My father and all my uncles served in World War II. Daddy was a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Force and my five uncles served in the Army. All of them came home but one, my Uncle Bill, my father’s youngest brother. He died before my father met my mother, a couple of years before I was born, so I never knew him. On this Memorial Day, I’d like to tell what i know of his story.

My father was the oldest of four children. He and his brother and sister were all born within about three years, beginning in 1912, in Uniontown, Kentucky, where both of their parents were born. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas to start a new business and where William Lyle Hamilton was born in February, 1921. My mother was born the next month, which gives me a little perspective. Here is the first picture I find of Bill, obviously the baby of the family, with my father behind him, his brother, Ed, and his sister, Sarah.Hamilton KidsThe family moved to Oklahoma City at some point, where my grandfather started his automotive parts business, J. C. Hamilton Co. Here is a photo of the family during that time. My father is on the front fender behind his brother, Ed. Bill stands on the running board between his sister and parents. It’s the only photo I can find of the whole family together, but you get the idea. Scan 35Years passed, the children grew up and the boys went into the family business. Sarah married my other Uncle Ed and started their family. When the United States joined World War II, all the men went into service. Here is my Uncle Bill with my grandfather. Clayton & BillMy grandfather was about 5’8″, so Uncle Bill was the smallest of the brothers in the family, besides being the baby. I still don’t know where my father got his height of 6’2″.

The brothers were stationed far apart for their service. I think my Uncle Ed served as a trainer, My Uncle Ed, married to Aunt Sarah, served on General Patton’s staff. My father was a squadron commander, flying out of Africa to Italy, much like the story in the novel and movie, “Catch 22.” Uncle Bill was a Technical Sargeant. That’s what I know.

A few years ago, I traveled to Louisville, KY to go through some papers kept at the Filson Historical Society there. I had been told that the Hamilton papers were in their care and went to explore. I found boxes of papers belonging to my great-grandfather, mostly receipts for his business. But, there was a scrapbook kept by one of my father’s cousins, which was full of information I had never seen. I could only photograph the items quickly, but here are the things I found about my Uncle Bill. First is this article about his last mission.IMG_8720 And then this article from the local paper.IMG_8719All I had ever heard was that he was shot down while parachuting into Germany and was buried there, far from home. Then I found this touching letter, written to my father. I’m not sure how this got into this group of papers, but it showed a big brother trying to find more information about his little brother, probably trying to get answers for my grandparents.IMG_8722IMG_8723The letter shows they didn’t know right away if he was killed or captured, as this letter was written well over a month after he must have been killed, according to the newspaper clip above.

Now I have to imagine how this affected my grandparents and the rest of the family. They were in limbo for I have no idea how long and there is nothing harder than the not knowing – except for the knowing.

My memories of my grandparents are of them laughing and smiling and enjoying their family so much. My grandmother developed painful arthritis and my mother once told me that the doctors said that the stress of losing Bill may have been a factor. She was a grieving mother, but her grandchildren didn’t know this. I was the fifth of nine grandchildren, the middle, and I didn’t hear her speak of Bill. When I was in high school or college, my mother told me that my grandmother still got letters from Bill’s girlfriend. And she told me that my grandmother blamed FDR for her son’s death (because she needed to blame someone) and wouldn’t even have a stamp with his picture on it.

I never heard anyone speak of Bill, but I understand he was always in their hearts. I’ve lost a son at a young age and I know that you have periods of wondering what would his life have been like, where would he be now. And you always love them, they are always with you. I didn’t know these things when I was young and my grandparents were alive, so I never asked. I’m so sorry I didn’t know to let them share with me.

On this Memorial Day, I want to remember the uncle I never knew, the uncle who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our family. I don’t ever want to forget.

Thank you, William Lyle Hamilton. IMG_8718

 

 

You have to admit that the Coronavirus pandemic makes you face a lot of things in your life. This is an update from my last post when I tried to deal with these things early in the event, so I’m repeating myself because our minds tend to do that when there’s not much new to stimulate us and take us out of ourselves. I’ve seen my worst fears rise up from who knows where inside me and loom out there in front of me until I push them back where they came from.

