A RANDOM THOUGHT

Its funny how a random experience morphs into a blog or a story or a whatever—–.

I was going into Price Chopper the other day walking with my cane. A gentleman was coming out with his walker. We both were almost run over by  a man on his scooter!

We all need insistence. No, that word was intentional. One day my youngest granddaughter and I were watching a program on training dogs for those with special needs.

“Grandma, you need to get one of those.’

“No Hanna, they are only for people who need some kind of help”

Well, Grandma, YOU need insistence!”

To admit that need, to not deny it, is one of the most difficult lessons we must learn. It reeks of dependency, whether we be 38, 78, or 98. Our ego says ‘NO’. We fight it. But it’s there.

I just read a quote which says:
“Let’s face it. In most of life we really are interdependent. We need each other. Staunch independence is an illusion., but dependency isn’t healthy either. The only position of long term strength is interdependence: win/win.                Greg Anderson

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to deal with the dependency issue is to put a spin on it. To be thankful for these aids! To be thankful for those around us who do so many things to make our lives easier. Inspite of our  need for insistence! But Lordy, it is hard!

 

 

I HAVE LEARNED —–

I have learned that birth and death are both journeys into the quiet unknown.

I have learned that my family is the mortar and building blocks which hold me together.

I have learned that love and faith are the cornerstones of a life well-lived.

I have learned that friendship can be fleeting or everlasting.

I have learned that both unspeakable sadness and unbounding joy are transient.

I have learned that happiness is taking the day off, canceling appointments, locking the door, not answering the phone, vegging out, being good to yourself.

I have learned that a burst of energy can lead to all kinds of good things.

I have learned that love comes in many forms, many faces.

I have learned that music soothes my soul, makes my heart sing.

I have learned that cries of anguish, of joy, of despair can bring healing.

I have learned that sun and snow and rain and thunder each have their own beauty.

I have learned that clouds transcend the believable, become magical.

I have learned that my journey is mine alone; that it is a work in progress, that learning continues.

I have learned that birth and death are both journeys into the quiet unknown.

 

 

The River

the-riverPeace I ask of thee, O River

Peace, Peace, Peace

When I learn to live serenely

Cares will cease.

From the hills I gather courage

Vision of the day to be.

Strength to lead and faith to follow.

All are given unto me.

Peace, I ask of thee, O River.

Peace, Peace, Peace

 

This day Mullet Bay is placid, the glassy ripples mesmerizing as we drink our coffee by the shore.

Another day the white caps will be churning. Boats will be bobbing. Storm will be brewing.

Each day a mystery on The River.

The big ships come up and down the channel. The flags – of the United States, Canada, countries from afar – unfurling from their masts, evoking thoughts of adventure and exotic places.

Boats and canoes and kayaks stream in front of us. Some to go fishing, some to pull water skiers, some to paddle peacefully along the shore dreaming, meditating – all to revel in the beauty of The River.

Swimmers at the beach. All shapes and sizes, out for a good time. Some floating on rafts, some dog-paddling, some serious stroking. Children venturing out too far. Squeals of laughter, admonitions from Moms and Lifeguards. Sandcastles and tunnels to China created in the sand. Imprints of little feet as they go to fill their pails.

Sunset comes. Kaleidoscopes of colors as they break through the sky. Awesomeness that takes one’s breath away from the beauty of the heavens.

Nighttime comes. Black and deep. Sounds of the crickets, sounds of the big ships sending their messages up or down, sounds of the lapping waters. Sounds of silence.

The River. The River. The River.

                                                     Peace

 

 

 

 

An Early Religious Experience

 

The little church nestle in a cul de sac in the lower village of the hamlet of Taberg, New York. It was brand new because the old one had burned to the ground in the most spectacular fire the town had ever seen, so they say.

I remember as one entered there was a combination of smells: flowers, polished wood, always some kind of a good odor coming from the church kitchen.

The sanctuary perhaps could seat a hundred people. Daddy and the other young men from the village had gone to war. Now the congregation was mostly old men and old women, young wives and young women waiting for their men to come home, some teenagers, very few children. I think I still remember some of their names: Sheila, Clarence, Phil, Audrey. I vaguely remember my uncle home on furlough at one  point, resplendent in his Navy blues, sitting in the pew with us.

