Friday, December 14, 2012

Good Bye

When I checked my Blog just now, I found it ironic that the last entry was written on September 1st.  I had forgotten when I last wrote.

You see on September 2nd, we found my mom laying on the floor of her farmhouse.  She was conscious but very weak, and laying in some kind of foul smelling discharge.  From that moment on, our world, that of my family and brother's and sister was turned upside down.  And I haven't written on my blog since.

Its been over three months since that morning and a friend last night mentioned that she still checked my blog to see if anything had been added, and it struck a chord how many times in these last three months I have wanted to write or put some kind of an ending to this blog, but just couldn't.  Words tumbled around in my brain, so many thoughts I wanted to relay, but I was almost physically incapable of writing.  Not a case of writer's block but of incredible sadness and guilt.  I could barely keep up with my life on a day to day basis and there seemed no past and no future ahead....

Mom spent nearly a week in the hospital.  I endured the incredible and horrible shock of having a breast cancer tumor revealed that Mom had hidden from all of us for at least 4 years.  By this time it had grown and seemed some enlarged, grotesque part of human flesh, that wasn't part of my mom at all.  I had to get past having this revealed to me in an emergency room, and then deal with the fact she had hidden something like this, and finally come to grips with where we go from there.  I did not have kind memories of my dad's treatment in the hospital after his initial emergency room visit.  The same was true of Mom after she was moved from intensive care into the oncology floor and the tests began to see if the obvious breast cancer had metastasized.  Mom had not been to a doctor for over 40 years.  In this case you are assigned an "in house" internist.  Doctors come and go and it would seem we were never there when this doctor or that was in. 

Mom was in good spirits after they gave her 6 units of blood.  Her color improved and she ate well.  And we waited through the holiday weekend for tests and a decision, finding out very quickly how the Medicare system works.  Its not pretty.  On the fifth day, the P.A. to Mom's internist came in and while Mom was eating her breakfast, gave her the news the cancer had spread to her lungs and her bones.  It was not a surprise, and Mom kept right on eating not saying anything.  I was alone with her and tried to question her as to where we go from here.  It was my first sign of many; of her turning inward and deciding things in a place within herself.  A place I wasn't invited into, and a place that would continue on for the next months.

We met with a team of doctors the next morning, and her oncologist, who I also had never met, told us that the cancer was also in her liver and pancreas.  Hospice was recommended.  No timeline was given.  Another new journey into the world of Hospice care.  After a nightmarish couple of days of getting Mom transitioned back home and into Hospice care, of learning to change her breast dressing every day, and nearly choking on the smell, and of alternating between complete despair, guilt and wondering if she would last the month, my sister came home from Colorado to stay with Mom for as long as it took. 

That was 3 months ago and there have been peaks and valleys in this time.  My sister, came and stayed,.  Mom rebounded surprisingly and when Kerri had to return to Colorado for a time, Mom was able to stay by herself with help from Hospice and my brother and I.  Kerri had to return in November when Mom seemed to be failing mentally and could no longer stay in the house alone.  She had a setback that we thought was inevitable and that she was heading down that final road.  She was in a wheelchair now all the time and needed help getting in and our of her chair and in the bathroom.  She was living inside her head, more and more and would fixate on things.  But after hitting that low, she has come back and is again walking with a cane and while she tires very easily now, is maintaining.  She says, "she's doin'" and she is. 

It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions these last months.  I have laughed harder than I had in the whole of the last year, and enjoyed a whole new relationship with my sister who has lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years.  We have made nearly every weekend a family time with our other brother who lives in Saginaw.  We have shared memories and laughed until we cried.  We have found Mom was quite the pack rat, something we had always kind of known, but in cleaning up rooms that will never likely see her touch again, we have found collections she had accumulated of a breadth and variety that totally escapes me.  In many ways I don't know this woman who was my mom and this new one who is facing death but not acknowledging it, is a total enigma to me.  I don't get it and in trying to get it I have run the gamut of emotions.  To ride this wild ride is exhausting and the hardest thing I have ever done.  And in a world where we have become accustomed to "immediately" there is no immediate about any of this.  There is no ending point, and though we know this will not last forever, we want to get the awfulness done.  We know it will be awful, and that dying is not a pretty thing to watch or to contemplate.  I so often feel like a vulture watching her and trying to figure out what she is thinking as she talks little now. 

She eats like her last meal is being delivered every day.  She is demanding on what she wants to eat and it seems that is where her mind has chosen to focus.  She becomes so keyed into internal thoughts that I can almost see the curtain dropping in her eyes and know that she will now be quiet and we are not invited in.  It has perhaps been the most heartbreaking aspect, we feel no longer like her children but like the people hired to take care of her. 

It is a learning experience of the category of "BIG LIFE" experiences, and I feel most days like I fail miserably.  But when I stop and feel God's arms wrap around me, I know that he has put things in place to not overwhelm me but to teach me.  I had a job offer fall into my lap before any of this.  It seemed the perfect thing to transition me into the autumn months and when Kurt would be home more.  I liked the hours and the days.  I liked the idea of being back in a school setting, but I was nervous as to how watching kids after school would work for me.  When Mom went down, I thought this might all have to be given up before I even started it.  I wondered why God gave me this opportunity only to snatch it away.  But He provided a way to make it work.  It has been a blessing of this time, but one of many I have experienced.  So, while this blog has come to its natural end, I think there will be a new one coming as I walk this very crooked road.  I alternate between gratitude of a magnitude I did not think possible, to despair in wondering if this is life and what I have to look forward to.  I will be back and forth like a ping pong ball and I will write again when I can write with humor and not despair, when I can either chronicle my mother's final journey or write of it in gentle reflection....

Goodbye to becoming nearly a Grandma, as I am now there and delighting in two grand children who now scamper around and laugh delightedly, and have become just FUN.  I am still in the country but with a new perspective on what all this means.  A two year journey, and the greatest lesson is in knowing I still have much to learn.... 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Quiet Whisper

Here I am watching the U of M/Alabama football game changing between it and the Detroit Tigers hosting the Chicago White Sox.  I had planned all along to watch both of these games tonight, I just hadn't planned on being home since 3:30 this afternoon to prepare for it.

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, the natural ending of summer in Michigan, as schools prepare to go back was to be the weekend of the hunt trial test that would give our Gauge his final pass and his Master title.  Well, that plan was screwed over last weekend when Gauge failed on his last series of 3, acing the first two and really not looking awful on the third, but enough that he was failed.  Disappointment reigned as we were so close, but many good dogs failed so Kurt immediately signed up for a hunt test in Indiana, the weekend after Labor Day, to hopefully pick up that title.  Training went great this kind of, last week.  Many of the young trainers had titled in junior last week and were done for the season.  It was a smaller crowd at our Thursday tailgate, but our southern pro's brought shrimp and we grilled them along with some Michigan vegetables and had a feast.  A final training drill to stop some dogs with breaking tendencies was great fun and Gauge remained calm among a sea of barking dogs, lunging for the decoy bird. 

The day even seemed to cooperate as the heat of last weekend was tempered by a cooling breeze this time and even though we had a late draw,  the heat wasn't a factor this time.  I am a mess watching Gauge run these things.  I would be fine if I were the one handling him, but to watch takes me back to all those Little League games and watching Korey pitch and Annie's high school softball pitching duels.  I was often told to go "walk" while she was pitching as I was so nervous I would be pacing behind the backstop.  When she batted I was fine, but her pitching about did me in.  I was tempted to go to the back when Gauge ran.  I hadn't watched him run at all this year until the last series, last week which he failed. I wanted to label me jinx, and just disappear until he was done, but I sat there.  He hunted the flyer longer than most of the other dogs, but ran both blinds beautifully.  In fact, the second long blind, which had required several handles by most dogs, he got with out a one, eliciting applause from all of us watching.  I thought the last two marks would be a piece of cake for him.  I noticed he wasn't heeling to Kurt behind the blind as normal before the marks were shot, but seemed all right on the first short mark, but the second long one, he broke.  When a dog breaks, there is no judge's discretion, the dog is done.  Gauge never breaks, I was just stunned.  He never breaks.  But as we all say when our dogs do something unexplainable, they're dogs.  And that's it.  It doesn't make us feel a whole lot better, but it is the most succinct explanation we can come up with.

We went over to the other Master to tell our good friends Gauge was out already.  I wanted to stay and watch some of our friends in senior division but they were just setting it up and it would be another hour before any of our friends were up.  Kurt just wanted to go home, so we went.  It was a quiet ride home. 
Kurt was disappointed and I felt like a grand ending to a very good summer had been replaced by a dull thud.  A quiet whisper.  This summer which had started with such trepidation had blossomed into something rich and rewarding as Kurt and I took baby steps on the path to retirement and found we could do it.  Summer training became our "cottage on the lake", as we relaxed with our good friends and enjoyed all the new trainers we met, and some new friends in the making.  I, once again, found the things I had always loved, my garden, my quilting, and my home.  We took long bike rides together and found a summer rhythm. I loved, as I always have getting up with the sun and long, summer sunsets.

But the summer marched on and the days were noticeably shorter.  There was a cooling of the night air, (gratefully after the long hot summer we endured).  Tinges of fall color on trees and bushes was showing itself and school ready to begin.  I took a part time job at my church's school, something I was excited about, but would remain an unknown for the first few weeks until we figured out how it would roll.  I start on Tuesday so I knew this would be last week of training.  I would be saying goodbye for all intents and purposes to the pro trainers from the South.  Angie, Kevin, Kim and Lynn would head back to the South in a couple of weeks.  The magical days at Omega would be drawing to a close.  I knew this was the last hunt test we would do this year and as I found in everything now, you have to treasure what you have RIGHT now.  There may be no "next year".  So, it was with great loss that I headed home today. The page on the summer needed to be turned, even if I wanted it to stay golden and green for a while longer. 