The first one is the obvious if you are a parent. I don’t want anything to happen to my children, their spouses or my grandchildren. It would be devastating to watch any one of them suffer or succumb to this mysterious illness. I’ve always worried about them and I’ve lost my husband and son at young ages to cancer, so I know what I’m talking about here. It is truly devastating and my heart goes out to all who have been victims of this modern day plague. And I also hurt for those who have lost loved ones for any reason and were unable to be with them or other friends and family because of the social distancing. I will stay home or wear my mask (I’m getting quite the collection of cute ones) and practice physical distancing to protect everyone I love. Transmitting this to anyone, especially those I love, would be unforgivable to me.IMG_3816

The second one was serious at the beginning when my retirement funds were plummeting and I wondered what I would do if I lost my security. That one was more of a mental exercise because I know I would be resourceful and survive in some manner. I’ve had to regroup several times in my life and seem to land right side up. But I empathize with those who have lost jobs and income and have no answer in sight. It’s more than frightening and numbing to watch everything freeze up or go away. Americans are generous and helpful, but can we help everyone? It seems like we’re all trying. There is so much to do and so many to worry about.

Next, I’ve had a fear of not getting to do everything, or at least a lot of things, at age 74 while I still can. I’ve felt like I was racing to not miss any opportunity to experience whatever I can before either my mind, body, or money completely stop me. I’ve been stopped, as has the whole world. Maybe because my mother, who lived until almost 85, spent her last few years unable to walk more than a short way from her bed to her chair and back. She was the one, along with my grandmother, who always told me to never turn down an invitation and to explore all the time. My grandmother would say, “Let’s go somewhere” or “Let’s do something,” and off we would be to some new adventure. I was following in their fun footsteps until the world put the brakes on.

It’s been difficult to stay home without seeing my friends or my family. I’ve learned to kick back and enjoy the quiet, reading more, listening to nature as I sit outside on nice days or walk the neighborhood, greeting neighbors I’ve never met but we’re all friends now. Everyone sits out on their never before used porches and waves and smiles. I hope that feeling doesn’t go away.

I’m adapting and trying to stay calm as I watch months or years of my life (how much longer do I have anyway? – balanced by who knows how long any of us have) go by as I stay alone and fill the days with whatever (books, puzzles, cleaning, cooking, walking, television, trying to connect to family and friends) until I go to bed and then get up and do it all again. My sleep is sporadic, but what does it matter? I can nap when I want so I just go with it.

Don’t underestimate this time. It is difficult in different ways for each of us and we never know how others are really dealing with it. It’s a roller coaster of up and down moods and motivations and feelings of I’ve got this control shot by total chaotic responses to any given day. A worst fear was having to be an old person stuck at home alone. And here I am. Sigh.

And, once again, life is teaching me that planning is not what we can control, although planning gives us comfort to face what we should know by now is the unplanned. The challenge of life is to meet the unexpected that is sure to come. As always, being flexible beats being in control as a survival tool.

I’m sending love and hope to everyone out there who is hunkered down or going to work or just getting through this with whatever means you can. It’s just not easy, no matter how hard we try to pretend it is. It’s just another piece of life that we get to live through and hope to be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and maybe a smile and tear later.

Check on each other. You really don’t know how others are doing, no matter what they are pretending. Your call may be the thing that gets them through a low day.

Big imaginary hugs until we really can hug each other again.

 

Fifteen years ago, I started a job as Fundraising Events Manager for Philbrook Museum in Tulsa. My first event was for the holidays, named Festival of Trees, which was decades old at the time. As I learned my way around the museum and began to work with the staff, who were all called upon to help in various ways, I heard grumbling about working on this event. There was a definite problem.

My main focus became to make the work fun for everyone rather than something they dreaded. In a staff meeting, I commented that we weren’t doing brain surgery, we were planning parties. I’m also well aware that planning events is working with elements that you definitely can’t plan for as all kinds of things can go wrong. I told everyone that we should “Be festive, be flexible.” In other words, have fun with it and don’t get so set in our extreme planning that we couldn’t face the unknown things that would definitely pop up.

These words kind of became my mantra with one staff member even making a t-shirt so we would all remember.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe words served all my teams well through the following years, both at the museum and at Oklahoma State University, where I did the same kind of work with college students.

So, here I am today, facing Covid-19, and drawing on all my resources to get through the weeks ahead. I’m having to remind myself of the mantra daily.

First, there was the awful realization that I’m one of the elderly they keep talking about. I’m 74, but that wasn’t a term I applied to myself or my friends. It took a bit for that to sink in and become real.

Then, there was the fact that I’m basically pretty active and going all the time. I’ve felt like I was always running, trying to live my life as fully as I could, see as many places as I could, visit as many friends as I could, before that dreaded old age really did limit my movement in whatever way possible. I’m realistic enough to see that I don’t know when either my body or my mind or my money will prohibit me from doing so many things I love to do. I had just returned from visiting friends in France, traveling by myself, as the virus started to spread into our daily lives.

Who knew it would be a pandemic that would put me in restraints? I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but not this, so it’s probably time for the virus of the century. My grandparents and my father were alive during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, so it’s time for my generation to experience this as history repeats itself yet again.

It started with a feeling of sheer terror, where I woke up in the night, frightened of all that was happening, waking from nightmares. Gradually, I began to realize that my terrors are the same they have always been. I want my children, their spouses, and my eight grandchildren to be safe. This has always been the source of my nightmares – trying to keep them safe when it was totally out of my control. I pray a lot these days. They are smart and seem to be following the rules, even the teenagers and young adults, who are the group most likely to think they are invincible. I have two grandchildren graduating from high school and one from college, who are missing those last months with friends and a nonstop calendar of activities. I hurt for them as they lose these times they were looking forward to, even as I know it will work out in the long run. I don’t know how yet, but it will be ok in the grand scheme of their lives.

Next is the scary feeling when you are around people in a store and have to stay far away from them. I haven’t been out much, and it’s getting to be less all the time, but there are people getting too close, disregarding everything we have been told. The last time I actually shopped, I had thrown a bandana and some cotton gloves into the car at the last minute. When I arrived at the store and saw the line, I put them on and was so glad, despite the looks I got.IMG_3551

I’ve made masks out of bandanas, discovered a box of gloves in the medicine cabinet, and have a go pack in my car of wipes, gloves, hat, masks. We do what we do.

And then there is the quieting of life, the thing I have most dreaded the past years while I was racing around and am finding it is just fine. I’m still having a hard time focusing, so I’m not reading or bingeing as much as I could. I don’t cook insanely for my self locked in. In fact, I’ve got more food around here than I have in years and still go for takeout to support my friends in the restaurant industry. I always knew I couldn’t live without peanut butter on a desert island and I’ve found it to be way too true. I’m stocked up.

The quiet is beginning to feel okay. I have my two dogs, ages 15 and 12, who are so glad to have me home. I’m taking walks which are delightful, even though I walked before. There seem to be more birds singing and the flowers are just beautiful in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s one of the prettiest Springs I can remember. I wish I could get into the Botanical Garden, the museums, The Gathering Place and see all the work their fabulous gardeners have done, but they are sending photos and videos online for us to enjoy.

People are out walking like never before. I’ve never seen some of the dogs being walked, so the animals must be delighted. People speak to each other on the street and smile. People sit in their front yards and on their porches like never before and wave and speak to you. Everyone is smiling, happy to be enjoying the fresh air.

Families are living together as they haven’t done in decades. No sports or after school lessons or activities or late night work to interrupt their time. As this strange time goes on, everyone seems to be taking a breath and realizing what they have been rushing around for is still right here at home.

People are getting creative. Stores and businesses are finding ways to keep going, although I know they are hurting. They are doing curbside pickup and online sales and bring to do it with a smile. Individuals are creating masks, delivery services, art projects, and so many ways to help each other get through these strange times.

We are so very lucky to be living now. This isn’t some medieval time where a plague is running through our village, wiping us all out before we even know what is happening. This isn’t a time when we can’t find out what is going on in the rest of the world until days later. All our news is instant, although we have learned to temper the 24/7 onslaught of information. We can check in and find out the latest.

Mostly, we can communicate with people like never before. We can still write letters, which is wonderful, but we can call, text, use social media like FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter, FaceTime or Skype, have Zoom meetings, and keep up with everyone we have ever known. It’s lifesaving to be able to reach out to other human beings around the neighborhood, the town or city, the state, country or world. We are all connected in this time in ways we never dreamed of even twenty years ago.

