Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘grandchildren’

When I was 5 years, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. (John Lennon)

 The young Beatle-to-be obviously didn’t have nuns as teachers. He would have been knocked down a step or two, or three, or four. With or without a cracking ruler.

If only happiness didn’t need to be pursued. I tell my grandchildren they are important often. Sure, action and discipline remain necessary. The-world-owes-me makes a sad goal. However, a happy-to-be-alive everyday life isn’t easy to achieve.

“You need to live to be 138,” one grandchild told me recently. “I’m going to need you that long.”

Sweet. Yes. And yet a potent message. A need to be assured remains powerful.

The little things. Always the little things. How well or poorly are they set together?

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

open door

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. (Ernest Hemingway

In 2012 I wrote a journal during Lent when memories of trauma ate through the present. Today I survive, as imperfectly as everyone else. I decided to reread an entry or two. This story appeared on an ordinary Wednesday when I was babysitting two of my granddaughters. Rebe was four and Ella was a toddler:  

I’m rinsing breakfast dishes as the doorbell rings. Jay is busy with Ella, so I answer. Outside a young girl stands sobbing. She asks to use our phone.

     “Who are you?” I ask.

     She doesn’t answer. Instead she tells me her boyfriend beat her up, and she wants to call the police.

     Jay is standing behind me by now. He holds Ella. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want this girl standing out in the cold. I let her in and get her a glass of water, then finish the dishes as she calls from our living room.

     When I get back, Ella blows kisses to her and the girl smiles and tells me she has a one-year-old child.

     “How old are you?”

     “Eighteen.”

     The girl’s skin is a flawless ebony. I would have guessed she was much younger.

     While I don’t watch the clock, it seems like a long time until two policewomen arrive in two separate cars.

     We leave the room. I need to change Ella’s diaper anyway. On our way into the bedroom we hear one of the officers ask, “So why do you stay with him?”

     Apparently this is not a first-time event.

     After the girl leaves with bus money we provide, one of the policewomen comes back into the house and chides us for our kindness. This girl’s live-in is trouble. It is her choice to remain in jeopardy. Drugs are an issue.

       We should have called the police and made her stay on the porch. Twenty-twenty hindsight. (Although, an addition added to this entry in 2020, I doubt I would have followed her advice. After all, an abused eighteen-year-old girl is a child in need.)

Ella as a baby

       I am relieved later while Ella and Rebe watch Caillou, a children’s cartoon show, where a lost toy dinosaur is the only problem. Two little girls wrapped in the discovery of a stuffed toy and the loving concern of Caillou’s father.

     Real life isn’t always that sweet. I have been fortunate. My flaw today was trust. Yet, I pray that our little Ella’s blown kisses can be a blessing into the soul of this lost girl. A seed, perhaps. One that can grow someday, even if I never see it blossom.

Read Full Post »

It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home. (Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road)

She hands me a five-dollar bill and I can’t think of any reason to refuse. The giver’s name isn’t necessary. She lives among the many who have more health-need expenses than income. “For Jay’s birthday present.”

I’ll think of some way to get the money back to her. In another form maybe. Although I need to admit the cash-concern is my problem, not hers. She gives because she is my friend. The salt-of-the-earth kind of acquaintance. The Matthew 5:13 variety. The kind who is entertained with a cup of coffee and background oldies music. And asks no more. “I’ll be your friend forever,” she says. I believe it.

Later that afternoon I glance around the neighborhood. The gentle couple next door. He cuts our grass and trims the edges. Both husband and wife watch our house when we aren’t home. Another couple, their friendly house on the corner—these two young persons have saved us more than they know.

Our little town. Inside a hostile world. Government crime and greed remain. I continue to work toward a better world for all. Yet, I’m not sure I would have the energy without companions who care on an everyday level. Thanks. May karma, the good kind, embrace you.

Read Full Post »

The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them. (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.)

Ella and I play trick-or-treat any time of the year. Our version transcends reality. The costume takes over the wearer. A skeleton drinks apple juice and it passes from bone to bone to the front porch.

Today Ella wants me to be permanent trick-or-treater while she adjusts the treat to the visitor.

“Hi,” I say, then complain. “I’m a tree, and yeah, I know the peaceful nature scene. Quiet. The woods. All that. But I have bugs climbing all over me. Squirrels are nuts. They don’t just eat them. And the birds? That early morning song is nice enough, but the pre-dawn time can get on your sap after a while.”

