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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Kingdom for a Pen!


Here I sit waiting in the car in a parking lot beside a jail.   I may be here for a while and I’ve brought plenty to read but I want a pen! Any paper will do. Purse? No. The car’s glove compartment? No. Ah, here’s one. Not like my good pen but it will have to do.

Now, a few days later I must transfer what I wrote that sunny cool day. Here goes:

Such a pretty place to park. Such a tall and formidable building next to it! This grandma never knew what kind of drama her youngest grandchild would bring. Katie is 23 going on 24 and I’ve brought her to visit the young man of 26 she has promised herself to, one Jeffrey Allen Smith. 

The others in our family, aside from Katie’s parents and me, do not know Jeff. All they know is that he’s behind bars. They don’t know the history, the story of why, the reasons. Too complicated to explain even here, but we who know the story are not blinded by obvious mistakes to the confidence of these two young people in love. We have seen the pain of wrong choices our children have suffered and now we see the hope and the way circumstances have separated these two physically but are uniting them in spirit and soul. Letters and phone calls and weekend visits behind glass through telephone are the only tangible connections for six more months. The intangibles, the “getting to know you, getting to know all about you...” part, is coming in a way that most courtships cannot know or benefit by.

As Grandma, sitting on the sidelines, making a home for Katie until Jeff can do it, I support them both. I believe in their love and commitment, in their hopes and plans for the future and in their present preparation for a good life together. The past, having served its purpose to show wrong choices and harsh consequences, will be, (I pray!), left in the dusty road behind. 

Plans are being made now to seal their love with a jailhouse wedding. It will be simple, without any one of the families there. (That's the way they do it here.) A formal wedding with friends and family where they will renew their vows will come later. It will be lovely too. 

Marriage may not be easy. It seldom is. But it will be a testing time, a new path of sharing the good, overcoming the bad, and loving each other every step of the way. Marriage is, I believe, a chance to demonstrate the oneness of two people in love as a preparation for our oneness with God, divine Love. Where else but on this exquisite blue planet can we better prepare ourselves to launch out into Heaven and explore the Infinite? 

Well, I’m glad I found a pen. Now, a bit of editing. Maybe others will think me foolish, addled by old age. They may look more coldly on the scant view of Katie and Jeff's youth years. They may say, “Prove yourselves first, like we did.” But I say, No, when you get to be my age you can’t let go of hope in the good we see only through faith. By the way, Faith was my mother’s name. Katie bears her name second, Kathryn Faith. It seems appropriate for us all to have faith now. There’s really no other choice. I'm asking you skeptics out there to join me in supporting these two children. After all, we're all children in one form or another and in the schoolroom of life we'll all graduate soon or late. And then we celebrate!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Going Back Home


3450 Prospect Avenue, Riverside, California was my home with Grandmother Darling from September of 1943 to April of 1945. The thought of it always brings a smile to my lips. Small, adobe, tile roof, with arched wooden door and windows with flower boxes. Set on the crest of an arroyo and nestled beneath a large shady pepper tree it presented a perfect picture of California to the seventeen year old Minnesota girl I was when I arrived. If you put my white-haired, blue-eyed smiling grandmother on the front walk coming toward me with open arms you'll get the picture. My first home away from home. I hadn’t seen this little gem of a house in all the years since. Lately I've been afraid to go there for fear of its having been over-run by the freeway that came later, or crumbled down in disrepair from old age. Last Sunday, however, I thought it was time.

The family, those of us living nearby, met at The Mission Inn for Sunday brunch. It was a kind of anniversary celebration in remembrance of the marriage of a young Marine fighter pilot and his bride in the Flyers’ Chapel dedicated to famous pilots such as Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle. I wanted our grandchildren and children to see the place. I wanted to remember the day sixty-eight years ago this month when CaptainWallace Ginder Wethe and Joyce Darling Hahn became one.

First we went to the all-you-can-eat buffet. It was a feast fit for kings and queens. (About as expensive too!) Then the concierge opened up the chapel for us to go in. Small, narrow, darkly lit by stained glass windows, it didn't look the same as when white candelabra glowed at the ends of each pew and on the altar. The gold plated altar still gleamed however. I alone could hear organ music in memory, the scent of orange blossoms in my bouquet and the tall vases of Easter lilies on the altar steps. Still, the sun shone outside by the fountain and I pointed out to the family the balcony where I threw my bouquet out to my college girl friends.

