Archive for November 2010

A Special Generation Ends

November 28, 2010

Aunt Helen, Uncle Tom & Tommy 1944

Early Saturday morning my cousin called to tell me his mother, my dear Aunt Helen, died Friday evening. Since she was 97 years young, this call wasn’t an entirely unexpected. However, memories of Aunt Helen and all those I’ve lost were with me all day.

Aunt Helen was the last of my father’s siblings alive. That generation is no longer with us. From the moment of her birth until the day of her death, she experienced so many changes in her world: with wars, depression, booming economies, recessions, cultural changes, transportation changes, technologies, space, and social changes.

She was his favorite sister, and of all my dad’s sisters, she was my favorite aunt. I think most of my siblings felt the same way. Her infectious laugh, her incredible stories, her ability to get down to a child’s level and talk with them probably had much to do with it. As far as she was concerned when we were growing up, a hug and a treat and times spent cuddle against her would easily dispel the slings and arrows of child-size problems.

We adored her because she was so real.  At age 80 plus she was still willing and able to drop down on the floor, lift her leg up, and rest its ankle in the crook of her neck and shoulder. She danced, she swam, she made cookies, and she believed nothing was better on a summer day than a drippy ice cream cone and stupid “Knock-Knock” jokes—or whatever the craze was for the age we were at the time. Of course, after spending a day at the beach.

Aunt Helen believed in family and held all the family stories in her oral history bank.  From her I heard the stories of my great-grandfather who sailed the Great Lakes as a ship’s captain and helped rescue Chicago citizens from the Great Fire. Her youngest son carries that tradition on—he listened well to the stories. As a family we are blessed with hearing those tales that she told in her expressive speech. We remember those stories for their content and the way she told them.

Aunt Helen loved the movies and the gossip about the movie stars. Though she wasn’t one for glamour herself, she loved to see it in the movies and stars of her youth. I grew up hearing about Carole Lombard, Joan Crawford movies, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, and so many others.

I mentioned Aunt Helen was a swimmer and that was something she shared with my Dad. Even into her 80’s she swam every day.

She was incredibly talented with a knitting needle, a crochet hook, or whatever those implements are that you use for cross stitch, embroidery, etc.  I never had that talent but I appreciated it in her. I’ll treasure even more the handbag she designed and made for me several years ago.

Aunt Helen and her beloved husband Uncle Tom never missed family functions even when they moved several hundred miles away.  Why?  Because family and its traditions were important. It’s why she revisited all the places that held significance in her young life when she would return as if on her pilgrimage.  Those trips always included the cemetery where whoever was fortunate enough to be with her would hear the stories about each relative buried there. She buried her dear Tom and oldest son Tommy there. They joined her parents and many of her siblings, and generations before—including that ship’s captain.

The pilgrimage included trips to the old neighborhood and checking out the huge home with the incredible wrap around sleeping porch and the kitchen which seemed so enormous to me when I was a child. Lake Geneva and Linn Pier where family picnics were held each summer was always another stop on her journeys home.

Aunt Helen Oct. 2004

Aunt Helen was a beautiful woman, inside and out. With her own unique flair she carried out all the roles life demanded of her: daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend.  She never believed she accomplished much in the world. However, those who remember her know how wrong she was about that. She was special. She brought laughter, happiness and joy with her wherever she was.

Fly with your dearly loved departed, Aunt Helen. They are waiting for that laughter—and the stories you bring of those of us living now.

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Thanksgiving Bounty

November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Gifts

November has been a busy month and this hectic pace will likely continue into December with the winter holidays. However, the increased pressures of the upcoming major holidays never lessen our daily stresses. Instead we often feel more harassed and pressured for time.

That’s doubly true for me because I’m a writer as well as a woman.  All of you know exactly what I’m referring to since most of us wrestle with the fine art of multi-tasking on a daily basis.

Sometimes we even win.  🙂

This past week as I’ve been struggling with a complete subplot change and all the ensuing consequences for my current manuscript and the characters currently peopling my pages, my phone rang and yet another family issue popped up. Not major in the sense of life or death, but troubling and guaranteed to ignite my gastric juices which have been behaving peacefully lately.

In my wise woman wisdom, I knew what should be done to ease the problem. I also knew from past experience the probability of my wisdom landing in a receptive mind was minimal at best. So instead I listened and stewed, offered a few shreds of advice, and stewed that I couldn’t do more.