Teachers are amazing. My daughter-in-law is a nurse, so I have had my ten year old granddaughter here some of the time and had to help her with school work. The world of technology is bringing the classroom into our homes in ways we never knew. I’m so impressed with the children and the teachers and how it is all working, even as parents and grandparents have to learn how to navigate all the sites and monitor the lessons.

The earth seems to be healing without so many people out there wearing it down. I volunteer with the Sierra Club and have been concerned for years about what is happening to the planet.. Now I see pictures of places where the air and water are returning to their pre-human polluting state. This ought to be a lesson to all of us.

There is a part of me that thinks that Mother Earth sent us a virus to send us inside to heal while the planet healed itself from us. There are lessons to be learned from all that we are going through and I hope we remember them when this passes. Because, we should all have faith that it will.

In the meantime, we are all finding our own pace and our own way of coping. I hope you can all use my mantra and keep a smile on your face even while we are facing the unknown. Look for the positives, the helpers, the people who are making this work through the hard times. Be grateful if you are safe at home with loved ones. Be grateful for those who are out there keeping the world going. Be grateful for those who are taking care of the sick. These times are life and death, but life is somewhat of a festival at times with all the good and the bad that an event can bring.

Be Festive, Be Flexible. We will get through this with our personal strengths and with each other.

I took this picture of one of my daughters and her daughter because it both amused me and made me think. img_0861It looks like my family has made it. You can just look at the way we dress and see that we are successful…not to mention on trend, with it, cool.

I’m not judging the style of torn clothing because I actually get it. Good grief, I’ve been through seven decades of the latest looks and have worn everything from madras plaids to bell bottoms, from spike to stack heels. I wore alligators and polo players on my shirts and ratted my hair into a bubble and then wore it in a Dorothy Hamill wedge. We all have our looks to cringe at as we look back.

This time, I’ve skipped the trend and I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Partly, it’s because I’m 74 and don’t really think it looks good for me. I could pull it off, I think, but it just makes me grin. I think the reason goes deeper.

When I was growing up, torn or broken anything was a sign that you couldn’t get it fixed. You either didn’t know how or couldn’t afford to have someone else do it. My brother wore double thick knees on his jeans so they wouldn’t wear out that season. There were iron-on or sew on patches you could buy. We could cut our jeans off to wear ragged or turned up, but you wouldn’t wear them with holes in them. Our mothers would have been horrified. With good reason.

My mother grew up in Ardmore, OK during the depression. Her father died when she was 5 or 6 and her mother raised two boys and a girl with a small neighborhood grocery and by whatever means she could find. My mother said they had dignity because they owned their house so they weren’t thrown out even when the gas was turned off. Here is my grandmother in a glamorous pose.12CC4F9C-D9E7-43D5-B180-C40A3B2FAE89_1_201_aMy grandmother kept my mother’s dresses to make quilts. I have a few well worn quilts and some unfinished quilt tops from then that show the thinness of the fabrics. There was no waste in those days. They couldn’t afford it.IMG_0549My mother always looked stylish after she started working. Here she is when she was young.9BC5B5BD-716C-4FAF-BFE7-91DCF9643062_1_201_a

My other grandmother grew up poor in Uniontown, KY. Her mother died when she was 12 and she worked from an early age. Here is the earliest photo I have of her, after she was married to my grandfather and was living with his parents.imageI only have photos of three of my great-grandmothers. This is my father’s paternal grandmother, shown with him. These were their everyday clothes. They weren’t poor, but they had lots of children to keep dressed.IMG_8887This is my mother’s paternal grandmother, shown with my mother and her brothers. My mother may be wearing one of the dresses that ended up in a quilt. My mother told me her grandmother dressed the same way until she died, wearing layers of clothes as they did in the late 1800s. The earliest information I can find out about her is that she worked as a house servant in Texas when she was 14. Later she married and traveled to Ardmore, OK by covered wagon, where they set up the West Wagon Yard and did pretty well, although she always lived very simply.Scan 2This is my mother’s paternal grandmother. They were poor, living on a farm in southern Oklahoma. Both she and my grandfather ended up, literally, at the poor farm. I’m not sure if they were suffering from dementia or just couldn’t afford to live on the farm anymore, but I learned that they both died at the home in Vinita, OK. She was buried there and the family managed to bring him home later. IMG_6970So, I stand in the middle of the generations, looking back at my great-grandmothers who lived difficult lives, but managed to patch their children’s clothes and keep the families together, to my grandmothers, who both were poor as children, but worked hard and raised their families, to me, who was born to a comfortable lifestyle, which my husband and I worked hard to provide for our children.

My son was always the best at seeing the latest trends, so I know he would have laughed at the current one of the torn clothing. He was already there at 11 (about 1987), being himself. His mother (me) wasn’t going to patch those jeans since he was perfectly comfortable in them and growing to fast for me to worry about and we were just out fishing. He probably wore them other places and I just rolled my eyes. scan 2Our family has made it, if you look at the generations. I have grown children and grandchildren who can afford to buy expensive, torn clothing to show how well we are doing. I think I understand why I haven’t embraced this trend. I’m stuck in the middle of those who had nothing and those who have much. I look back and I look forward and I appreciate the progress. These are my people and I love them all.

Last weekend, I took a long drive to the Talimena Scenic Byway in southeastern Oklahoma to see the fall foliage and enjoy the spectacular views. It is always refreshing to enter the Ouachita Mountains (pronounced wash-i-ta) and begin to see pine trees along with the native oaks along the way. As you turn onto the Talimena scenic drive which runs between Oklahoma and Arkansas, you begin to climb the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and find numerous scenic view turnouts.

While walking around the Panoramic Scenic View Area, I found myself beside a tall, large, young man (maybe 30), who suddenly turned to me and said, “Have you ever seen a view like this?” He was so excited and thrilled. I told him I have, but that this is one of my favorites in the world, which it is.dsc_0800 He said this was his first time to come here and I told him I come whenever I can. I asked him where he was from and he said, “Checotah,” which is about an hour and a half away. Then he told me that he didn’t have much of a Bucket List because he didn’t have much money, but he had a Thimble List. I told him this was definitely a great place to have on it. He told me he had never seen the ocean, but was planning to go next year. He told me that even if you were Rembrandt, whom he admired, you could never outdo the Lord’s work. I told him it was definitely a place to restore your soul.

About that time, his wife joined him and they walked away, but I stood there, looking at the views, thinking about what he said. A Thimble List. What a great thing for all of us to have.dsc_0789I watched the shadows from the clouds spread across the valley and took in all the beauty around me. dsc_0795We all need a Thimble List, which I define as a list of places to visit and things to do that are not unobtainable, not far from home. I can’t criticize him for just now getting to this beautiful place because I didn’t see it for the first time until I was in my late 50s or 60s. It’s only 2 1/2 hours from my home, but I might have missed it.

We all need to find places of beauty, try new experiences, meet new people and there are so many places we walk by every day or don’t take the time to enjoy, even when they are close to home. Sometimes those places are harder to take time to explore because our daily schedules are so busy and full of activities that range from work to sitting in front of the television and we don’t just get up and do it. We only plan for things that take us far away from our routines.

In the rush of time that I’m facing as I get older, I find that the little things on my Thimble List mean as much to the quality of my life as the larger things that I try to experience. My Bucket List is full of dreams that may or may not happen, but my Thimble List is doable.

Look at your own Thimble List and do something this week! You won’t regret it.

My 10 year old granddaughter was experimenting in the kitchen, trying to make something with ice and a Grapette. Grandmothers know what a mess can be made but are a slight bit more tolerant than parents.

I’m not sure exactly what she was trying to achieve, but I told her I knew exactly what to do. I dug around and pulled out an old ice tray and filled it with Grapette and froze it. This gave her a history lesson (What’s an ice tray?) as well as brought back so many memories for me.img_0459Way back in the 1950s, when I was younger than my granddaughter now, we used to drive to visit my grandmother in Ardmore, Oklahoma. At that time, until the turnpikes and highways were built, the drive from Tulsa took at least four hours and involved going through multiple small towns and then winding along the narrow roads through the Arbuckles until you hit a flat road into Ardmore.IMG_0526This doesn’t look too bad, but it was narrow with big trucks going by quickly.  It used to scare me, sitting in the back seat looking at the drop off. I can now drive myself through the mountains in California and Colorado without freaking out, but it took me a long time to get over this minor childhood trauma (I had a great childhood).

When we got to my grandmother’s house, which was mostly in the summer when school was out, she would greet us and we would run to the kitchen and look in the refrigerator for squares, as we called them. These were the days when Kool-Aid was new and she would make a pitcher with lots of sugar and water (no instant in those days) and then freeze it in ice trays for us. We would grab a few squares (usually cherry or grape) in a bowl and take it to the front porch where we could sit on the porch swing and suck the sweetness out of those frozen treats. In Oklahoma, when it was hot and no or little air conditioning, this was the best.

Now, I know this isn’t the healthiest treat for any of us and I really like fruits and nuts, but this memory was so powerful. Add in the fact that I used a Grapette, which was our favorite drink in the summer (we used to pour it over ice cream for a special treat) and I couldn’t resist. My granddaughter took her bowl of squares to the glider (which was my mother’s) on the deck on a sunny fall day.

I took a square. There is no way that she got the same feelings that I did from this frozen experience. Besides the instant rush of grape flavor, there was a flood of memories of my grandmother, my mother, sitting on the porch swing, the drive, all of it.

IMG_0528Maybe my granddaughter will remember doing this – maybe not. That’s ok since we have plenty of other memories we’ve shared. For me, this was a trip back in time, into my heart and soul, for the sweetest of times, the times of love and family.

I didn’t give it a name for a long time. PTSD was something that soldiers brought back from war, not something that people living ordinary lives had. That was beyond naive, as I found in the years following my husband’s death.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome: A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions

My husband had cancer, but we didn’t think it was close to the end as there were still things we were exploring. He didn’t feel well, so stayed home from work that morning, over 21 years ago, and I fixed him breakfast before I left to run an errand. When I returned after less than an hour, the house was eerily silent and I went upstairs to find him on the floor. Sparing you the details, which I could recount easily without pause, it was a shock, a shock to my system.

None of us understands what happens to make us react to some events in one way and to other events in another. I spent months, years dealing with that shock. I would relive it at odd times and at recognizable times until I learned to, literally, stop the film, not let it rerun in its entirety. If I wanted to, I could play it at any time now, but I don’t.

What I learned is to look around and realize that I am not the only one in this situation. I learned that, no matter how compassionate and sympathetic I had been to my friends who lost someone, I’d not really understood. At least, my understanding wasn’t as educated by experience as it was now was.

Fast forward and I’ve been through other life traumas, but none that rattled my brain like that one. No particular reason for that one other than it was so unexpected at the moment. My brain didn’t cope with it or process as I normally would have. Other things that happened were awful, but my brain didn’t react the same way. I processed better. Then this new incident shook me.

I’ve always had pets, dogs and cats along with the hamsters and lizards that came with having children. Twelve years ago, I went to get a kitten and ended up with two brothers because I couldn’t make a choice or separate them. They were billed as Siamese/Tabby mix and weighed one pound each. Mickey was named for Mickey Mantle because he batted at things with both feet, a switch hitter. He was more burly looking and was the sweetest boy, always doing something silly or cuddling up with the dogs or me. Guy was definitely Siamese, named Guy because I thought he was female and gave him a girl name until I found out. He did not like to be held or confined, but loved to be petted and purred so loudly you could hear him across the room. He was elegant and strong. So we lived our lives with the girl dogs and the boy cats existing in harmony. The boys were inside outside cats and spent time with their secret lives outside, but mostly hanging around the yard or curled up inside. They were street smart as to dogs, cars, hawks and owls and even an occasional fox.

I left on a trip this summer and didn’t see Mickey as I left. I kept checking but nobody had seen him and I was sick at heart. When I got back, Guy was missing, too. I was heart-broken and posted notices, went to the animal shelter, drove around calling so they might hear my car or voice. Nothing. Not a sign. The answer was a Facebook post showing a coyote nearby. I knew immediately what had happened. You need to understand that I live in the city, an urban area, although there are creeks and the Arkansas River within a couple of miles. We’re not in the country where I might have expected this. This is a predator who has invaded our city, taking pets from yards. We had severe flooding this spring, coupled with ever present development, so I can’t blame the animals for being animals.