Afterwards we drove the few blocks to find Grandmother’s house. It was still there. I was delighted to see that it had remained unchanged and was obviously loved and kept up. I wept in joy as I stood there, memories flooding over me like sunbeams and shadows. I didn't go to the door. It was enough. I wanted to remember the inside as it had been, charming with a fireplace flanked by French doors, a spinet piano, cozy pillowed sofa and arm chairs. Grandmother's bedroom always smelled of her violet perfume and the bathroom had a large white claw-footed tub. In the roomy kitchen a pretty breakfast nook served as the dining room in order to free up the space at the end of the living room for the piano Grandmother had bought just for me. A screened-in laundry porch with a Dutch door led to a postage sized back yard graced by a canopied swing overlooking the arroyo toward the city college I attended. Here we had a full view of sunsets with Mount Pachapa on the south and Mount Rubidoux in the west. Even today the heady fragrance of pepper seeds and geraniums always remind me of that spot where I'd sit with Grandmother and ply her with questions about her own youth. 

Sometimes going back home can be a sad occasion. Like when I went to see the corner of highways 52 and 16 in southern Minnesota where I grew up in the family gas station home my father had built. It was gone. I mean gone to the point of my not finding one single evidence of there ever having been anything there at all. My childhood home reverted to farmland! The whole place as if it had never been; as if Daddy had never planted a tree, dug a well, built a house, waited on cars at the gas pumps. If I could have found one single tangible sign I'd have treasured it, framed it, put it on the mantel, but there was nothing.

Wally G. and I once went to see his childhood home in Minneapolis and what was once a charming neighborhood of large Victorian homes had become run down and neglected. Hippies hanging out the windows, littered lawns and peeling paint. We couldn’t leave fast enough.

Once when we went back to see the large country estate in Northbrook Illinois where Robin, our youngest child, was born we had to drive by several times before we realized that tract houses had taken over the site. 

Some people stay in their childhood homes all their lives. That sounds sweet and nostalgic, but in thinking back of all the places I’ve loved and called home since my first one, I'd have to erase many other fond memories. Home is more than a place. I can’t imagine my next home, if there is to be one, nor do I try, but I am quite sure that wherever I go, even into the hereafter, I shall be blessed with home.

One of my favorite things to do is drive around strange neighborhoods and imagine what it might be like to pick out a house, move in and call it home. I don't think I'd ever go back to a former home though. Well, maybe to Grandmother's little adobe house, but without her? No, there's no going back home. As sure as a turtle's shell it always goes along with us in some form. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wallpaper Riches or Bing Cherries?


I stood in the market looking at bags of Bing cherries, remembering. Yes, I think of it every time I partake of those big fat black luscious cherries, the time I was thirteen and got to climb up into a cherry tree to pick them. It was a luxury I’d not known before or since to gather and partake of Bing cherries at their best with no limitation, no price to pay. We were visiting distant cousins in Oregon. The girls were my age and, though I’d never known them before, we chatted like old friends,  giggled like birds in the leafy red-clad boughs as we picked and ate.  After piling our bags onto the table where our mothers stood canning in the steamy kitchen the girls took me into their bedroom and in the dim light of half closed shades they sat me down and began to tell me about fairies. They were true believers of those tiny winged marvels and said I had only to believe they exist to actually see them and be welcomed into their world. I did too, but only as I do today, in imagination's eye. 

That day was re-lived in my mind’s eye those many years later as I stood there in the market. Then I picked up one of the net bags and weighed it. Quick calculations of the price I’d pay at the check-out stand made me put the bag back, but I stood a minute longer staring at it and thinking this: “Sweet berries, you are so beautiful. You’ll taste so good to someone else who will come along today and take you home, but I mustn’t pay $8.00 for you. Sorry!”

Then I heard another voice. It said, “So you think God loves that "someone else" more than you? 

“No!” I protested. “I know God doesn’t play favorites. I know He is impartially loving and giving to all His children, including me.” I picked up the bag, put it into my cart and, well, you can paint in the rest of the picture. Far more than the tasty enjoyment of those cherries has been the lesson they taught me that day. It said, “You are just as loved as anyone, but you need to stop penny pinching and spend! Not unwisely, of course, but grant yourself the pleasure of luxuries once in a while when you can do it without borrowing or stealing. To be rich, be rich in more ways than money!

Watching a savings account grow in early life should mean relaxing in senior years to enjoy the fruits of  our labors, but often older people can’t release their grip on the pocketbook. By the time they should be spending their hard-earned savings on a few luxuries it’s become a habit to skimp and save, this time for that scary spectre of nursing homes and such. The sight of a fat bottom in the bank is, to some, more pleasant and secure than the things they might spend it on. They go without only to find that inflation has made the intended purchases more expensive and the interest on their money will have been eaten up by the passage of time, not to mention the years of going without those things they might have been enjoying all along. I say those people ought to cash in, take newly printed bills and wallpaper the walls with money. If the sight of greenbacks is that pleasant, why not?

Fear plays a leading role in the penny-pincher’s heart. Afraid to spend for fear of being caught short by some emergency? Likely then you’ll have that emergency and say, “See? I’m so glad I saved for it!” I’m not saying one should be foolishly unprepared for the worst, but there’s also foolishness in being miserly. If we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy some luxuries in life, that is foolish, in my book.