I walked outside after everything was unloaded and noted that my potted plants looked sorry indeed and hauled out the hose to water.  We had been in another dry spell so I watered some of my hydrangeas and as I walked around I noted the things I wanted to do this fall with the flower garden.  Without even thinking on it, I felt better.  Back in the house,  after an excellent pasta dish, I threw together, I realized I had the evening unexpectedly to do what I wanted.  In many ways it was a gift.  I could read, ....I could get the number template done for the baby quilt.  And I could write, an unexpected prize tonight.  Tomorrow would also be a gift of time, I may not have later on.  May the Good Lord grant me the wisdom to use it wisely...

Good bye summer, but perhaps you can linger a few days longer....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bristol Baby

I was a Nascar Nerd.  Notice I said, was, as it is sadly almost totally past tense.  A decade ago, I awaited the two Michigan races with salivating anticipation.  I could honestly, not wait to hear the engines roar and smell the gasoline.  I had never encountered an atmosphere so testosterone charged and so manic.  Nascar fans were nuts long before the Cheeseheads started wearing milk curds on their heads, or Redwings followers were tossing Octopus on the ice.  They were fanatic when fanatic wasn't even thought of, let alone cool. 

Now it seems everyone has jumped on the overboard bandwagon, in nearly every sport.  Nascar purported to be different and it was for a long time.  I started watching finally because Kurt went to a race in Dover with my brother and other family members.  He was excited by it and the very next race he watched with renewed enthusiasm, though to be honest the man would watch underwater synchronized swimming if it were on a sports channel and his favorites could not be found.  We now possess about 20 channels of nothing but sports all the time, and if he had his way there would be twenty more.

The first race I watched was pretty much cars going in circles and turning left.  Kurt told me to find one car I liked and to follow that car through the entire race.  I picked a bright orange and white car, I have no idea why as I don't like orange normally, but I consider it now karma, and so I followed that car the entire race.  While Tony Stewart didn't win the race, he did finish well and since I had picked a car, I was officially hooked.  Thereafter I read everything I could find on my chosen car and driver.  Everything I read made me like this driver even better, as he was so anti-everything, I normally considered right about the world.  He was an aggressive, but born to race driver.  He got into vulgar shouting matches and fights with everyone from other drivers to Nascar officials, but had a heart of gold for charity and for keeping the sport of racing alive at the grass roots level.  He was a racer through and through.  If I was going to immerse myself in racing, what was not to like?

It wasn't enough to now have a driver to follow and watch races every summer and fall weekend and attend the ones I could, which meant MIS, twice a year, I also had to read and find out more and more about my new passion.  Luckily the wonderful world of the internet had opened up and along with that racing forums, fan clubs and racing boards.  Always one to express an opinion, and not shy about it, I at first just lurked at the Speed Board, honing my base of Nascar knowledge and bowing to those who obviously knew their rpm's from their torque levels.  But as I soon noticed, there were a great many females on this board and it was more about the fun of expressing opinions on all the aspects of racing.  I soon became a regular on the board and an avid commentator.  Through cyberspace I met several people that remain friends on other mediums.  I have never met any of them, save one, but they remain dear friends as our love of Nascar forged deep friendships.  I know, I know, I went overboard on it all not being able to get enough of the discussion or following Tony every weekend.  I was as big a Nascar Redneck as if I had been born and raised in a salvage yard in Alpharetta, GA.  I think I even began to write with a southern twang. 

But somehow, life got in the way and after a couple of years things changed.  I could blame it on Nascar introducing the hated Chase.  In an effort to make Nascar the number 1 sport, (it previously had been number 2), kind of amazing when you think how regional it always seemed, Nascar instituted a playoff system, where 10 drivers were awarded enough points ahead of every other driver that the rest of the field could not catch up.  These 10 drivers raced each other for the Championship in November, but with all 33 other cars still racing as well.  It lasted 10 races.  The glitches and kinks in the Chase showed up fairly early and while the first year was exciting with a down-to-the-finish, dramatic win, the next year's were not so much.  Jimmie Johnson won 5 straight Championships, a feat that had never been done and will likely never be repeated.  The problem was, no one cared except for the Johnson fans.  The rest of us thought this was just dull.  A new car was introduced by Nascar taking virtually all of the control of how these cars would race out of the hands of the team engineers.  These cars are not somebody's brainchild in a dark and dirty garage over the winter months.  They cost hundred's of thousands of dollars and sponsors who once lined up to have their names on a winner's car, started fleeing Nascar in droves.  The economy faltered, and while all sports were hurt, Nascar especially took a beating when race tracks became unaffordable for the average family who used to make the trek to their favorite race every year. 

So many things happened, but mostly I think passion just can't stay at that peak forever.  We are doomed to lose interest at some point.  I was struck how little Nascar now means to me, (we quit going to both MIS races a few years ago), when I didn't even care to watch the Michigan race last Sunday.  You see, I found out in church that morning that an old schoolmate of mine had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.  I had no idea when we prayed for him in church and when I stopped to kid him about going to the hospital, he whispered it was cancer and it was bad.  This was my childhood friend, born exactly 3 days after me.  Our parents had all went to school together.  Jon was my first car date.  We both had gotten our driver's licenses and Jon's mom would only let him take me to a Disney cartoon movie, 101 Dalmatians.  He drove his parent's big old red station wagon, which had the aroma of the dairy herd, his family ran. 

Jon and I grew up, went to college and settled into marriages and now grand kids.  It was funny that he got his first two grandchildren right around the same time, I got mine.  Others in my graduating class have fought illness, even cancer.  A couple have fought the battle and died.  But somehow Jon is tied up with all those sweet, fuzzy memories that seem so innocent looking back.  He is the sweet boy, I always knew. Never as nice as his older brother, or as smart as the next younger, or as social as the youngest brother.  He had his dad's wit more than any of his siblings, and grew to look much like him.  Jon left for Houston the next day, and my prayers went with him.  Just when I think I may have life figured out, it trips me up. 

Our passions for everything become but muted memories if we live long enough.  The relationships we took for granted become diluted but precious.  I will look back on those early years of my Nascar fix as fun and adventurous, but as we like to say now, that ship has sailed, and what once was fun is now just something I remember enjoying.

Godspeed Jon, and I hope Houston holds some miracles for you.  Its Bristol Baby, a phrase every Nascar fan knows down to their core and one of the race tracks on everyone's Bucket List.  But much like everything else it has been compromised to be just another race before the Chase begins.  I think I'll take a break from the few ties that still bind me to Nascar and just do some heavy remembering and praying....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grandparenting---21st Century

This grand parenting thing isn't easy.  I guess I should have known, but somehow, I believed, and this seems to be my philosophy of life, I would just fall into it.  Not so much....

Most things in life, at least my life, we learn by observing and then just doing.  Aside from the book learning that may get us a job in life that pays money, or teaches us, (sometimes), how to learn a new skill, I am of the "wisdom is experience" bunch.  So, I naively thought being a grandma would somehow just happen over the course of about a week.  But no, couldn't be that easy. 

My teachers of grand parenting are, well duh, my grandparents. I remember what they did and how they did it and what I felt like as the grand child.  I had two distinctly different sets of grandparents.  My dad's parents were old and had been around the grand parenting block for 20 years when I came along.  Even in their early years of this title, they were hard nosed German-American stock, where surviving and making a living were their chief concerns.  I don't remember ever, really cuddling with either of them, heck, I don't  remember even sitting on Grandpa Walter's lap.  My mom's parents, on the other hand, were the exact opposites.  Mom was the eldest child and I was the first grandchild for Grandma and Grandpa Laurenz.  They were thrilled.  My brother and I had them all to ourselves for almost 5 years before my sister and then my cousin came along.  I believe they treated all their grandchildren well, because they just delighted in being grandparents, but I hold true, in my heart of hearts that I was their favorite.  I am told, though my memory is a bit blurry before my sister came along, that I would climb into my Grandpa's lap on every occasion to explore his bib overalls for the piece of Juicy Fruit gum that resided in his top, front pocket.  He told me that there was a time in his life, (I later learned it was a cancer scare), that he didn't care about much, but that he and I would sit under a tree and while away many a summer afternoon.  These non memories always bring me great comfort, and I can honestly say, when my grandpa passed it was one of the most wrenching experiences of my life.

I can't remember a time when Grandma and Grandpa L. were not a part of my life.  We spent countless hours with them, (even more the first years of my life that I have no real recollection of), and I would guess they were the Norman Rockwell ideal of grandparents or the television epitome of  Grandma and Grandpa Walton.  They came to every birthday and always brought a small toy for my brother if it were my birthday and the same for me when it was his, so no one felt left out.  Birthdays then consisted of the immediate family and Grandma and Grandpa L.  Occasionally, because my birthday was so close to Christmas, we would combine a party and a few more aunts and uncles and cousins would be in attendance, but for the first decade of my life, Grandma and Grandpa were it.  I never lacked for a big party, no one I knew had big birthday parties.  I had lots of love all around me and that's what mattered.

When my own children came along birthday parties had evolved into our nuclear family which included brothers, sisters and the grandparents.  My kid's cousins were always in attendance.  And my grandparents still came to every one of the great grand kid's birthdays. But we still pretty much stuck to immediate family and get together s were always a chance to see one another for the adults as much as the kids.  We lived farther away from each other and these times were our excuses. 