I would sit between my mother, who I just knew was the prettiest woman there, and the bulky softness of Grandma, my pillow when I would get sleepy during the long sermon. Momma would always have a notebook with her to  entertain her restless daughter if the need arose. I thought she was a most wonderful artist – of trees and clouds and cows and birds and ——.

A lady named Opal played the organ. How I remember that I do not know. In my mind’s eye I cannot see the organ but I can hear it! I don’t remember a choir but I do remember a tall, skinny lady who sang solos a lot- off key but with fervor. Momma said I shouldn’t giggle when she sang, but I did!

The hymns,, oh the hymns. The best part of going to church. The Old Rugged Cross. The Church in the Wildwood, Onward Christian Soldiers. So many more. But the latter so poignant as sons, brothers, husbands, lovers were fighting far away in places unknown.

The pews  were of hard wood. No cushions. There was a rack in front where the hymnals and bibles were placed, but I would take them out to make a bed for my doll or for my coloring book and crayons.

The pulpit stood high behind the altar with its gold candlesticks, offering plates and the beautiful cross in its center.

But, behind it was a heavy, dark velvet, maroon wall hanging, the length of the wall, falling in folds to the floor. It didn’t seem to have a purpose. I knew, however, that God was behind that hanging. I knew God was spying on us, judging us, checking us all out, one by one.

As I remember there was usually a pot luck dinner after church. (In our little town this day was a social event.)

One Sunday morning I slipped away from the dining room, quietly making my way into the sanctuary, to the altar and then to the maroon wall hanging. My heart was beating. I knew God was going to get me. I knew God was not going to like it if I discovered his secret. I drew back a corner of the soft velvety covering.

It was only a bare wall!

THERE WAS NO GOD.

Momma found me dejectedly sitting in the first pew to the left. Sadness written all over my face. When she heard my story I recall her saying: “Gail, God is everywhere”.

Thus my religious training began.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLIGHT

Straight up, straight up, turn.

Bitty houses or schools or factories.
“Little boxes, little boxes.
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky.
And they all look the same.”

Slivers of highways or dirt roads or rivers.

Patchwork of crazy quilts of brown, greens, rust.
Squares and rectangles and circles of what?
Farmlands, forests, barren land waiting to be
desecrated by man or bulldozer?

Puffs of cauliflower clouds on a bed of darkening
cerulean blue.

Sudden shards of rain as they pellet the window of this
monstrosity that shouldn’t be able to soar so high.

Sparks of firelight in the distance.

Bump, shudder, rock ——-descent to safe haven.

Then – home.

Homage to Gramma

Dedicated to the Memory of Blanche Anna Brown Eaton

 

I could give you timelines and dates and genealogy but this essay is not about facts. It’s not about the Exacts. It’s about feelings and remembrances. It’s about a grandmother who on some level is thought about every day. It’s about a grandmother who gave me an emotional foundation.

In the day she would have been called stout. I only know that by pictures and the fact that she didn’t have much of a lap. She wasn’t necessarily a pretty woman, but her twinkling eyes and ready smile belied that fact. She was a strong woman, who could chase a chicken, rings its neck, have it butchered and in the pot in the twinkling of an eye. She worked 8-10 hours in the canning factory and come home and prepare a full course dinner for her family. She could go without sleep for days while she nursed a neighbor back to health – while doing all of the above, it was said. She could keep going when there was no money, no wood for the fire, nor little food for the table but managed somehow to keep her family together. She stayed in a marriage to a man who was said have been ‘the salt of the earth’ by his friends but a n’re  thee well by those who knew him. A good man who had the wanderlust, who drank too much and worked too little. She stayed with him until her children were grown and loved him til the day she died.

But those are the facts and I said I wasn’t going to write about those. I am going to write about the Gramma I knew, the Gramma I remember.

I hear her as I sit on the top of the stairs, whimpering that my tummy hurts or that monster is trying to come out of the closet again. I hear her say “Come down and have some peppermint tea and you’ll feel better soon.” She settles me in the big rocker next to the old wood stove and pours the tea into two china cups. Always the same two cups. Special only for her and me. She re-positions me on her lap – what there was of it. We drink the tea, she tells me a story, my eyes become heavy with sleep and she carries me upstairs to bed.

I feel her protective  comfort as we sit on the front porch during the thunder storm. “O, the angels are bowling in heaven”. When the thunder booms she says it’s  the  ball rolling down the alley. When the lighting strikes, its an angel who has knocked down all the pins and they go all over the place.

I smell the smells from the kitchen as she stirs and bakes and roasts. Always with the apron on. I see the two big glass jars she keeps under the sink, one filled with molasses cookies and the other with sugar cookies. I see the door to the cellar and feel the anxiety as I am asked to go down to the dark, dank place to get a jar of pickles. I see shelves and shelves of canned vegetables and jams and jellies and all kinds of pickles. But it is a scary place and I hurry to go up those stairs to a safe haven.

I remember picnics where she was always asked to bring potato salad because she made the best dressing. I remember berry picking and the little tin pail. I remember her cautioning me not to eat too many of those berries – “Leave some for the pie.” I remember shelling the peas and shucking the corn I had helped her pick from her garden.

I remember first the two-holer with the Monkey-Ward catalogue which was used for toilet paper. And then I remember the exciting day that the indoor bathroom was finished with an honest to goodness bathtub. (Gramma was given the honor of taking the first bath.)

I remember the day she took me to pick out my very own kitten. We named her Topsy. I remember Gramma’s  laughter and giggles as she watch us play ‘hide and seek’ or my trying to dress Topsy up in my doll clothes.

I remember how she comforted me when I couldn’t find my Mom. I remember her telling me Momma would be home soon, bringing me a baby sister – and that I would be the Big Sister. I remember her standing beside me by my Momma’s bed when I looked at that little wiggly thing. I was reported as saying  ” Well, she’s not going to be much fun.”

I remember going to church with Gramma every Sunday, singing the hymns even when I didn’t know the tunes. I remember the big velvet drapes behind the altar, and asking Gramma if Jesus lived there. I remember paying much more attention to the pictures Gramma drew on the church bulletin to keep me quiet!

I see her as she is dying. In our own home now, letting Us take care of Her. I smell the musty, close smell of sickness, of incontinency. I feel sadness all around me. I hear her moan but not complain. I see her arms reach out for me as I crawl into her bed to comfort her, as she had comforted me so often.

I see her in her coffin, peaceful, like the Gramma I knew. I place a rose on her chest and kiss her cheek. Cold, leathery.

Even now I see her twinkling eyes. I feel her hugs. I hear her laughter and giggles. I sense her love for me, her pride in me, her hopes for me.

What did she give to me?  Unconditional love.

What lesson did she teach me?  To persevere, to keep going no matter what.

I see her every day.

I saw her in my Mother.

I see her in my Sister.

I see her in my Daughters

I feel her in my heart.

 

My mother, sister and I lived with my Grandmother while my father was in the Army- from 1942 -45. She died when I was eleven. I am writing this for my sister who was too little to remember too much about Gramma, and for my only cousin who was just a baby when she died. I am writing this for my children who I hope will have a sense of who they came from – a woman of grace, of loyalty, of perseverance, of humor, of optimism, of faith, and an indomitable spirit.

The River

the-riverPeace I ask of thee, O River

Peace, Peace, Peace

When I learn to live serenely

Cares will cease.

From the hills I gather courage

Vision of the day to be.

Strength to lead and faith to follow.

All are given unto me.

Peace, I ask of thee, O River.

Peace, Peace, Peace

 

This day Mullet Bay is placid, the glassy ripples mesmerizing as we drink our coffee by the shore.

Another day the white caps will be churning. Boats will be bobbing. Storm will be brewing.

Each day a mystery on The River.

The big ships come up and down the channel. The flags – of the United States, Canada, countries from afar – unfurling from their masts, evoking thoughts of adventure and exotic places.

Boats and canoes and kayaks stream in front of us. Some to go fishing, some to pull water skiers, some to paddle peacefully along the shore dreaming, meditating – all to revel in the beauty of The River.

Swimmers at the beach. All shapes and sizes, out for a good time. Some floating on rafts, some dog-paddling, some serious stroking. Children venturing out too far. Squeals of laughter, admonitions from Moms and Lifeguards. Sandcastles and tunnels to China created in the sand. Imprints of little feet as they go to fill their pails.

Sunset comes. Kaleidoscopes of colors as they break through the sky. Awesomeness that takes one’s breath away from the beauty of the heavens.

Nighttime comes. Black and deep. Sounds of the crickets, sounds of the big ships sending their messages up or down, sounds of the lapping waters. Sounds of silence.

The River. The River. The River.

                                                     Peace