But still. I’ve tried to go all Circle of Life on this, but it is haunting me. Maybe I’ve watched too many nature shows and watched how brutal it is. Maybe the online descriptions of pets being taken in front of their owners and descriptions of the torn carcasses got to me. I’ve had nightmares of my boys being grabbed and so on. One night my older dog barked for hours, which I’ve never heard her do. She heard or sensed something outside that was wrong. Her bark wasn’t even normal and it was creepy. It’s another PTSD because it is a shock to my brain even though I didn’t witness anything. I’m getting better, but it stings and it’s taking longer than I thought to turn off.

The lesson I’m taking from this is that there are predators in our world and they interrupt our everyday lives with their horror. I’m suddenly thinking what I would feel if I were a parent or spouse and my loved one was killed by a predator while doing normal things like going to school or a movie or a concert or shopping, or if I were in the middle of an attack, watching people being shot around me when we were supposed to be doing something ordinary. I can only imagine how their sleep is interrupted with terrifying images, how they try to move every day knowing their loved one was ripped from them or they saw the horrible aftermath of the attack. Even if you weren’t there in person, your imagination takes over and the happy memories roll around with the horror until you can learn to separate and deal with it all.

My lesson for us all is that we don’t know what predators are attacking people we see in our everyday lives. The predator could be disease or violence or anything they are trying to process with their heart and brain. We don’t process every event the same because we are human and we can’t always control our reactions.

My thought is that we need to be kind to each other. Always be kind.

Oh so many years ago, my college roommate and I were having one of those deep discussions about life when she made the comment that I had a great ability to see things from all points of view. I considered it a compliment and buried it in my mind as something I should work to improve.

Fast forward a bunch of years to a conversation with my mother. I had grown children by this time and we were discussing something that had happened many years ago. I told the story and she said, “that’s not how it happened at all.” I sat stunned because I knew I remembered it correctly, but she told me her version. In an eye opening flash, I realized that both our versions were true – to us at least. That moment has stayed with me ever since as I live and observe my family and friends.

I adored my mother, most of the time. She had the annoying habit of always wanting to be right. Even more annoying to me was that she was right even when I didn’t want her to be. She had a lot of common sense and strong opinions, while I was more inclined to be a peacemaker in the family and avoid arguments. I identified more with my father when I was young, often because my mother always considered him the most wonderful man in the world. And, I was a lot like him in personality, not the wonderful part.

Through the years, I grew more like my mother in some ways and she mellowed in her opinions. Some of the most enlightening times were when I went to her as an adult with serious issues and she absolutely understood and supported me, even when I would have thought it contradicted everything I thought she believed. She would relate a story from her life that corresponded and let me know that had been there or seen this before. We grew closer as we both got older through our serious talks.

My Mommy was the most fun, always ready to go anywhere, always laughing with us. We did everything from driving around town to see what was new to traveling to foreign cities. She taught me to never turn down an invitation and to see everything you could wherever you were. She grew up poor during the depression and wasn’t able to go to college but was one of the most educated people I have known. She read and talked to people and never quit learning.

But, with all her wonderfulness, we had our moments when I gritted my teeth and was so mad at her. I stood my ground when I needed to and quietly let her think I was doing it her way when it worked. I was a teenaged girl with an all knowing mother when I really didn’t want to be understood. I wanted to be me, not her. Why didn’t she get that? As an adult, I tolerated her desire to be constantly in my life, showing up at my house unexpectedly whenever. Gad! So annoying. So annoying to be loved when I just wanted to be mad.

Back to my original point, I think about all of these things a lot as I watch my own grown children with their getting to be adult children. And, of course, I try to see it within the full circle. To say I get my mother now more than ever is an understatement.

In the past few weeks, several of my friends have mentioned that their grown children aren’t speaking to them and they are trying to understand what happened. I think about how our stories are true to ourselves, even when someone else’s version differs greatly. The different versions are due to being different ages when whatever happened, plus distorted by personality. Stories that are similar are those that have been shared, so siblings may remember it one way because they talked about it without the parent’s version. Stories that are shared with the whole family become family lore with everyone on the same page.

I listen to my friends who have shared with me over the years and can’t pinpoint what would cause a rift. But, I only know their version. As one said, “We did plenty of eye rolls with our parents.” Yes, we did. I see the eye rolls all the time with my own and try to absorb it as my mother did. What else can you do?

