Archive for August 2012


August 27, 2012

I’m hesitating to post this.  It’s so . . . .  But it may have meaning to you, as it does to me, and you may understand what a precious human thing this is.

Those are the hands of my parents.   Many times a bride and groom will have a picture taken of their hands, together,  near some bridal flowers or satin.   The white blankets of the hospital bed almost suggest a bridal theme.  These are the hands of two people in the 68th year of their marriage  —  and in the last two weeks of their life together on earth.

Those two would have much to say to each other.   I know, because the quality of their voices changed.   Their voices were soft and gentle, almost other-worldly, and intense.

Son and I brought them together when we were there, with them, a few weeks ago:  my father, whose mind was sharp and strong, but whose body was failing him;  my mother,  whose body is doing fine, but whose mind is deteriorating, like a jigsaw puzzle that is being disassembled into 5,000 unrelated pieces.   But on this day she recognized him.   She knew who he was.

Mom could not speak loudly enough or coherently so that my Dad could understand what she was saying, but he worked at it.   He understood she was there, caring for him.

She was adjusting his watch, adjusting his covers,  adjusting his shirt, stroking his arm….stroking, stroking, stroking…past all words….and my Dad was looking at her with what I can only call pure love.

The marriage wasn’t supposed to last. It was a wartime marriage, and my Dad and Mom were 18 years old.  They were told they wouldn’t make it.

And they almost didn’t.   They floundered around for many decades, sometimes frustrated with each other and with life, trying to guess their way through.  But they grew up and matured together,  the hard way; they stayed together.   I’m only their daughter.  I didn’t see everything going on between these two people.

But as I look at that last photo and see them gazing into each other’s eyes, I think I do see everything there was to see.   It’s a profound love that existed between them, obvious now, now that all the challenges and activities of this life are behind them.

Only the one thing is left.

What did St. Paul say?   “Now there remains these three, faith, hope, and love;  but the greatest of these is love.”

And I want it to remain. . . .


August 26, 2012

I got the Phone Call early this morning.   My Dad has passed away.   August 26, 2012, 7:08 A.M.

85 years old.    Body ravaged by all the things that diabetes does to a body.

So now comes the rush of all the thoughts and emotions:  grief, loss, love, perplexity (how can this be?), remorse, regret, memories…memories, memories…..memories of a father,  the loss of a father…..  My children know what it feels like to lose a father, but I don’t.   I didn’t.     Son has been a big source of wisdom and comfort.

Ironically, my son is the same age as my father was when that photo above was taken.    That alone is a lot to think about.

My Dad and I shared a love for music, although he truly was a musician.  My Dad and I are playing some classical Spanish piece, a duet written for flute and guitar.   If you know who Andres Segovia is or Christopher Parkening, you will know what my Dad sounded like.

My Dad’s whole life was defined by his music and it’s where we were able to interact best.   But a lot of what else he was seems to be in me too.   I recognize him…in me.

Now is the time to get the rest of our little family together and talk and perhaps find him in us and appreciate what he might have given to each of us.

There is one yet missing:     Our Daughter.   She is out in northern California somewhere challenging the grizzly bear and cougar and other dangerous elements near Mt. Shasta.   Whether it’s her little family in a cloth tent in the wilderness  or whether it’s the passing of my Dad,  the “fragility” of human life doesn’t seem “light and fragile” so much as it seems like a heavy burden to deal with.

It’s the “bear” again.   Ready to pop out at you every time you answer the phone…  We have interludes of what we call normal life.     “Life is good.”   “All is well.”      And then it’s not for a while.     And that’s the way life is supposed to be, so that we know  “life” is not just time passing, but is a gift given for serious purposes.

Or so it seems to me right now.






August 25, 2012

It’e been a little crazy around here…so much to do!!   Thought I’d take a little break and go shopping.  For Cooper   — my little Biker Grandson:

Helmet, Cool Guy glasses, Hands on the handlebars….     There is a special seat you can mount on the handlbars so the little ones can get the full experience of mountain biking.