There were kind of unwritten rules for watching the grandchildren.  Neither grandmother was ever asked to watch the kids for a night out at our house.  That was when we hired a teenage girl.  It is how I made money in high school before I could drive and how the neighborhood girls of my baby's time made their money.  Grandparents took our kids on the overnight stay when WE, (Kurt and I), needed a vacation.  It wasn't often as we were more home bound parents back then.  Once the kids were old enough to be involved in youth and summer sports our world narrowed down to that time frame.  We went out less if that is possible, because most of our recreational activities centered around their sports activities.  We took family vacations.

Now I am a grandma and Boy, have the rules changed.  We spent months before the grandchildren were even born deciding what should be our monikers.  Grandma and Grandpa were too old fashioned. MeeMaw, MiMi, MeMe, Nana, Nanny were also discarded.  (If you notice, apparently what I would be called was much more important than Grandpa).  Now a year later, I have decided that whatever they call me as long as they call me, (a bad joke, I know), is fine.  I am leaning toward Minga with Vittoria as that seems to be her favorite word right now and since her time with me is short and my affection rating with her is kind of low it might be the "in" I need.  Luca, on the other hand, is pretty willing to go to everyone when he doesn't want something specific, like climbing my stairway.  He'll likely call me Grandma and that's OK. 

One of the unforeseen complications is being the mom of the sons when grandbaby's come along.  Naturally, as I did and as I now realize my mother did, we as the mothers gravitate to our mom's. Its as it has always been, but still doesn't make it always easier to swallow.  With Vittoria living out of state, my time with her is always short.  I seem to be trying, perhaps too desperately, to get her to like me.  I understand that now she is used to mostly 3 people in her life, her parents and her wonderful nanny, Diana.  She recognizes those people and can now make distinctions of who she wants to go to.  I understand all of this, still it doesn't assuage that deep pang when the other grandma walks in carrying her, and I can't even get her to hold my hand.  Understanding is one thing, but the heart always feels that tug. 

I can choose to wallow in some self pity or decide its the new way of being a grand parent.  I can't be there with Vittoria, and no amount of books with my picture and voice, or "Face Time" is going to make up for her knowing me every day.  It just won't.  But I also am not defined by being a grandma.  It is not my life, and wouldn't be if they lived next door.  I can't go to NYC once a month and just visit.  Its not the same and won't make a grandparent out of me.  This too, I shall have to learn as I go along.  I am willing to try and I just hope everyone has patience with me as I stumble and fall and cry crocodile tears of self pity.  Its a new world and being a grandparent is becoming new also.  I guess I'll just rely on some of the old for a while longer....

Monday, August 6, 2012

Saturday in August

Funny how half of the week now seems like weekends.  When you retire, or at least your other half retires, (I seem to be more busy now than ever, ironic isn't it?), there is no longer the weekday routine that establishes your day patterns.  Friday was always marked as the end of the work week and the "out of work" early day.  Saturday and Sunday were the weekend.  If nothing was scheduled as plans, it always meant trying to cram in as much that needed doing as possible.  And that was generally a miserable failure.  After a hard week at work, (and by that I mean mentally hard, as it sure as heck wasn't physical), Kurt wanted nothing so much as to relax and do only what he wanted to do, which if it wasn't summer and dog time, or fall and hunting time, it was sit around and watch television shows about dogs, fishing and hunting, not necessarily in that order.  The fact that we live on a farm and be it only a hobby farm in the broadest sense, it still has fruit trees and out buildings and an old farmhouse that need maintaining, much of it routine and yearly maintenance.  We are finding out now that things pushed away until we had the time, are now more than yearly maintenance and are demanding of attention before a few things crash down around our graying heads, (at least Kurt's graying head).

So we do things when we feel like them now.  Kurt's started to establish a new routine, at least one that works for summer, including sunrise walks of three miles or more every day. It gives me a brief respite from the togetherness that is our lives now and gives him time to just think and I hope just be.  He tries to work the dogs most mornings before the summer heat kicks in.  That one will be adjusted as the summer falls to its close, but for now those two things and inevitably meal times with him are his only routine in retirement.  We're working out the kinks but sometimes its slow going, almost like being in mud.  I have always run the farm end of this deal, and decided what repairs and things need to be done on a year to year basis.  I repaired what I could and kept the place up and running for the most part.  I was in charge of gardens, fruit trees, simple repairs and all of the painting.  In winter I shoveled the deck and walks clean.  Kurt was in charge of lawn mowing and running the tractor in winter if the driveway was snowed in.  That always came after work though and I was crap outta luck if I needed to get out before he got home.  His 4-wheeel drive truck always got out.  But that has all changed now, and I become impatient when he seems to be settling into retirement as every day is now a weekend kind of deal, and he does only what he did in the past with more sitting and more playing on the laptop he has taken over.  Yesterday was one of those smack him upside the head kind of days.  I had put the second coat of paint over two coats of primer on the railings and spindles of what will be new front porch railings.  After 22 years and snow and water damage, some of the railings had simply rotted away.  It seemed better to replace them all and get another 20 years, and hope we're no longer doing this kind of philosophy, than to just leave them another year.  Of course, this brought up porch flooring that has rotted in spots on one end and should we replace that while the railing is being replaced, but that's a whole 'nother story for another time, as they say.

After painting, Kurt wandered out looking for something to do I presume, but more or less watching me paint.  After shooing him off to pick blueberries, something he had promised to do and apparently needed a not so subtle reminder, I hauled out the stepladder and began cleaning gutters over the back deck, another thing I had asked him to do but knew would be forgotten.  I had cleaned two sections when he got home and graciously, since I had the ladder out, decided to help me finish.

In the afternoon we went to Home Depot and bought a new screen door for the back deck.  The one we had now featured broken hardware and some broken stiles in the ribbing.  Rather than replace the hardware, I decided it was time for a new door.  We only had two choices in styles in our size, but even that Kurt wanted to debate upon.  Since I had looked at all of this before I was in no mood.  Decision made, and door somehow loaded.  Pop cans collected from home and returned to Meijer.  Gas has taken a 30 cent jump yet again, and is just wearying to a public made numb by the constant fluctuations of this market.  Another thing to worry about or just put behind us and try to live as best we can. 

By the time we finished dinner it was a quiet, very muggy sunset.  Weather predictions were for storms later around midnight.  While I wasn't excited about more thunderstorms, we are to the point we will take all the rain we can get.  We went for a sunset bike ride and the tension of the day slowly melted away.  Another day of learning to adjust to our new life and another lesson in patience.  I will be making up a Kurt's weekly list, of things he can do every day now that he is home every day.  It will free me up to do some other things and help, (I hope), get him into some kind of a year round routine.

A Saturday in August and summer's leaving us more swiftly now.  We still have over six weeks of summer officially with us but I feel the shortening of the days and know that it is going.  I am trying to look for the season's change as a welcome thing as I used to do, and get back that spirit of the child who loved autumn and then winter for the quiet times it brought.  Perhaps if I just shut off the television more and ignore the electronic world I live in and just be.  Its worth a try.....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Out of the Drought

I have a gigantic sunflower growing along side of my fence.  The stalk measures a good 2 inches in diameter and the flower is already ten foot tall and the sunflower head is still forming. 

I didn't plant the seed for this plant, in fact I haven't planted sunflower seeds in years.  I have black oiled sunflower seeds for the birds and while it is stated to be sterile, little sunflowers pop up all over under the bird feeder.  They never reach a height much past a foot tall.  This gigantic sunflower, the way sunflowers are supposed to look could be a mutant black seed from my bird feeder, dropped 20 yards from the feeder and finding fertile soil and growing.  If it didn't come from my bird feeders, it more than likely still hitched its ride to its growing spot via some flying and feathered aviator. 

The fact that this is the largest sunflower I have ever grown is one thing.  With most of my sunflowers I have practiced benign neglect, pretty much putting the seed in the ground and then hoping for the best.  These flowers get watered only when I run the sprinkler in dry conditions and only if they are in line with an area I actually care about watering.  This guy ended up in my vegetable garden area.  Its the sandiest portion of my garden but isn't really good for growing flowers and is roomy and allows for rototilling. That the flower wasn't worked up with the many "go-overs" the garden endured to get the veggies the best growing conditions and the least competition from weeds, is something of a small miracle.   The sunflower wasn't recognizable as such until the last month when it took off in height.  Before that when I took the time to think on it at all, I believed it was some kind of weed that would need to be dug out later.  It got away from me, well I got away from it, preferring to ignore the vegetable garden in the early going, only to note what came up and what didn't. 

But the drought struck and I halfheartedly watched as my lettuce wilted, and my peas were spotty at best.  I thought of watering but realized it was too little, too late.  When the rains didn't come into July, I watered the sweet corn and the zucchini hoping to salvage at least those two.  But the raccoons played in the sweet corn and took the very good cobs of corn and left nothing but the husks.   I thought nothing could kill zucchini but apparently there is a wilt that can and did. 

The sunflower was ignored in my sad garden, until it was the only thing of note in that sandy, dusty barren area.  It just grew until it shouted to me to look.  It was a small tree, and it commanded attention, at least it commanded my attention.  It was growing out of sandy ground that hadn't seen a good rain in 6 weeks.  It grew tall in spite of all this.  It hasn't wilted in the intense heat of an unusual summer.  We will likely set records this summer for triple digits not seen every week ever in recorded meteorology.  We have become cranky and tired of the heat, and the burned, straw grass and the plants that have just dried up and disappeared.  But the sunflower not only grows, it will soon flower.  I now look forward to the huge yellow head and will watch it as it follows the sun across the sky.  Its not every day you grow a sunflower like this.  Its not every day you appreciate that flower.  Its not every day you know you are seeing one small miracle and one of God's best. 