Wally, my husband and the father of my children, had a healthy respect for cash. He liked to have a lot of it in his wallet, bills all neatly uncurled, matching corners and pressed evenly. He was not much for credit cards and he did like to see a goodly sum at the bottom of his bank statements. But he did not deny himself luxury whenever he could afford it. At least once a year, usually Christmas time, he’d take the whole family out to the fanciest, most highly rated restaurant he knew of. He'd have reserved a large table and after everyone was seated and presented with a menu he’d say, “Don’t look at the right side of the menu, kids. Get exactly what you like the most. I’ve saved for this." Then we’d all be glad to do as he said. Those dinners were luxurious love feasts and they remain precious memories,.

Near the end of his life on earth this dear man told me that he had been saving for the next dinner out with the family. He said, “We haven't been with the whole family at once for a long time and my dinner fund is getting big, so be sure not to give that old checkered jacket of mine to the Goodwill without getting the money out of the inside pocket, Joy.” Some friends came over the day he died and when they were leaving one said, “Do you have enough ready cash to take care of things untill the bank opens on Monday?” I said, “I think so,” and went to look in the checkered coat pocket. There I found $1,800.00 in neatly folded bills! They came in handy but I kept aside enough of them to start building for another Christmas dinner at Gulliver’s. I wasn’t the least tempted to bank those bills or use them for wallpaper! 

P.S. The last time I bought a bag of Bing cherries I over-indulged and got a stomach ache. It’s no wonder that super-rich people are often not as happy as many poorer people. Luxury, like Bing cherries, can be enjoyed more keenly in moderation. And that first dollar bill framed on the wall for a business that made it speaks louder than thousands of greenbacks on the walls! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"He'll See To It"


I was told recently that one of my blog readers has been disappointed not to find new blogs on my site for a while. I said to tell her I’m waiting for a sunny day. Like the sun dial who says, “I record only sunny hours.”

Not fair, I thought, to have to admit that all is not sunshine and light in my life. I’m dedicated to proving that getting older is getting better.  But challenges have come along to dispute that and I need to see through them, get everything resolved and then I can resume writing my blog. That’s it in a nutshell. Unlike some in our writing class I don’t fancy spending my energy on articulating distress. Oh, it makes good reading, I suppose, when the problems are not one’s own. 

However, lately my life could be described as a tabloid of strange adventures not usually connected with little old great-grandmas who do nothing but read, knit, sew, clean house, watch old movies, put together jig saw puzzles and remember to be courteous to those marketers on the phone when they’ve un-lodged her from her favorite chair just as a nap was coming on. 

No, I cannot agree that “No news is good news.” Not always, anyway. Not when you haven't heard from your brother and call to learn that he has been declared by his doctors as not long for this world. Not when your granddaughter’s sweetheart is in jail. I won’t continue; these things turn others off. They have enough problems of their own and don’t relish reading about others’ miseries. So no news for publication has kept my blog site cupboard bare of late.

Problems most often focus on others. Have you noticed that? Well, my friend, Suzy, (who doesn’t mind admitting she is 101,) pointed out something to me yesterday that I’d never thought of before. She said, "In the first book of the Bible it says that God gave man dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, over the cattle, etc. but nowhere do we read that He gave us dominion over each other."

What a load it would take off our backs if we knew we are not responsible for others! The best we can do is take care of ourselves and help others by setting a good example. Of course we are not told to disregard the needs of others. We can help in wise ways. We can love, be charitable, kind, etc., just not dominate our neighbors, our family members, our friends and foes. Be sparing with advice. Let God plant the right idea in each one's mind.

Someone told me once that she puzzled over the Bible’s admonition to trust in God and “...He shall bring it to pass.” Looking it up in a Bible Commentary, she found this explanation: 'Bring it to pass means God will see to it.' She knew exactly what that meant because as a child she’d been a worrier. Then, when she’d finally take the problem to her mother, her mother would say, “Oh, is that all you’re worrying about? Well, you can stop worrying, my dear. I’ll see to it.” Then the load would slip off her little child's back and she’d feel wonderful relief.

Just the knowledge that God is responsible for each one of us and our only responsibility is to respond to that fact puts everything in perspective. We then begin to see through every problem. So, a dear young man you know has been sent to jail. So, your granddaughter came back to live with you until she gets a job and enough to marry her sweetheart when he gets out. So, you’ve been told that your brother is dying and there's nothing anyone can do. So, the newspaper says the world is going bankrupt. So, some rogue nation's crazy leader says he's declaring war with his neighbor nation, our friend.You count your blessings. You choose not to ruminate over bad news but focus on what you sang as a little child: “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.” And you trust the Father-Mother of us all that He knows His business. He will iron out all your problems and all the problems of others when we keep watching to see it. Then you go your way, put worry aside, do whatever you can for the good of all and wait to see how God's dominion wins out in the end. Yes, He is seeing to it!