Ella smiles and then takes on a composed expression. “Okay. Here’s a woodpecker.”

I’m immediately out of character. Our girl has a sense of humor. Down syndrome, yes. Up personality? No question about it.

 

photo a combination of pic taken in our backyard and portion of public domain pic

Read Full Post »

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. (Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker)

On Labor Day afternoon my granddaughter, Ella, and I play fast-food restaurant. She is at the drive-through and I am a 107-year-old customer with a special request. Since my chewing is limited, I want my order cut into small pieces: 2 hamburgers, a couple dozen chicken nuggets, five orders of fries.

She is willing to oblige.

“How much is that?” I ask as I reach for my invisible order from my imaginary car. (Fortunate, since at 107, more than chewing mechanisms would be out of order. Driving may not be advisable.)

“Nine hundred dollars.” She grins.

Wow! Service charges have gone up everywhere. However, in the pretend world I can reach into my pocket and find five dollars, a thousand dollars, or a magic frog.

Perhaps I should have given her the magic frog.

Imagination. I hope it stays with me until I am old enough to keep the nursing home entertained.

Ella’s real-life gifts appear as I get lunch ready. She makes Lego creations for my friend, Ann, to see by feeling them. Ann has been blind since birth. I don’t mind that Ella sits next to Ann instead of me.

After the meal, Ella brings Ann to our toy shelf and shows her safe-for-kid paint jars, stuffed animals, cars.

I watch. Enriched. Ella has Down syndrome: I am grateful to be favored by the up of her existence.

 

Read Full Post »

 

Asking ourselves, “Where am I right now?” gives us a chance to step outside the internal dialogue for a moment of peace. Look around you, take a deep breath and notice what you see, hear and feel. Present moment awareness is the point of power and choice. It frees us from our compulsive thoughts. (Laura Harvey)

Okay. It’s time to organize. Or, should I have started these projects years ago? I haven’t been allowed to lift anything heavier than five pounds for more than a month. Now that my cataract surgeries are completed my eagerness to begin is heightened.

My eight-year-old grandson Dakota wants to help. He eyes the paper shredder. “Anything to shred?”

“No…Wait!” Folders lie stacked on top of one another. Copies of short stories already published. Stories I abandoned—for good reason. Early chapters of my books, The Curse Under the Freckles, Stinky Rotten Threats, and The Ugly Mood Storm. The Ugly Mood Storm, the third book in the series, will come out in October.

Sure. I could recycle the pages without shredding, but my young buddy likes the noise and the action. He knows how far away to keep his fingers from the blade, the source of the noise he enjoys.

The past returns as I open each folder. Mistakes circled in red on the page. Mistakes made in life jump out as well. Years cycle through as I open each worn folder.

“Oh,” I say.

“Something wrong?” he asks.

“No. It’s just a name of someone I used to know.” Someone who died.

He pauses to make sure I’m okay.

I celebrate the messy, beautiful present, my young grandson on the floor next to me.

Dakota continues to work, sorry when the shredder needs time to cool, sorry when the last sheet becomes a mass of white slivers. Then he is happy to play another game.

I take a deep breath and notice the whir of the air conditioning on one of the latter days of summer.

“See you next Thursday,” Dakota says.

His enthusiasm brings me a gift no amount of money can buy.

In the scheme of things where am I right now? Not sure I know, but it’s a mighty fine place.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. (Robert Service, writer)

I’m ready to start editing, eyes on the computer, coffee cup in my hand. And I set the cup on the pull-out board of my old desk—right smack on top of a pen. Gravity wins. Every thought I had falls out with the hot liquid, onto the floor and rug. Time to wash a load of caffeine-soaked rags.

An unplanned cleanup becomes the metaphorical grain of sand in my shoes, the shoes I’m not wearing yet. Sunrise is fresh and I’ve already drowned the day in spilled coffee. Far from an important event, but I can turn it into an omen. Easily.

Time to brainstorm some perspective. Random fun memories for starters. When the memory occurred doesn’t matter:

A granddaughter at play. She introduces herself as the teacher, Mrs. Tushman. Mrs. Man for short…

My grandson’s huge brown eyes and his turn as pilot. “We’re flying 20 miles and it will take 20 hours…”

Years ago, my parents gathered my siblings and me into the car. We were going somewhere. It could have been a trip to a park. It could have been a trip for ice cream.  The fun came with the surprise. The smell of popcorn! It’s a drive-in movie.