Its not every day but today it is...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Another morning to get up and drag around the hose and hook up the sprinkler.  The new oscillating sprinkler I purchased at Home Depot a few days ago.  On a summer of moderate watering I go through a $20 sprinkler in a year.  They always do the same thing.  They quit oscillating. This has been anything but a moderate watering year, this has been the decade's drought summer, so I knew from the get go I was on borrowed time with the sprinkler. 

And its hot.  Another 4 day spurt of mid 90 to a finale of a 100 degree temperatures.  With the 100 degree day came high humidity and the promise of thunderstorms that would at the least dump some much needed rain on our parched throats.  The summer of promise has become a summer of just getting through.  We kind of know, just as a rush of January snow and cold, signals a long, cold winter, oppressive heat in June means a long, hot summer, and we just know to endure.  But just as cold and snow makes cabin fever a very real and cantankerous malady, heat alleviated only by sitting in the AC all day, gives rise to some very cranky adults who suddenly turn into petulant children, sniping at every thing is sight. 

So I mindlessly rise up after a night's sleep that is already pushing 75 degrees at day break, feeling anything but refreshed, only thinking I needed to get as much done outside as possible before it became unbearable to be outside.  The fact that generations of people, my ancestors included, had lived through heat spells and survived without murdering their spouse, and did it without AC, hasn't helped much.  I look at a picture from a 4th of July celebration in beautiful, downtown Brant and notice immediately that everyone is wearing long sleeves and the men are even wearing jackets.  Yes, they did dress up for events back then.  There was no Friday casual and certainly no holiday leisure.  Despite having the convenience of electricity and the wonder of air conditioning, we still manage to be cranky, short tempered and impatient when the weather doesn't bow to us.  I have news for all of you, WE are not in control. 

The ending to the present mini heat wave came on Tuesday, the annual local ice cream social put on by the Historical Society of Hemlock.  This bunch has kind of dwindled to three old ladies and a "just slightly younger lady", ME, scooping and being the committee of ice cream presenters.  I was not looking forward to standing in 100 degree heat scooping ice cream that would be the consistency of custard before I got a third of the way down the four gallon buckets.  I imagined the crowd would be down as most would prefer to sit in their AC or at the least in front of a fan than all the ice cream sundaes and free music on the museum grounds could afford.  I was right, as the crowd was down, and in a way our stab at nostalgia was as bygone as the fact that people don't go to summer celebrations dressed in long sleeves or summer jackets, the ladies in hats of some kind,any longer.  100 years ago, they would have loved this annual picnic.  It would have been a cause for celebration, to socialize, to beat the heat with good ice cream and summer toppings.  They would have sat under huge shade trees or in the bandstand, Hemlock once provided.  The bandstand has been gone more years than anyone living can remember and the shade trees are now ash trees, dead from the emerald ash borer.  As we are so fond of saying, "It is what it is", and we go ahead and do the ice cream social.  I scooped ice cream that all too soon turned pudding consistency, but for the small crowd of older folks who showed up they were happy and grateful to just come.  The weather was something to talk about and something to remember along with other summer's of great heat.  And they came because it was the chance to get out and talk to people.  It is the very human need that fosters all celebrations and gatherings.

I could choose to be grumpy as I scooped mushy ice cream, or I could choose to enjoy the company of people who perhaps wouldn't be here next year.  I could smile on the young politician trying to garner votes among the people who still vote, religiously, for the office he was seeking.  He seemed to genuinely enjoy being out and among these people and that's a good thing.  We choose to endure and we choose to get through the rough spots.  How we do those things makes all the difference.

I listened to a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace the other day, forwarded to me by an Army buddy of Kurt's.  I always love Amazing Grace, but when its done with a full complement of Scots bagpipers and drums, it sets my soul to soaring.  There just are musical pieces that do this to me.  Music can instantly transport me to a great memory or just cause my heart to swell in some way I can only say is awesome.  I thought of the extremes the Scots endure in land and weather and how they endure.  They appreciate the good because the bad is so often a part of their lives.  They are stronger for having endured and their music speaks of endurance.

We didn't get the rain though thunder boomed and lightning popped later that night.  Some areas did get a good soaking, but not us.  So, I drag around a hose, and say a small prayer that I am not being foolish to water some daylilies and pray that the well holds up.  Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound....rain would be a sweet sound right now also.....

Monday, July 16, 2012


Most women notice when they find they have their mother's hands.  I have my dad's.  Ain't that a kick in the ass....

Its a random thought but one I noticed from a picture we had taken of our family taken at the Laurenz family reunion.  It was only missing Annie and Pete, two big 'missings', but unavoidable.  I just counted myself fortunate that Korey, Jen and Vittoria were home, rather unexpectedly and could stop by the reunion for a bit. 

I loved the picture, the babies frozen in time for me, as they will be so different the next time I see them, even Luca who I see every week will be growing, getting another tooth, a haircut, or a bump or bruise from a tumble he'll be taking as he stretches the limits of his walking, no rushing into life.  Vittoria is heading back to New York City this morning with her mom while Korey heads back to Milwaukee to finish his project for work.  It was a brief reunion but oh so welcome and so appreciated. 

Summer always seems the time for reunions.  Family reunions, yearly festivals which are reunions of a sort and those events that mark a definite page in history.  I had all of them this summer.   Two weeks ago we marked the 150th celebration of Richland Township.  Hemlock, as a city designation, was never incorporated so the anniversary's of age have always fallen on Richland Twp., even though I am sure in most people's minds, it is still Hemlock's anniversary.  The planning for this started over two years ago.  I must admit, though I attended the first planning meeting, I really became no further involved aside from what the Historical Society was doing.  So many things were coming to a head in my life then that I didn't seem to have the energy to become involved.  Something I now regret, but also a lesson learned.  When opportunities are there, take them.  If we wait for someone else to do it all, it will never be to our satisfaction, but we have no place to complain. 

I was eight years old at the 100th, centennial celebration of our town.  I remember the excitement and the pioneer dress my grandma made for me with a matching bonnet.  I remember the parade that added to the feeling later, that my eighth year of life, was my best year on earth.  But I remember little else from that celebration.  I look back at pictures that my mom so clearly recalls and reminisces about, and its kind of a blank to me.  It looked like great fun and great community participation. 

During the 125th, or quasquicentennial, I had three young children.  My sister and brother and their families were all in Michigan visiting and we were running hither, thither and yonder trying to catch everything going on.  Mom and Dad were very involved and everything just stampeded along.  Annie, who was about four that year, wore my pioneer dress, and I wore my grandma's.  I added a white pinafore apron, I made, (my first and pretty much, only apron sewed by me.  The way I bake, I should never be without one, but anyway....). The boys and Kurt wore bib overalls and matching neck scarves.  It was a couple of days of just going from place to place in a dizzying and now, blurry rush.  Ryan won the kid's pedal tractor pull and made the Saginaw News with the picture of him pedaling. The world was still our young oyster, and we rushed headlong without really knowing where we were going and why the rush. It was the last such celebration I would have with my grandparents or my dad though that didn't seem possible at the time.

Twenty five years went by in the blink of an eye this time.  My kids are grown and gone.  I have two baby grand children and those I dearly love who gave me my sense of community and continuity are gone.  Mom retired from caring much about this 150 celebration, this sesquicentennial.  The force to love her heritage died out with my dad and she prefers now to be an observer.  It seems sad to me, but I am coming to find, it is her way.  I can accept it and take from it the lessons it has to teach.

The finale to a yearlong celebration of Richland Township's sesquicentennial started with a community potluck dinner at the Richland Twp. Park.  A very nice turnout and so much food you couldn't pile it all on a plate.  Something that is enduring and comforting, the rural areas still know how to put on potlucks.  I have never been to one where the "pot was unlucky".  There was a period costume contest.  At the last minute before we left I scrounged up a pair of bib overalls and an old, old scarf and tied my hair up in a babushka.  I dug out an old pair of saddle shoes I still possessed and went as "Rosie the Riveter".  They didn't say what period it had to be.  I had great fun.  The best costume went to a 125 year old authentic maternity dress, saved by Shirley Pankow and modeled by Carol Wardin.  How special that people quietly have done such things.  Viewing those things I look back on the things that someday I will likely have to choose to part with and what I will save. 

I will save the quilt my Grandma Walter made for me from fabric scraps of old clothing my mother gave to her.  I can still identify many of the scraps from dresses I once had.  I will keep the walnut hope chest, Grandpa Laurenz gave to Grandma on her 19th birthday, six weeks before they married.  Along with it I will keep the straw boater hat, Grandpa courted Grandma in.  I have a small wood, hump back box, that came with Grandma Walter's family from Germany.  Inside it is a small cedar box, left in my dad's home when we moved in.  Inside it is the trinkets and things of a young girl's life.  I will keep it.  I will save some pieces of things my dad built for me and the kids.  They are his legacy more than anything else.  Of my mother, I hope to save her writings and her recipes, her artwork, as they are my small, farm wife of a mother.  Her love of drawing and writing and gardening are things she has passed on to me that need no reminder. What my children may want to keep I have no ideas.  The boys will likely want things such as their father's guns and decoys to remind them.  Annie, I am not sure, but passing down some things is worth the hassle and the time. 

The parade for the sesquicentennial seemed smaller this time and the crowd much less.  It is the way of small town celebrations.  Less young people to help carry the loads and those that are here now, often have no connection with the history of the town they now reside in.  The exhibits and the work were appreciated.  The township worship service on Sunday morning was wonderful. 

Bits and pieces of what makes me, me.  Yesterday we had the annual Laurenz reunion.  Not a great turnout, but its a risk you take with it being summer and cousins with young children busy.  Many of the cousins kids no longer live around here.  I was fortunate I know to have had two sons and families there this year.  Still, it seems its for us the cousins who can still come and the aunts and uncles who make the effort.  My frail mom walks beside her younger brothers and they bend low now, to help her.  They are all gray and fortunate to still be among us.  We don't know how much longer the four children will still be here, so we take the time. 

Reunions are a funny thing, but family is still, in all of these times of endless strife and depression, the tie that binds.....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Well Crap....

And I mean that literally.  It was Sunday.  We had gone to church with Mom for her birthday and then taken her out to breakfast.  My brother and I spent an enjoyable few hours reliving the best of what we had been as brother and sister and ultimately as a family.  We reminisced about Dad and the many things that had made him special.  Mom got that faraway look on her face that I see often, as if she's seeing beyond us or looking forward to the time she will be smiling and on his arm again.  I looked forward to a quiet afternoon after a hectic, heat stressed week.  Quiet and mundane things like laundry and just hanging out.

Its God's good humor that Sundays are not the only day of the week that can be special or a-special.  A couple of loads of laundry finished up and hung out.  A rainbow of colors on a clothesline.  Until a couple of years ago I had reverted from my earlier love of clothes line dried clothes to the dryer, which was faster, and more efficient in my time stressed world.  I kept the clothesline which remain in my yard for drying bed linens and blankets, quilts.  Last summer I came back to hanging laundry out.  There is something about summer dried clothes that just feels right.  It takes time, but I have time, and in my rush to find things of late, I realize that time is a precious thing and simple doesn't mean backward.

I have only two rules for line drying.  No socks on the line except in emergencies and Kurt's rule, none of his whitey tighties hanging for the world to see.  Of course, now the world knows this, but my blog world is relatively small....

The clothes were out on the line.  I was checking some furniture I had stored in the basement and came up the carpeted set that leads directly into the living room.  Yes, I have two sets of stairs going to my basement, and this, more or less has to do with an extra basement room added over 30 years ago.  Coming up the stairs I noticed a dark blob on the second step from the top.  Suspecting it was something left from one of the dogs, either end, mind you, I turned on the light and discovered there were bits of fur making up much of the blob, with tiny bits of skeletal bone sticking through.  Well swell, it was the carcass of a decomposed mouse.  A few weeks ago I had smelled a dead mouse in the basement room, the stairs lead into.  It was strong and I had looked all through the furniture and behind the chimney for the body.  For some reason I didn't use those stairs or only used them to go down and didn't spot Mr. Deceased.  I am amazed and somewhat humiliated that I never smelled the mouse from the top of the stairs in my living room.  It is open to those stairs and the mouse body was only a couple of steps down.  I pride myself, (and yes, Lord, I am humbled again), on my keen sense of smell, and I really missed the boat on this one.  Even my ever loving of every dead thing she can find, dog, Tally, missed the mark on this one.  I just hope that the myriad of people I've had in my house the last few weeks missed the wondrous odor and didn't think I had buried bodies in the basement.  I'm also hoping that the dog odor I am accustomed to, and ever mindful of, covered up the deceased stink. 

I gathered two dustpans and "swept" up the body and the childhood memory of an old chicken coop aroma wafted into my nostrils, full force.  A whisk broom finished up the leftovers and then a good dose of carpet cleaning spray, white vinegar, and finally a steam cleaning, and I hoped fervently the dead mouse aroma would not haunt me every humid day, as I think there are a few of those in store yet this summer.

Job done, and I headed outside to take down the dried laundry.  Danged if I carried the basket in and didn't notice a dog smell after I had walked around a bit.  Well crap, dog poop on the bottom of my flip flop.  I had really stepped in it.  Flip flop off and hosed and scrubbed and left in the sun to dry, at least there was that.   Floor mopped up. Back in the house and well double yuck, Tally had vomited on the living room carpet.  She is well known for her sensitive stomach and her proclivity towards eating things she shouldn't.  I swear she's part pig as she loves to root around in the compost box for what, I don't want to know.  Dustpans put into action again and vomit disposed.  Carpet spray and vinegar, but decided the whole area needed a large scale cleaning, which would wait until evening and everyone, meaning Kurt and everything, meaning the dogs were upstairs in bed.  Midnight is such a fun time to do things, just let my natural menopause tendencies kick in.

Tennis shoes on, back outside to move watering hoses, and well CRAP, stepped in it again.  Sometimes you just gotta laugh because its Sunday and you can't cuss.  My friend's dog ate a bottle of hand cream the other night, at least Tally didn't do that....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heat Wave

The sun is rising.  Its Sunday morning.  In a few hours we will be taking Mom to church.  Its her birthday and she will be 79.  She is mostly gray haired now, a fact debated by my brothers and sister, as to choice, and increasingly frail, her arms no more than sticks.  She seems fragile to me for someone 79, as she moves very carefully, but still drives and still insists she can do what she wants.

We have survived, (at least for now), another heat wave.  Two straight weeks of 90+ temps here in the Saginaw Valley have left everyone on edge and testy with each other.  The eastern half of the Nation is suffering this heat wave, so Michigan is not alone, but temperatures topping 100 degrees and plus is not something we have known here in my lifetime.  Annie in Nashville has seen temps of over 108 degrees and that is the case all through the South.  The old song, We're Having a Heat Wave has new meaning now. 

With the usual Walter flair for timing, (mostly bad), my sister and her family visited in the first week of the heat wave.  They came from Colorado where while it is dry was much cooler.  Normally they try to plan their every-other-year visits home to coincide with my other brother's trips home from Delaware, as that's the only time they will see each other.  It didn't work out this year, so Kerri, Paul and Zac arrived in Michigan via their Dodge truck and 5th wheel RV, camping along the way and visiting the western side of the state before heading to the sunrise.  It was still June when they arrived and of course, it was the first of our 90+ degree days in a row. 

Wildfires were raging near their home city of Colorado Springs, so they were desperate for news and internet connections to view the devastation. They visited nephews on the way in, and were actually only at Mom's for a brief few days, something we are all aware at this point in her life.  Our mom does not like change any longer and prefers to live quietly with really and truly, life's simple pleasures, her companions.  It often seems very lonely to me, and more often seems devoid of joy, but I guess that is a relative term as joy is something perhaps for the young who have not the wisdom earned to realize lasting contentment.  Some days I think I have it figured out and others, I don't have a clue.

Kerri and her family left on one of the "cool" days of the two week purge where the thermometer only went to 92 degrees.  My brother, Chris and his family arrived from the other direction, two days later, in the next start of intense heat on Sunday night.  Kurt and I had made a bet to see if we could keep the AC off in our house through the month of June.  That seemed like a fairly easy thing to do at the time, as June is not usually a month where air conditioning is a must, except for this year.  But we found surprisingly, that we could open windows wide at night and have the house cool off enough to then close the windows in the mornings and have the house stay comfortable all day.  We are blessed with trees surrounding the house and a garage that stays cool on the west side of the house.  But what seemed comfortable to us was stretched when we had a cookout over here for Kerri and her family before they left.  With more people in the house and a day of heating, the house was warm to most who were here, and I was labeled stubborn in the mode of my mom by many of my family.  But that was June and by July I had to contemplate at least, turning on the air conditioning.

Chris and family stopped by unexpectedly on a Monday when the temps were heading to record highs, though they hadn't gotten there quite yet.  They complained as everyone had about the heat and how bad it was here.  Of course, it was going to be that hot in Delaware, but we weren't going to argue the fact with them right then. 

We spent the 4th of July at Ryan and Alison's lake house.  The neighborhood on the lake does a pig roast that feeds friends, neighbors and relatives, but this year the thermometer heading to a record breaking 102 degrees, had us all eating and heading to air conditioning even in cottages that had never known the term.  The 4th of July was the first really uncomfortable night we spent with fans running on every side of the bed and the air cooling outside to only 75 degrees during the night.  We broke down on Thursday and cranked on the air.  It didn't seem to help much.  We cleaned beach next to the pond and actually got on the floats we hadn't used in two years and we were suspended in water that was as warm as a winter bath.  Along with the hot temps had arrived the humidity and air that had no breath.

Friday saw the last really hot day of the heat cycle.  It was a day much like the previous and won't stand out in memory, (I hope), for more than the cycle of the record setting heat wave.  Saturday had us glad, for once we lived on the sunrise side of the state and could enjoy a cooling breeze from the northeast across Saginaw Bay.  The southern part of Michigan still sweltered under the heat for another day of near 100 degrees.  We topped out at 85 here. 

This morning I got up to watch the sunrise, sitting on my front porch.  I contemplated my mom turning 79, and inevitably her mortality and life in the coming year.  I looked across the fields to a new large barn being built on Roosevelt Road and wondering if there would be horses at the place that had installed fencing last fall.   I liked having the changes to landscape that needs a reason to change and stay current.  I love the country and my neighborhood, but I now realize it can't remain stagnant.  That's a good thing and one I want to really remember, when I feel time speeding by me. 

My niece is a senior in high school.  She's never heard of VISTA or what the Peace Corps once did.  We need to do a better job as a Nation to teach this generation's children of what we once were and what we can become.  We survived the heat wave, at least for now.  This might be labeled the summer of the tropics and another way to test our Nation's mettle.  I hope we pass...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Back to Nature

I should be outside as we had some very early morning thunder storms which gave us rain; much, much needed rain.  It is now cloudy and as soon as the  sun breaks out the humidity and heat factor will surge.  I should be outside cleaning out my weedy rock wall.  The rock wall is so weedy, it is next to obliterating the rocks in the wall.  I should be doing that, but I am here instead paying my respects to a little duckling.

Kurt came in yesterday excited that we had ducklings on our pond.  He knew Momma Mallard had a nest somewhere in the tall grass off the pond as we saw them almost constantly of late.  This was the first case of ducks nesting on the pond in its almost 10 year history.  Cattails have overtaken 3/4's of the pond edging, and its on our list to clean out certain areas of them, but we realize they provide cover for nesting ducks.

Kurt saw the ducklings about a half to a full dozen of the little guys twice yesterday swimming close to Momma.  He was delighted that he had those ducks and hoped that at least half would grow big enough to fly away.   We know that ducklings have many natural enemies so half surviving was probably optimistic. 

This morning I heard him yelling outside at our dog, Tally.  I assumed she was chasing baby bunnies again which she does frequently when outside the fence.  I feel like "Watership Down" these days as we are almost over run with "wasically wabbits".  So far they haven't destroyed any major plant life, the unusually high bug population this year  seems to have done more damage. 

I had been feeling happy for lack of any better word this morning.  The rain had helped and even though I knew we would return to heat shortly, things seemed to be going better.  Then Kurt came in carrying a cardboard box, telling me Tally got one of the ducklings.  When I asked if she killed it, he said no, but he had it in the box, as when he tried to put her back in the water, she flipped on her back.  He wanted to see if she was just shaken so left her in the box for an hour or so while we land trained the dogs. 

I was pulling weeds out of the sand beach by the pond after the dogs were done and put in the house.  Kurt came out carrying the duckling and carried it to the far side of the pond in a clear area to put it back in the water.  He now knows he should have released it in the cattail area or waited until he could find the mom and siblings swimming, but he was anxious to know if the little lady could swim.  So he put her in the water and she took off swimming but he quickly realized he had made a grave mistake.  The little swimmer was immediately assailed by one of our pond's small mouth bass.  He started yelling as the bass would pull her under, but she would re-emerge still bravely swimming.  He threw rocks behind her hoping to scare off the bass but he kept nipping at her as she swam across the pond towards me where I watched with a sickening feeling.  When she got closer to me, I began throwing rocks and she turned to head to the safety of the cattails her only hope.  But one last time she was pulled under and didn't resurface.

Kurt was frantic and my calm, hunting husband actually had tears in his eyes over the little duckling's fate.  We knew the odds were against most of the duckling's surviving, and hoped against hope because we rescued her from certain death in the jaws of Tally, we believed she had been given a reprieve.  He blamed himself for letting her go in open water, alone where he knew bass would eat her, (which is far more than I knew and now unhappily, I am informed).  Her odds were never good, but we believed for a short time she had beat the odds.

An ordinary day made a little less bright for the loss of a little duckling that had we not come to her rescue would never have known her fate.  She might have been hunting fodder for her very rescuer in a couple of years, but my big, strong husband was grieving over the little fuzzy baby, only a couple of days old, he didn't save and probably allowed certain death when he put her back in the pond.  This was the reason I married him, his gentleness at unexpected times and his grief over the "least of these".  Its why we are still married after 35 years. 

It is survival of the fittest in nature and when we say we like living among the wild creatures, it is one of the lessons we have to be taught and retaught.  Time to go tackle that rock wall, wiser and sadder, but realizing the rest of the ducklings are still swimming in our pond....

Friday, June 29, 2012

God Speed

My sister, Kerri, her husband Paul and son, Zac were in Michigan visiting and left this morning pointed towards their home in Colorado.  Along the way back they will be camping at Paul's family reunion in Iowa.  It is an annual reunion and one they look forward to, but their hearts are worried right now for the wildfires that rage just outside their city of Colorado Springs.

Kerri and Paul own a well used and well traveled 5th wheeler.  When they plan a trip back to Michigan, (usually every other year), they try to do a good amount of sight seeing along the way and camp in places that will give them the most vacation bang for the buck.  This year's trip was a bit more "spur of the moment" due to scheduling conflicts later in the summer when they planned to come.  While in Michigan, they managed to hook up with both of my brother's kids and families in the more southern part of the state and get in some Lake Michigan camp time.  Hitting both Jeremy's place in Caledonia and Shawn's place in Charlotte is no mean feat and then heading back to the west side so as not to interrupt Mom at the farm for too long a time.  We are all very conscious of giving Mom her space on the farm, something she will adamantly tell you if you overstep. 

They got here on late Tuesday afternoon.  I missed seeing her that first night as we were training dogs at Omega Farms.  The next morning was hectic for me as well with a hair appointment, and unless there is a death I do not give up my monthly hair time.  Then I took a friend out to a long overdue lunch, and the afternoon was gone, that fast.  It was my night to open the Historical Museum and then a meeting afterward, so long story, short, it was after 8 on Wednesday night before I saw my sister. 

Kerri and I are five years apart in age.  Until I went off to college we shared a bedroom, but because of my brother being between us and closer to me in age, and my best friends down the road, we were never particularly close as some sisters I knew, namely my best friends down the road.  But we were leaning more that way after I married and while she was in college.  Then she decided to move to Colorado, about a year before she would have had her college degree.  She and her friend packed up and moved to Colorado and only really knew one person there and he was a school friend of my younger, (her older), brother, Kim.  She had contacted Greg and he said she could come out and stay with him until both found jobs or whatever it was they were looking for.  So off they went.  They settled in with Greg, found jobs, moved out, moved back, found love, un-found love, and ultimately the two friends went their separate ways, Kerri stayed on with Greg, and then met Paul and moved north to marry him and live in Colorado Springs.

It was hard to stay close with the distance thing, and when she first left, our lives were drastically different.  But in the last couple of decades she has married and experienced child birth and what being a parent is.  She has asked advice and I have seen her go ahead of me to rediscover her Lord and Savior, while I hung back, somewhat content to be the "Always Has Been Christian".   I am now getting there, but Little Sis led the way.   We have reconnected over kids, our parents, burying a parent, husbands, and menopause.  We schedule bike rides together so we can have that "sister time" and we never get talked out.

We now share Faith, worry about our Mom, and remember our childhoods and what will become of the Farm.  She has a wonderful husband in Paul and a great son in Zac, who is just testing the teenage waters, (and I wouldn't do that now for all the electronics in China).  We had a cookout here last night, and she was the best at making light of the bet Kurt and I made not to turn on the AC in June.  It was 97 degrees yesterday, but we all had a good time.

Last night when my sister left, (who's voice I now realize is my voice), we hugged and I told them, "God Speed".  May He speed them back to Colorado in good time as their hearts right now are with the people of Colorado Springs worrying about the wildfires. May He help those fighting the fires to continue until they are no more, and may He give the people the will to rebuild and reach out....
God Speed, Sis. 

What Goes Up, Comes Down, Unfortunately....

I thought I was getting the hang of this retirement thing, at least the easing into retirement for Kurt.  But like anything it is a work in progress.  He left a short time ago, and were it not for my worrying about Gauge performing and in this continuing heat wave, I couldn't have shoved Kurt out the door fast enough.  I am just so looking forward to a couple of days all to myself.  Time to not explain why I am not turning on the AC, and just relaxing in front of a fan in the hottest part of the afternoon.  I can do this because I don't have to worry about making someone a meal, who will eat a salad if I make him the salad.   A salad takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and there was leftover teryaki chicken to put in it, but a salad wasn't appealing if he had to make it.  Better leftover nacho meat which he just had to dump cheese on and heat. ...ARGGGH! And that is why I am happy for this time alone.

This would be a minor matter if we could just work on the business of retiring, but there just is all this stuff from the business still going on.  It kind of puts a crimp in my enjoyment of the weekend as if its a bit off kilter from the start.  Kurt is taking Gauge to a master hunt test.  It is a two day trial, but if Gauge fails the first day, he is done.  You have to pass both days to get the pass, but on my scale of importance I would rather if he must fail, it be the second day.  Of course I have the utmost faith in Gauge, its handler error that worries me.  But then it doesn't take much to worry me these days.  I talked to a friend a couple of weeks ago, and she said, "I am just so tired of worrying all the time about everything".   I get it.  I really do.  This was a woman who had taken a deserved retirement from a major telephone company.  Her kids were grown and she delighted in watching her grandkids.  And still she worried.  And I get it.  Sometimes its enough to make me not want to turn on the tv except to watch old reruns of the "Andy Griffith" show.  There is no worrying in Mayberry where every problem is solved in a half hour and life just seems slow and easy.  Its enough to make give up reading the newspapers....Well, I kind of did that a year ago, when I canceled my local paper.  Aside from the obits, which seem to be more relevant day by day,I don't miss it much.  Its enough to make me want to shut off every electronic device capable of giving me the bad news and sad state of our world, but then I couldn't complain on this blog, now could I?

What it really makes me want to do is go back to my childhood, to that simpler time when I didn't have much to worry about except eating my vegetables.  It probably wasn't worry free for my parents who had to think about supporting a young family on a dairy farmer's income, but it just seems as the world has grown, as we are linked instaneously with everywhere by the stroke of a send key on a computer, we have more to worry about  We can be told about everywhere around the world.  We now agonize over bad news along with millions and billions of others.  We are told we aren't pretty enough, good enough, young enough, or smart enough and that we must plan ahead to avert disaster.  Usually I feel like that ship has long since sailed, and the big shoe that is about to fall on my head is just around the next corner.  If the shoe went up, its gonna come down....