A thunderbolt zapped me.

I wished my real life replicated my writing life where I could control events more often than not and generally my characters bowed to my wisdom.  When they didn’t, they provided me reasons to see their point of view.

But life isn’t fiction though sometimes I’m dead certain mine sometimes offers more twists and turns than a best seller.

So I reflected on that concept for a while and realized I’m very fortunate to have turmoil in my life. It strengthens me. If I think about all the elements involved, I will learn more about human nature and what drives a person to think and do whatever it is he or she thinks or does. I will be better able to offer “pearls of wisdom” if the opportunity arises.  I will be a better person for myself and for all who are part of my circles: family, friends, neighbors, and the larger circles of the world I live in.

Thanksgiving Turkey

This is a hectic time of year. The calendar is winding down. It is a time to reflect on all the blessings we enjoy in our lives, even when they can be bothersome at times. Just like my characters in my book.  I give thanks this week for the brain I’ve been blessed with, the talents I’ve been given, the people in my life who’ve made me who I am and what I am. I’m thankful my sister is having our family Thanksgiving celebration which will be a three generation gathering of at least 30 or more. I am thankful I’m responsible for the vegetable dishes everyone expects from me—because “no one can make them better.”

I guess that’s like my fictional world. My characters can get cranky at times and refuse to follow my plan. However, they expect me to provide certain things, too. I’m thankful my muse helps me answer their call and provide the satisfaction ending for their growth journeys, interesting settings, and just the right amount of turmoil and sizzle to keep them satisfied.

My hope for you this week is you get to control that which you must and see the silver lining in that which you can’t so you can grow in wisdom and serenity.

A Quick Reflection on a Visit

November 14, 2010

Mother & Son

Last week I mentioned my oldest son was here visiting for the week.  It’s been a busy week and I saw him off to the airport this morning.  His plane has landed safely in Anchorage.  We had a wonderful visit.

So that’s my reason for this short post.

My son has matured into a wonderfully marvelous individual; he’s got all the characteristics of an excellent hero. We talked about family ancestry, had a family gathering of all the nearby cousins and their families, had excellent meals.  He even found time to do a few chores around the house.

For those of you who are busy with young families or dealing with teenagers yearning for more freedom than you think is good, let me remind you to hang tough, be the best parent you are capable of being in the given moment, and know that all the struggles will be worth it.

Nothing beats the joy of an adult child saying to you: “I’m so proud of you, Mom.”

It was the best of weeks.  When I saw him off to Alaska as a young man of twenty, I hated to see him go, but knew he had to take the opportunity he’d been given.  Alaska has been very good to him. I’m so glad I had the courage to let him fly from the nest without making him feel guilty.

See you next week. 🙂

Double Rainbows & No Camera

November 6, 2010

Double Rainbow, Double Awe

My oldest son who lives in Alaska arrived last night.  His flight was on time (a miracle these days) and it’s so very good to have him home for a week and close once more.  Having him here is certainly different and much better than phone calls and emails which happen the other 52 weeks a year. 🙂

What this means is I’m taking a break this weekend since he’s here and I’m enjoying him.  We will all be cooking dinner together tonight and he wasn’t in the house 5 minutes last night and already noticed a few tasks that need doing and intends to “get them done before I leave.”  Gotta love that man.

Anyway, you might be wondering about the title of this post.

Thursday afternoon, I drove into town to deliver a few things to my younger son.  It was drizzling while I drove in, then stopped when I trucked things into the house (younger son hasn’t been healthy lately), and really started to pour on my way home.  About a mile from my house, I spotted a rainbow forming as the sun was breaking through the clouds in the west while the dark storm clouds hung on in the east.  The colors became more and more intense and radiated outward, leaving the trees, fields and farmhouses in the most incredibly magical luminous light.  Then a second rainbow formed above the first.  I pulled off the road and watched the most fantastic rainbowed hued late afternoon light dance just beyond my car.  I felt blessed to see this spectacle.

And wouldn’t you know it?  I know exactly which cornfield the pot of gold resides–because that first rainbow planted its southern most end not 15 feet from my car! 🙂

Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me though I’ve been carrying it all fall hoping to catch those special photographs.  Darn, because the car’s driver just ahead of me had a camera and was snapping away. 😦

But I have my memories of this sight and I expect someday I will write a scene about it.  But if only I’d had my camera…