I smile. The splattered area is relatively dry.

I consider simple signs of love that have happened within the past 24 hours:

A thank-you note from my friend, Liz. We haven’t seen one another for years. Our friendship is rekindling.

My husband’s words, “Wait, I’ll do that!” as I carry dishes from the table to the sink.

Countless opportunities to give back. Someone could use a reach-out call from me right now.

I’d like to think that the next time I get in my own way I will be instantly forgiving. Probably not. Besides, the mountain ahead remains ahead.

Companions appear along the way. However, the climber needs to grasp each rock to succeed.

I didn’t really need another cup of jitters anyway.

 

Read Full Post »

 

Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

Read Full Post »

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. (Edgar Guest, poet)

My husband and I received two plants. As living, growing, loving gifts from our church family. Neither Jay nor I garden or know the difference between a weed and a rare flower, a mushroom and a toadstool. He takes care of watering indoor plants. Mother Nature tends to the outdoors.

These two plants belong outdoors. I assumed that after a few days, my husband had taken both small green pots from the screened-in back porch to their home outside. Only one made it. The other isn’t dead, but it is malnourished, waiting to be rescued. Drooping, brown-edged leaves fall from the side.

I watered the plant and placed it next to its healthier peer.

Peer? Yes. Planted at the same time. One starving, the other well-fed.

The individual who blasts views different than mine may look like the failing plant to me; he or she may think I am in the dying pot. Either way, negative judgment leads nowhere.

The man begging at the corner may be an alcoholic and drug addict; he may be a veteran with PTSD, or someone who lost everything from inadequate health insurance or despair. Appearances don’t tell the whole.

A storm last night watered both plants. No change in the flowerless pot yet. I want instant results. Real life rarely works that way. Next step—I must check with the person who gave us the greenery and get a hint or two. My plant knowledge may remain in the pre-kindergarten stage, but, any level of increased caring can help.

In the meantime, my seven-year-old grandson and I tinker with my failing printer. He is fascinated with the parts, with anything mechanical. The copy of his sight-words homework appears. The printer has come to life; he is ecstatic. I don’t know much about anything mechanical, like a printer. He doesn’t know much about printers or words.

We have no idea what we did right, but our work together has succeeded. Peers in a different sense. Okay, I did the work until my son came and finalized the original problem. (The machine was trying to send a non-existent fax.) My grandson brought the enthusiasm. The mix worked.

May people with differing points of view find the best in one another. Someday. Rich and poor, conservative and liberal, as equals. It may be the only way.

 

Read Full Post »

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open. (John Barrymore)

My grandson, Dakota, and I explore our backyard with his new red plastic truck. It’s large enough for him to sit on it. I’m grateful he realizes I would crush it. A septuagenarian squatting that low and then maneuvering the toy from a bug’s height, would be a sight for the neighbors. I wouldn’t want them to anticipate a 911-call.

“You know you won’t live forever,” he says.

“Yes, I do. That’s why I celebrate time with you, give to others, and love as much as I can.”

He doesn’t answer and continues playing with the truck. We create ramps from National Geographic Magazines. He rolls construction paper and tapes it with heavy tape. My granddaughters’ baby doll bottles in the center maintain firmness.

We let the moments speak for themselves, the challenge to roll or unroll. To go over the ramp with the truck or bypass it. If one tactic doesn’t work, Dakota tries another. My little buddy doesn’t give up easily.

I consider how quickly the notion, not-good-enough, flashes into my mind. I know it was taught to me in childhood. What isn’t good enough? The statement is too generic to be true. Nevertheless, the temptation to just-forget-it rises far too often. For most human critters, both young and old.

My friend, Cathie, calls. She hasn’t seen me at the Y for a while. Either I have been entertaining grandkids or working on my book. She has something to give me.

“When I saw this, all the bright colors,” she says, “I thought of you and just had to get it.”

I plan to meet Cathie. On Friday morning. At ten AM.

She has made a pillow. Cathie is a seamstress. She uses her gift to celebrate other people.

“It’s pre-hugged,” she says, holding the pillow through the plastic bag against her chest.

Since we have both been in the pool, we are soaking wet. A chlorine hug doesn’t negate the love attached to her or her work.

Life isn’t perfect. It never will be. However, with grandchildren like Dakota and friends like Cathie, sweetness is easier to find.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: