tree. There, the conversation took on contest form. Whose fried chicken was the crispiest? Whose pie crust the flakiest? Grandma’s blue eyes twinkled as she winked at me. We both knew; every morsel was delicious.
    On the way home I slept, my head resting in Grandma’s lap.
    Now that I’ve grown up and moved far away from the little cemetery on the hill, there is no set time to go back to clean and decorate. Vacations don’t coincide with Memorial Day. Or the Saturday before for that matter. But when I do go back I take rakes. And flowers. Lots of flowers. For Grandma. And now for mother. 


NOTE:
This story was previously printed in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) and The Charleston (WV) Gazette.
Writer retains all rights.

May 13, 2011

Pattie and Our Nerve Pill Plane Crash

About 4 a.m. this morning, Pattie - my best buddy from high school - and I were in a plane crash.


Relax - don't panic - we're safe! It's almost 8 a.m. the next morning and I'm sitting right here on my sofa drinking a cup of Green Mountain Nantucket coffee and writing this event just as it happened. Or not


First of all Pattie and I have never been on a plane together. If we had it would be the best plane ride ever. All we have to do is look at each other and we smile. WE used to burst out laughing but now that we're old so we just smile! WE had so much fun in school it was sinful. Either playing pranks, getting the boys in trouble, or gossiping. Nearly every day, the teacher would call out, "Bobbie Null and Patti Jones, move those seats A-PART NOW and STOP that talking. Like talking was dirty. I guess she didn't see the laughing!!! So at the end of each day I'd be up front in my little wooden desk near the teacher and Pattie would be in back, or the other way around and neither of us were happy. At all.


But as I said earlier, I got up to go to the bathroom at about 3:15, having no idea that I was about to have this incredible journey with Pattie.  I got back into my warm bed and  curled into a fetal position which is how I sleep. Now, it's very painful to get out of bed in the morning because my  bones are not fetal friendly.


Off off off I drifted.


 Lately I haven't  slept well nor do I dream much, not well anyway and not fun dreams featuring me and Pattie. Though this one was not completely fun.


Note: recently my doctor recommended a pink nerve pill to help me rest at night and to help me unclench my jaw which has been permanently clenched for two months. All right, so it's been three or four. So, at 10 p.m. that night, like a good patient,  I took one of the pink pills.


And there we were, me and Pattie flying through the friendly skies, attendants or whatever they call those people who show passengers how to inflate the vests in case you fall into the water - I was hoping not to come into contact with any water since I can swim only two to three feet at a time - okay two feet, and those things that fall out of the ceiling if you lose air pressure. Which I am positive that neither Pattie or I know how to operate. WE mostly like fun things.

We were not doing any of those things. 

We were deciding which ugly uniform to wear. Once dressed and in the air we learned that we had to stop in Chicago on our way to Charleston, West Virginia. Neither Pattie or I wanted to stop in Chicago. I don't remember why. We were running up and down the aisle of the plane smiling and talking when we noticed we were going DOWN, not anywhere near the Chicago airport.

I ran and buckled myself into a seat beside of one of the passengers which I'm sure it was not where I was supposed to be sitting. But it was the closest seat to the exit and I was taking no chances.


Pattie had decided she could no longer tolerate her ugly uniform - not really believing we were actually going down and she had gone in search of something cuter to wear.

Truthfully, an expensive carry on had fallen at her feet and she was oohing and aahing over this red sequined number and the next thing I knew she came prancing out of the tiny cubicle of a rest room and I had to admit it really jazzed up her look. Plus it was the particular red that goes with her dark hair.


Meanwhile, the ride down was going pretty smooth until we hit a pond of water which was pretty shaky and a bit nerve wracking.  

Nothing fell off the plane and nothing burst into flames. My heart was beating like ninety. I don't remember anyone screaming. Yet nobody was joyful either except Pattie who had perched into a seat beside a nice looking business man type. Luckily the jazzy outfit had come with a pair of red designer stiletto's.


The next thing I knew someone was pulling the plane through the water with a barge like you see carrying coal on the Kanawha River (WV). Or it might have been some kind of pontoon as I am not up on boats. OR a lot of other things.


NOTE: I'm sleeping better now, my jaw is unclenched, my neck isn't stiff anymore and my stomach no longer in knots. I wonder how long the doc will want me to stay on those delightful pills? Forever??? I can only hope!


I can't wait to go to bed tonight. I'm thinking Pattie and I might take in a cruise.


Love you Pattie. Thanks for the memories.


Blessings to all of you as well.

May 6, 2011

Thanks...

New Profile Photo is of Liz, and myself standing and Sherry Hartzler sitting with her book, Island Passage. Now on the my post:


For those of you who read my blog HELP -  I'M IN CRISIS -a big thank you for your love and blessings and lovely comments of encouragement. Especially thanks to Liz who called the next morning out of concern for me.

I realized as soon as I read the post a day later that the post had filled its purpose. Saying what I needed to say and getting it all off my chest was part of the solution. Therefore I removed the post.

I do have a plan. I found a yoga class nearby, I'm looking for a counselor, and Liz gave me some great suggestions on how to put my new plan in action.

Liz just passed her 10 year anniversary cancer free. (Breast cancer). Congrats Liz.

I look forward to spending time with Liz on my front porch rockers this summer reminiscing about all the writing adventures we've had the last 20 years. I'm proud of every one of our successes, large and small.
Liz has several YA books out if you want to look her up. Google Elizabeth Vollstadt. A friend who is one in a million.

God bless each of you for sending me thoughts and prayers.

Barb