So I thought he needed some new outfits.    A blue one with matching pants  (bike diagram included) –

And then a red one with matching shorts and matching socks –

( Some stores are just….Grandma Traps. )

Cooper really loves biking and lives right in the middle of some of the best mountain biking trails in our country.     And who is teaching him all the mountain biking skills?

Uh……   Daddy, of course:

You know:  bikes + mountains =  mountain biking.

Rocks are no problem at all for Cooper’s Daddy:

It’s probably going to be a family affair….Daddy is also a teacher.   If you’re ever out vacationing  in the Lake Tahoe area,  I know someone who can get you started on mountain biking!

(Thanks,”Daddy,”  for posting those exciting videos.)


August 22, 2012

“By the dawn’s early light…”

When the siding guys left yesterday,  they told me they’d be back in the morning about 7:00 or so.   I thought they were kidding, so I said, “Okay, right;  I’ll set my alarm clock.”    One of the guys cheerfully replied, “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am, you’ll hear us when we start working tomorrow.”

So I really did set my alarm clock — and I really did hear them at work on  my house – before the alarm had even rung!   And when I came out into Hubbie’s TV room,  that’s what I saw….by dawn’s early light….

Here’s an outside view that I’m posting,  just for my own record:

Here are the guys half done with the back of the house:

I was glad to see a familiar color going up.

You know,  afterwards, the guys actually told me they like their work.  They like doing what they’re doing.   And this team are all good friends, some of them related to each other.   Their actions were naturally coordinated with each other’s;  they were easy-going among themselves;  they bickered and bossed each other a little;  they apologized to me for the language of the younger ones. . . .   Like a family group.    That was nice.

They did indeed do a very nice job –

Now my house is cleaner, brighter, and, I’m assured,  more “modern.”

As they picked up their debris and packed their trucks we chatted about football and guns and slingshots and all  the possibilities that my backyard offered, I apologized for all their bee stings,  they expressed delight with the weather, I signed papers, and was reminded I needed to pay them.

Uh.   That always catches me off guard.  Hubbie preferred to handle all the finances in our household.   That was fine with me because I know how much it meant to him.    Restaurants still catch me off guard — I need to be the one paying now.   And so, as I got the checkbook yesterday, I was reminded once again of that strange feeling of “acting on behalf of”  Hubbie.  I’m acting in his “absence.”    He always wanted new siding on our house, and I have carried forth his plans.

And that’s fine with me too.   We did act as a family team, pretty easy-going with each other in matters like this.

I feel strange though.  It came over me after the guys left and the house was still and quiet in the early evening.   It feels like a little era has passed, sadly passed, maybe.    There is something new building inside of me.   Stronger, harder, more solid — and different.  I don’t want to analyze this, I just want to watch what happens. . . .

It’s going to be okay though.

I’m still the lady that lives in the  “little yellow house under the trees.”



August 20, 2012

Ashes to ashes…..

  ….and a house reduced to rubble….

Not much left of us when you take us apart – physically.

My house today:

I tell people I live in “the little yellow ranch under the trees.”        But not today….

Today I can “try on”  Dark.     The siding guys are giving me new siding.   I’m changing from aluminum to vinyl.

Funny how colors and shapes are expressions of how we feel inside and keep us attached to things that are ours.

Tomorrow the guys will be done and I can be myself again.   I’ve chosen yellow vinyl.


August 19, 2012

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;   who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)    That is,  who can know his own heart when it can deceive even the person who is honestly scrutinizing his actions and motivations?    Who can truly know everything about himself?    Dig deeper into yourself and you will find only deeper, lower layers of cause and effect, motivations, desires that are secret even to yourself and not always pleasing to God.

If you’ve been here in The Spruce Tunnel before, you may recall that bears are my metaphor for finding danger or evil in the forests of everyday life.   Our forests are lovely and inspiring;  they provide food and shelter, meaningful work and needed recreation.

And yet – and yet –  bears lurk there too, and no matter how “natural and noble”  bears may be, we humans are their prey.   They can and will eat us up. And we must be on guard, because, in this present order of things,  they too live in our forest.

Don’t let your guard down.

And then there is the other kind of Bears in my life.