But the thing about worrying is, it doesn't add one day to your life, a Biblical quote that is a truism in a Book of Truth.  Worrying won't make me prettier, smater, faster, richer, and most importantly at this stage of my game.....YOUNGER.   I can't turn back the clock and get a "do over".  I can't wish that I had thought to do things earlier.  I can't regret that I let early worries, sap some of the pleasure out of times before.  I can pray for Patience to wait on what's in store for me and release the fears to the place they God's feet. 

Yup, I haven't figured out this retirement thing at all, and the lump of worry still resides in my chest at 3 a.m., but the good thing is, it doesn't seem to knock me down and drag me into the pit.  It takes a good whack at me, but I am resilent....I think. 

For now, I'm just going to put my feet up and read a good book with that fan blowing gently on me and relax....and leave my worrying behind for awhile anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Auction

Day 30 of retirement and I am still here and smiling.  I am smiling because Kurt's not here...

I can honestly say we have been busier since he retired than before.  I don't know if its just coincidence, that events are coming up to keep us on the move or if we now have the time to attend those things we would have brushed off, rushing to work or the more important events.  Funny how being retired allows us to slow down and yet do more with less.  If that makes sense, you must be retired.

Anyway, yesterday we attended the living estate auction of a good friend of Kurt's. Its only the second living estate auction I have been to, but I have a feeling you will see more and more of these as people no longer want to just sit in their homes and finish out their lives and let the kids take care of the "stuff" of their lives.  Many are selling their homes and many just don't want all the things they have accumulated over the years.  This isn't usually garage sale stuff but collections that people amass as a hobby, that are actually worth something, but things their children do not want.

In Kurt's friend's case, he is a bachelor who has suffered recent severe medical and emotional problems.  Throughout his adult life he worked, fished and duck hunted.  He might have been considered a "hoarder" as his collections numbered in the thousands of everything.  His small house was jammed with all the paraphernalia of fishing and hunting. 

I come upon my love of auction sales, quite honestly.  When I was a young kid, my parents fell in love with antiquing.  Growing up in the upswing of the Great Depression, their parents considered anything new so much better than the hand-me-downs they had lived their entire lives with.  My dad told of dry wells loaded with old oak furniture, discarded for new, as an easy alternative to ridding themselves of the cumbersome pieces.  My parents were influenced by our neighbor and good friend, Joyce, who always dreamed of someday opening her own shop.  They began browsing antique shops and would plan trips around the antique places they could visit.  Country auction sales were kind of a natural extension to the antique shop experience.  By the time I graduated high school I was a seasoned auction attendee.  I had already learned how to strip furniture and look for sturdy pieces, but envision what old broken pieces could become. 

When I married Kurt, he was a novice at the auction thing, but I indoctrinated him quickly, along with help from my brother and his wife.  We would pack the kids up and spend many a Saturday at tree shaded country auctions, the kids playing in whatever box of "stuff" we bought off the jewelry wagon.   For a buck or two, I could watch the rest of the auction and keep the kids busy.  A winner in my book.  Most of my antiques came into being through auction sales.  Before people really knew what many antiques and collectibles were worth, boxes of treasures were sold on jewelry wagons and wonderful small items were almost always in those boxes.  It was like our own personal treasure hunt, every time. 

Kurt usually stood in the background and let me do the bidding and picking out of what to buy.  But he was taking notes and years later after other pursuits and life had disrupted our auction attending for well over a decade, he was the one who came back to it with renewed zeal. 

This was our third auction of the year, something unheard of for us just a couple of short years ago.  We really didn't need any more stuff, the country's recession had hit us and the auction market, and stuff is no longer bought to adorn a house or add a little something extras.  Most of us want to strip down that "junky" country look we once loved and just have a few select things.  For us now, less is more and we have learned to "edit" as the buzzword goes.

But this was an auction for a friend, and while I am not personally into 800 or more kinds of fishing lures, I went to accompany Kurt and to talk to family, who I knew personally were going through an ordeal with selling all of these things.  To some it may have been astounding and funny to see the myriad of fishing paraphernalia one man had collected, much still in the packaging, but to us it was bittersweet and sad in knowing buying this stuff was his comfort and his obsession and in the end was a large part of the problem.

Through all of the past year I have learned to be grateful and I mean, deeply grateful for the many blessings I have.  Its the small every day miracles I now take quiet joy.  I enjoyed the auction through the sadness.  The family talked to me and unburdened and they needed that.  There were many others who were just amazed at the great deals to be had and even some young people who I knew would be hooked for life on hobbies and perhaps auctions never before surmised.  I watched as some teenagers bought a large tackle box full of ....tackle.  They spent 15 minutes looking through all that they had bought, delighted as toddlers over Christmas. 

My son, daughter in law and grandson showed up for the end of the auction, and Luca delighted us all with his first real steps.  My daughter in law caught it on video and I smile as a young friend counts Luca's steps and cheers him on.  Kurt's hands are seen waiting for Luca as he toddles forward, a smile of pure delight on his face.  I had forgotten how magical those first steps are, and now I remember. 

Its these common moments woven together that are the fabric of life.  And an auction sale gave me all of these least for today. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A New Chapter

Here I am in the basement of my house, sweeping cobwebs. There are many, many cobwebs.   I have been reduced to this.  In my zeal to save on electrical energy and to stubbornly resist turning on the AC this early in "not even summer" yet, I found the basement to be blessedly cool.   A quick swipe with the broom on the stairway turned into an hour adventure in the wonders, of cool, damp basements and watching spiders scurry as I attacked their lairs.

I was also in the basement to escape Kurt.  If anyone is still reading this blog, and I've got to admit, I wouldn't read it at the rate I add to it, you will have noticed there has been over a month lapse.  Lots of things I alluded to earlier on in this blog, came to fruition or more appropriately an end.  Kurt's business was sold after a year of uncertainty and unease, and near panic.  He and his brother transitioned the business over for 90 days and then retired.  We kind of lived in denial during that period, both of us hoping something magical would happen to change what was going to be a new, (and we thought), unwelcome chapter in our lives.  Kurt didn't really want to retire and I didn't want him retired.  He was tired of the struggle of what the business had become, but didn't know any other way to live and was quite frankly, scared about what his life would now be.  I was panicked by all the stereotypes I had seen and were in my mind about retirement and how we'd survive it together when we had never done anything 24/7 for more than a couple of week's time in our whole married life.

So we lived in denial until it was done, and then we fell off that cliff together.  Its now been a month and we're kind of getting it.  There have been moments of silent primal screaming, (mine), and moments when I find him just gazing out into the yard with a faraway look on his face, but I am slowly finding the blessed moments are becoming more prevalent and starting to outweigh every thing else.  We are doing the retirement thing by the seat of our pants, but I guess every big event in my life, has been by the seat of my pants and  learning as I go along.  Its never been what I thought it would be in my murky imaginings, but in the "glass half full" I'm trying to adopt, its always been full of surprises and they have been blessings far and away.  I'm trying to find the little things every day that I missed so often along the way to the next big phase in my life.  And I was never quite sure I got to that next big phase until I was mostly through it.  Go figure.

Still, I am in the basement sweeping cobwebs and relishing being, at least by a cool room, away from him.  We now make an effort to do things we couldn't before like take a drive on a hot, midweek evening and stop for ice cream at the Merrill Whippy Dip.  We plan on heading up north during the week to see relatives, (also retired), on the non busy part of the weeks.  We weed the garden together and sit on our laptops, side by side.

Still, I am in the basement and wishing I could be somewhere else for awhile without him.  But I can smile, knowing he would rather be somewhere else without me also.  He's a bit lost for now trying to remake his life without that constant of going to work.  I am trying to be optimistic and look at this as our chance to live life simply, but still well and slow down and enjoy.  That's a tall order for me as I tend to take every headline, every ache and pain to heart and the "Sky is falling, Chicken Little", but I am trying. 

I am in the basement sweeping cobwebs, but its a blessing as without retirement, I wouldn't be in this cool basement, badly in need of sweeping and some critical analysis on what should be stored away years upon years ago.  Things I can now put in order. 

My plan is to now really write.  The elephant in the room is now exposed and now its time to live the rest of life.  Things to write bubble from me, but I am not a disciplined person.  I do what I have to do, but so often great things to write come when I am away from the house or lying in bed, too tired to get up, but too wide awake to sleep. 

Maybe its time to start a new blog, but for now, this Grandma is still learning and I'll stick with that and sweep some more cobwebs.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Time with Mom

Yesterday was Mother's Day.  I wasn't too excited by the day, but then excitement is kind of a foreign word to me these days.  Excitement means anticipation and I haven't anticipated much of late, in fact too many days I am just trying to get through. 

But it was Mother's Day and I still had a very much alive mom, I wanted to appreciate.  I had thought to take her to her church as we have done that the last few years.  I had gone on Saturday night to our church, so thought Sunday morning with Mom would be perfect, that is, if my brother, Kim and his wife, Tammy weren't going to take her.  It had been a misty, cloudy, humid day on Saturday and I've got to admit, not the best of days, though not the worst either.  When I called Mom in the early evening, she sounded despondent and said she was just having a bad day and didn't want to go to the Mother's Day celebration at her church as she had been there and done it before.  I was caught a bit off guard by her wanting to stay home but didn't push it.  Mother's Day should be a day to enjoy. 