  Among the “needed recreation” that I alluded to are the sports, sports and entertainment.    I know, I know, I know football is a “dangerous”  sport.   It is violent;  men crashing into each other for the possession of a football.   Men wrestling and dragging other men down to prevent the running away with that ball…..   Some men get hurt, permanently.   And time gets wasted watching all this violent competition.

And yet – and yet –  when your team is behind up until the  very last minute and then the football gets kicked in a beautiful 57-yard arc that ends smack into the net and then you win….my heart “deceives me,” I think, and there is such elation.   Why such elation?    (Bears over Redskins:  33-31!!   )

A very shallow analysis:

Shallow for now, because if I kept going with my searching, I would follow in the footsteps of St. Francis de Borgia. . . .

 . . . . the saint who keeps looking over my shoulder, whose presence bends me onto the Straight Road, ever so slowly….I am hard to bend at the start of football season.   St Francis loved ball games too.  and racing – and bullfights.   But as he grew in holiness,  he put aside his youthful enjoyment of these sports.

He grew in holiness as his love for our Savior increased.   His love for our Savior increased by self-discipline and devotion.   Self-discipline was nourished by self-scrutiny, examining those layers and layers of his heart, whose deception slowly yielded to the greater motivation:  love.

On this 12th Sunday After Pentecost,  we are given the story of Jesus answering the questions of the young “legal scholar,”  the expert in the Law.   “What must I do to have eternal life?”    Love;  love God, love your neighbor as yourself.

And then follows the parable of the Good Samaritan.   The Good Samaritan is God, the injured traveler is Adam.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son….”

We are to be like the Good Samaritan.   The injured man is our neighbor, that is, anyone who is in close proximity to us and in need.    Those in need are those in need of our Love.    Everyone is in need.

I can love.   there are a thousand creative, delightful ways to love.

Bears, Bears, and Dangerous things.   I just need to be careful to know what it is I love and to  recognze the bears.      The next verse of Jeremiah 17 is this:  “I the Lord search the heart;  I try the reins;  even to give to every man according to his ways….”

May the example of St. Francis de Borgia help us all!


August 16, 2012

Yeah,  I’m still not being “chronological.”   So these are just random thoughts, swirling through my mind, as I stroll in the Spruce Tunnel,  reflecting on these past four weeks…..

In Florida, Son and I got the bright idea to try out a certain fast-food restaurant whose name has been in the news lately.

Neither of us had been to one  before.   We think there is one on the far west side of the little city we live near, but it’s quite a drive and we’re not into fast food to any great extent.

But for a grown man to not be able to speak privately to his own religious group somewhere in our country without serious economic attacks piqued our interest — and made us want to show our support for him and his business, and for our country which guarantees us the freedom to express our religious ideas, even in public.

So when we had some spare time in Florida, we looked for a place to show our support.

Somewhere in Brevard county, Florida.

Son found the food delicious, “just what I was hoping for.”    I had something different on the menu and found it…good…but then I was distracted and driving in busy traffic and very, very, very hot in the Florida summer sun.     Well, yes, my chicken sandwich was pretty good, though.

Came across a funny sign:

So why go after the guy who is in charge of the business?

Well, there are jokes and there are serious issues.   Unfortunately it seems that those who are on one side of the political spectrum seem to be angry, aggressive, and murderous.     No free speech for them.       Their hatred of any opposing views has inspired a man to carry fifteen Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack, while shooting an innocent security guard who happened to be employed at a building which houses a group which holds perfectly legal but opposing views from those that this gunman holds.

Federal charges have been filed.

It’s  a strange and evil world.           Wisdom exhorts us to:     “Walk carefully, redeeming the time for the days are evil….”   (Ephesians 5:15)


August 14, 2012

Well, I’m still “hiding out”  after my return home.  Recovering from all the travel — and tropical heat.     Deliberately trying not to do much until my body says it’s okay to resume.   That leaves my mind with a lot of undirected random thoughts.    Feels great!

So although I usually like to record my trips in chronological order,  well,  not this time.     But here’s a day I want to remember:  the day I was lost.  

Wasn’t my fault!!!!

That’s the Spaghetti Map I had to work with.   I’d see other people stopped in mid-pathway, looking at this thing, and they’d say to their friends or family, “None of the pathways intersect!”  “Where are we on this thing?”    “How do we get over there?”    I took out my own map and quickly realized it wasn’t going to be of any help to me either.

It was somewhat in the late afternoon in southeastern Tennessee.   In a few hours I would be attempting to drive through Atlanta, Georgia, and I’d get there somewhere around…Rush Hour.    I decided to stop,  as the billboards were directing me, at “Rock City” to kill an hour or so, and thus arriving after the daily Atlanta Parking Lot Hour.

I’ll skip the harrowing ride up Lookout Mt. and say only that even my Tom-Tom got dizzy and kept telling me to turn around and get out of there.   I’ll skip the breath-taking sign that informed us how much we’d have to pay to get in, leaving us gasping and wondering just how much fiscal trouble the state of Tennessee was in…..

“Rock City” turned out to actually be like a little city, a city of lovely pathways and interesting rock formations which invited imagination and wonder.

…..After an initial challenge:

The young lady ahead of me was considerably younger – and slimmer than I am…..But after all, she’s getting through with a backpack,  so I didn’t think I’d be disqualified.

More pathways took us into the center of the mountain:

And then out into “miles and miles”  of lovely pathways:

Up and down.  (Did I already say “miles and miles”?)

Then I came to something I’d always wanted to do!    It was a long and  genuine Swing Bridge!

There it is, stretching out ahead, maybe a hundred feet long and — trust me — looked like more than a thousand feet high above tree tops.    It’s made of wood slats tied together somehow and it actually swung, jiggled,  swayed,  bounced with every move.

Those of you who have been in the military will know why it is you are told “At ease!”  when your platoon comes to a bridge.      And you’ll understand why I didn’t get any clear photos from the middle of the bridge.   I tried walking with uneven, non-rhythmic steps, but, well…what can you do when there are plenty of adolescent boys around doing what boys will do on a swing bridge!

And so here was the goal of all of us tourists, so it seemed:

I’d estimate a couple thousand feet down there too.    It was a spectacular view, although with a somewhat uncomfortable name:  Lover’s Leap.

Not sure what state you’d land in.  Signs on the drive up alternated:  “You are now entering Georgia.”  “You are now entering Tennessee.”  “You are now entering Georgia.”  “You are now entering Tennessee.”   etc.

But you can take your pick which state you’d like to see:

And all the states were pretty proud of it:

Each state had a flag, a monument, and a little map on the flagstone patio.

Seemed like once you get to the top there is no place further to go, so I start thinking about what time it was, how hot and thirsty I was, how far away from the car I was, and where is my car anyway?    This is about when I attempted to use my map. . . .and decided it can’t be that hard to find my way down a mountain.    Just keep going….down.

Half an hour later the lovely pathways weren’t getting me anywhere, so I thought maybe I could take a shortcut:

If you can’t find your way down around the mountain,  maybe you could get through the mountain.

Deeper and darker.    The Mrs.  who owned this land, a Mrs. Frieda Carter, I found out, was  the guiding hand behind the development of Rock City.   She was from Germany and she loved fairy tales.  Really, really loved them.

Still deep in the mountain, we were treated to Cinderella and her pumpkin.

And Hansel and Gretel:

And many, many more gnomes and trolls and imaginary places, but  like all the children in the grim Grimm fairy tales,  I just wanted to get home.

Or to Atlanta.    I no longer had to worry about driving through Rush Hour.     But I’m okay about driving in the dark of night.

What great memories!

If you find yourself in southeastern Tennessee sometime,  don’t hesitate to stop off and visit Rock City!    I’ve held back from you so many wonderful photos,  you’ll just have to see the whole thing yourself.    Never mind the price of admission;  it’s well worth it!

“It was a dark and stormy night….”

August 10, 2012

So begins the purportedly “worst novel ever written.”

But it really was.

Son and I crossed the border into our own home state last night and left the southern sunshine behind.

It was almost comical.  We’d been battling bright sun and heat and humid tropical winds for a week in the southern  climes of our nation, and now we were rejoicing that the scenery on our road trip home was finally beginning to look familiar.  Even the weather, I guess.

Wonderfully cool today at 61 degrees.