My brother and I planned a cookout over to Mom's on Sunday afternoon.  Sunday dawned sunny and gorgeous, the kind of day we live for in Michigan when the winter's are long and April doesn't quite know how to act.  My son, Ryan, Alison, his wife, and Luca, my grandson were invited but weren't sure of their exact plans.

There was nothing revolutionary about the cookout.  I came to no epiphanies and we didn't do anything we hadn't done before, but it was nice.  It was nice to sit with my brother who knew my history the longest of anyone aside from Mom.  It was nice to just relax and talk about our adventures as kids and the neighbors now gone and missed. 

After dinner, Mom put us all to work with some chores she wanted done.  Tammy and I moved outdoor furniture out of the basement and back onto the screened in porch, Mom's favorite summer hangout. We moved more furniture from the garage to her side porch.  Kim and Kurt took to cutting down a couple of gangly peach trees who were too tall for Mom and in a bad spot.  They also cut down a couple of dead and dying trees and trimmed lower branches so Mom could mow under the dwarf fruit trees. Mowing her lawn is Mom's chief joy.  I think she missed her calling as a groundskeeper for a golf course.  We had planned to pile the cut up trees on the old tractor loader that Dad had kept around.  But it wouldn't start so we just dragged the branches and stumps over to an area out of the way and piled them up. 

My brother reminds me more and more of our dad as we age.  I suppose he might say the same of me about Mom. He has Dad's voice and his mannerisms and yesterday as I walked behind him while he was carrying a chain saw, his forearms were exactly like Dad's.  Funny, how that brief look took me back to my dad carrying things and the fact that his arms were a memory in my mind.  Had I told my brother that, he may not have appreciated it.  We like to think we are like one parent or another for only good, intelligent reasons, not for physique as that tends to tell us we're aging.

My mom is growing shorter which I guess would be an oxymoron as she isn't really growing any longer and one can't really grow shorter.  She barely comes up to my shoulder now, and I'm not tall.  She has finally let her colored hair go gray, and I think it will match the lines of living on her face better.  She doesn't ask much from us and likes her life on the farm.  Sometimes that seems such a lonely place to be, but her memories are what get her up in the morning.  She misses Dad and the life she once had.  It goes by in the blink of an eye, and we are left with all those things that once were and wishing they were again.  If we knew our futures we would often stop time and just want those memories to be once more.  They are such good memories, and we just know nothing will ever be that good....

After we got home and the kids and my grandson had left, Kurt suggested ice cream at the Merrill Whippy Dip.  At first I didn't want to, and neither of us really needed ice cream after all we had eaten today, but something inside of me told me to do it.  There is something about pulling up to the Whippy Dip on the first nice evening that speaks of summer to come.  There is something about seeing it open for the new season and the crowds of people patiently waiting their turn.  You can't rush great ice cream and it always gives us a chance to greet and catch up with old friends.  There is always someone you know.  The Merrill Whippy Dip speaks to me of the summer to come and that there are always things to anticipate no matter how long we live. A slow drive home was mandatory.  Farmers will be in the fields in full force and it is planting time.   A time of new beginnings... It was a good Mother's Day....

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gently Say Goodbye

Today I said goodbye.

She was my neighbor growing up and more importantly to me, my best friend's mom.  Today I went to the only viewing for her before her funeral and said goodbye.  Funerals are for the living and a chance to have closure or so they say.  But today I said goodbye to Helen.

Helen was as much a fixture in my growing up as my own mom for many years.  From the time I was about five years old and I went to our field's fence line and yelled across it at the little girls in the field beyond, my life seemed inexorably tied to my two best friends and their mom.

Marlene and Betty were the middle two girls of four.  Betty was 8 months younger than me but in the same grade.  Marlene was 6 months older and the grade ahead of me.  The sisters were as different as night and day in looks and often in thought, word, and deed.  But they had the bond of sisters that I so envied and when push came to shove I was the odd man out.  Blood was always thicker than water in our friendship.  At the time it made me cry many a time, but I now see it was a trait that is true and they are fortunate for their sharing of that bond.

From the time I received my first two wheeled bicycle and could now "cruise" our rural neighborhood, I lived on the road, and often as not found myself at my best friend's house.  We were country kids, so lived outside in the summer months and when the months became hot and sweltering whatever shade tree would give us some relief is where we plopped.  I learned early on that my friend's were Catholic, a rather exotic and foreign religion to me coming from the land of the German Lutheran.  The saying of the rosary at bedtime fascinated me, and even more was the wonderful concept of meatless Fridays.  To a little girl who loved fish sticks and shrimp, having those every Friday night was almost as good as Thanksgiving dinner once a week.  I would finagle my way down there virtually every summer Friday, around supper time.  Yes, we called the evening meal, supper.  We were rural and the big meal was always midday and was called dinner.  If I were very lucky there would be a few leftover fish sticks or breaded shrimp.  Helen would smile and tell me to clean up the leftovers, and I most happily did.  I thought I was being very cagey, but I am sure she saw right through my me, and probably smiled and thought what a pest I was.

Betty and Marlene's parents and my parents and the neighbors down the road, the Graf's, (parents of all boys, so my brother's best friends), were the neighborhood group.  At one time we all lived on farms with dairy cows, so the dads all milked twice a day.  Our excursions for fun were day trips in the summers to Crystal Lake and Stu's Beach, Sanford Lake, and big time trips like the memorable Detroit Zoo trip, forever frozen in a snapshot of the group, standing by an open car door.  Our parents played cards together, went to movies together, and had summer neighbor hood parties and holiday parties for the grownups.  We were the country edition of suburban living in the 1960's.  Our mom's all got their ear's pierced one day and later we girls had ours done by neighbor Joyce, who was a nurse and knew how to do it, a cube of ice and a sterilized sewing needle.  One day when I was about seven or eight our mom's came home from an afternoon home hair day, platinum blondes.  I still remember how shocked I was to see my brown haired mom suddenly this Marilyn Monroe wannabe.  It was an experiment that didn't really take for my mom anyway, who went back to her brown hair at some point but gradually entered the world of Miss Cairol and lighter hair. 

I will most remember Helen for her, (to me), famous kolache.  Kolache is a wonderful Czech pastry, made either in small crescent bundles or Helen's preferred way, a long jelly roll type treat, sliced in differeing thicknesses.  There were generally two kinds, poppy seed and nuts in an almond and brown sugar paste as filling.  I preferred the nuts kind.  Helen was of German descent but Jimmy was Czech and I am sure somewhere in her early marriage she learned to make this treat.  She usually sent down a kolache or two at Christmas time and I grew to look forward to those melt in your mouth treats.  My mom tried to make them one year and though Mom was an excellent baker, she couldn't achieve that flaky dough surrounding the yummy filling.

We grew up and went our separate ways.  Though Marlene and Betty stayed within the state, neither lived really close and as we had our own families, it became increasingly hard to get together as time here was spent with their parents.  Marlene and Betty both worked full time and I didn't and right or wrong, it was kind of a dividing line, at least in my mind, of the divergent paths we took.  About ten years ago Helen and Jim moved to a condo in Thomas Twp.  They sold the farm a few years later and emptied the house.  I saw Marlene for the first time in years as she and her husband helped them clean out and sell what they didn't need from the family farmhouse, Jimmy had grown up in. 

We were infrequent correspondents.  With email making catch up so easy and accessible, we didn't.  I don't know why but we didn't.  Sporadic Christmas and birthday cards.  When Dad passed away Marlene and Betty came for the viewing and vowed we would keep in touch, but we really didn't.  After that time, I would see Helen and Jimmy in the big superstore by their condo.  The joke was that in the last years, Jimmy went three times a day, just to see people he knew and talk. 

Helen was never famous, was never known for her superb cooking, gardening or housekeeping, though she was as good at all three as any country woman of her time.  She loved her girls and bragged about her grand kids when I would see her in the later years.  They bought a cottage on Torch Lake for their 25th wedding anniversary and until the last years spent most of their summers there. 

The country neighborhood, I grew up in slowly lost ground.  Neighbors moving away, but most just passing from this earth as that lively group I grew up knowing was no more.  Now Mom is the only one left, still on the family farm.  Sad, but that is the way of it.

The history of Fremont Twp and the Nelson Road area is that it was settled by seven Scotch-Irish families.  Later German and Czech immigrants came to farm on lands adjacent.  When I was a child the Scotch-Irish who founded the little Catholic church by my parent's place, called Guardian Angels, were nothing but names of old places.  McPhee, McCormick, and McDonald, were a couple of old women and some home places.  All are gone now, the farmhouses gone and the families moved away.  Guardian Angel church was shut down two decades ago and sold finally a few years back.  The Czech and German people of my parent's generation are slowly disappearing.  It is the way and the cycle of time.  We are here and we are gone. 

If we are lucky we are remembered even if its for Helen's kolache or the fond memories of jumping off Bill Graf's broad shoulders when I was a little girl to dive in to a cold lake.  It was my dad filling up a pick up truck bed with giggling kids and taking us to a community pool in a town, seven miles away for a summer afternoon of swimming.  It was summer evenings watching home movies or projector slides in a back yard with a big sheet hung for a screen.  Tables laden with food from a potluck.  Kids darting in and out, playing "Bloody Murder" and hide and seek, statue tag, and pick up ball games. Grownups playing cards and sitting around laughing and talking.  If we are fortunate we have those oh-so wonderful memories...

I said goodby to Helen today.  Alzheimer's had robbed her of recognition of any of us and sickness had taken her body.  Her girls told me she went quickly in the end and we all know it was a blessing.  But when our parents and friends parents leave us, our memories go with them.  Our kids will never know those things we smile about and fill our eyes with tears.  Gentle memories....Goodbye Helen.