I notice most of my postings on this recent road trip are about the weather and also that I didn’t check in very often.     That’s because I was so very fatigued every day.   Son and I certainly beat up our bodies with dehydration, too much sun, too much activity,  too little food, and overly busy schedules.   However, we accomplished the needed family business and we had some tourist-type fun too.

Got some fun places to show you.      After.  The.   Body.   Recovers.

Cold “dark and stormy nights”  are good for recoveries!


August 8, 2012

Forecast:  “Darkly stormy with a chance of hope.”

That was the view outside our hotel window on the last day of our unexpected week in Florida.    Son and I went down to check in on my Dad who, we were told,  was doing very poorly. . . .

Well, he was.   And then they were  finally giving him things to drink and worked hard on re-hydrating him.   He began to talk, to eat, to show interest in life again.   We rejoiced.   But we saw things that let us know that his body truly is failing him, and in reality he is indeed “doing very poorly.”

The weather during our whole trip matched our changing moods.   We were under pressure with very hot and humid days.    We saw sudden hard downpours, dark skies, but also sunny days and pleasant skies….and then back to intermittent storm cells again.

We couldn’t “hold on” to any particular weather pattern.  I suspect, when it comes to my Dad, we are not in control either.     But meanwhile, our lives have to go on, and Son and I are on the long drive home.


August 3, 2012

That’s the moon tonight and that’s the Atlantic Ocean at the Florida coastline.  And that’s just where I needed to be tonight.

There are more family issues which call me back here again.    It’s another trip of high hopes and heartaches,  joys and unexpected jolts of reality….

A simpler, sadder trip this time;   simpler because the options for my Dad are fewer, and that makes it sad.

There are complications and complexities in human communications down here too.   It turns out that the urgent timing of this trip may not be so urgent after all.   The actual situation was rather misrepresented.    I’m a little miffed about that,  much was set aside and interrupted to rush down here, but that’s a small thing compared to what my Dad is facing.

So I needed these everlasting and everchanging ocean waters to put things into perspective.



August 2, 2012

As long as Cooper came to the Far North for a visit,  I was thinking:   “a busy grandson is a happy grandson.”     At his age, his “busy-ness” is the learning business.

A day at the zoo,  meeting a burro:

And about a hundred other animals.    Cooper had comments for each one of the animals he saw, and  the noisier the better!     However,  I’m quite sure his favorites were not the caged ones,  but the little wild birds and squirrels that came up close to him.

Cooper experimented with Newton’s physics, hydrology, and gravity (for many hours, I might add):

A little Puddle-Stomping at the park, something this well-travled little boy has done in many countries.    Water is water, the world over:

More serious study time:

Cooper was learning…..   Oh, never mind.   He already knew everything on his I-Pad.      It was Grandma doing the learning here.

Then I showed him how children played in the Old Days.  Here he is on Uncle’s horsie –

Then it was time for some more Family Tradition.   Each year, on Hubbie’s birthday,  we add goldfish to the pond, as he so much liked to do.   Some make it through each winter, and it always gave Hubbie joy to count the goldfish each Spring…and all through the summer too.

Here is Cooper’s Uncle doing the job for Hubbie:

Oh, you can’t see them.

There are as many fish as would match Hubbie’s age;  one fish for each year of age.

It’s a tradition.    It’s  Tradition.    A fun, familiar way to pass down knowledge to the next generation.     Traditions build families.   Breaking with tradition breaks families.

 (Remember “Fiddler on the Roof” and Tevye’s great song “Tradition”?    Do you sympathize with the daughter who broke tradition, marrying someone who could not possibly understand her family’s  traditions?   Well, don’t.    She lost far more than she thinks she gained.    The story falls under the category of Tragedy,   happy music notwithstanding.)

There was one more thing for Cooper to learn on his trip to Grandma’s house.  We needed to tell him about the ones who have come before him, who are still  his family,  who are a part of his own history.

No, he doesn’t understand yet, but he seemed to know there were important things to say . . . .

So much to do!    So many things to learn!

 He did it all.    That was enough, for now.    Cooper and his Mommy and Daddy went back on a plane and are safely at home now.   His home,  his world, all as it should be.