So, now I’m in the last part of my life, which could end anywhere from now to twenty or thirty years from now. Who knows? I also know I could outlive some of my children and grandchildren because I’ve already outlived my son. I think of my mother who was a stay at home mother back when everyone was and then found herself with the empty nest and an estranged child and then alone, wanting nothing more than to share whatever moments and memories she could with her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We rolled our eyes and were annoyed and did include her as much as we wanted to, which could not possibly have been as much as she wanted to be with us. I knew and had my selfish moments that I’m not proud of, even when I knew what she needed.

We love our children and try to at least give them things that are funny to do the eye rolls about and cherish the moments they share their lives with us without thinking about it because they want us there. I love the sharing on social media where I can see my friends’ families and their memories. I am also very aware of my friends who don’t have family moments to share and live with heartbreak. I also know there can be sadness behind even the happiest published photos. Life is…life.

My mother would get all of this, just as I get where she was in her last years. She knew I never meant to hurt her feelings and lived for what time she had with us. She loved all of us through the good times and the difficult ones because she got to share all of it.

In the end, the versions of the stories make it hard when you don’t try to see the other side and time goes by way too quickly and then it’s over. Life truly is short. Hopefully, loving memories prevail and time is not wasted and lives are shared for as long as possible with greater understanding as we each stand in the other’s shoes.

The greatest story to share in life is love.

Looking at this picture of my family on Easter, 1953, you must notice the unique Easter baskets we are holding. I’m not sure why we all look so serious, but those baskets bring a smile to my face today.

For many years, the ladies at my grandmother’s church made and sold these baskets in the Spring. I remember going with her one time and watching them put them together, probably in a lively assembly line. There were actually two styles: the petal basket shown here and one that was more of a gathered skirt. I always liked the petals.

My grandmother was raised Catholic, but converted to the Episcopal Church when she married my grandfather, probably because you couldn’t marry outside the church in the early 1900s. They grew up in the same small town and were married for 55 years, raising three sons and a daughter. Their youngest son died in World War II, with all the boys and their son-in-law serving in the military. I am the middle of their nine grandchildren and spent a lot of time visiting and staying with them, absorbing a lot of lessons about love and marriage just being around them. One of the things I think about when I remember the baskets is how my grandmother’s hands were crippled by arthritis. She also had a finger that she couldn’t bend, the result of blood poisoning when she cut it on a tin cup from what I remember. That makes me appreciate the delicate work on the baskets and makes them even more dear to me.

When I first thought about the baskets, I thought I might still have one and I found it. I must have saved this when I was older, so they made them for many years. Even after all these years, you can see the work. They started with a Quaker oatmeal box and cut it down. I guess the handle was wire, wrapped in ribbon. The petals and the little flowers are heavy crepe paper, cut and shaped very delicately. All the pieces were assembled with precision by these women, working in their small Episcopal church in Oklahoma City. The church was later closed (maybe moved to a larger location, but I don’t know). I heard the building I remembered became a bar.

I’m 73 now and in the Easter picture I was 7, so the years have zoomed by. So many things forgotten and so many special things remembered. I don’t have any profound observations about this memory, but it’s a happy one and a window to the past, my past. I wish you and your families and friends many special experiences to create your memories. Happy Easter, Happy Spring.

This seems so redundant, writing about losing my son. It’s been eight years today since that phone call woke me. He was gone, died in his sleep. It had been ten years since he was diagnosed with cancer and he was cancer free, but the treatments had ravaged his body and it just gave out. He was thirty-five years old with a wife and fifteen month old daughter.

So today is like all the days since. He’s not here and we all keep on living, knowing that our lives are different for loving and losing him. We are different, each of us who knew him. That’s how it works. That person and his or her life is absorbed into your own life and you keep going with all the things that you had in that relationship.

I’m pretty stoic about the whole thing, usually unable to cry after losing my husband and then my son. But, today, I saw down to write and find a picture that I could use and I started sobbing. That is unusual and was unexpected. It all came out while I looked at pictures of his life. I don’t know what that says really. I know we never get over these losses, but we go on, day after day.

I’m 73 now and my thoughts often go to the time I have left and how I want to spend it. I have no idea how many years I have left – do any of us? And I do squander several hours/days a week not doing anything that productive at all. It’s tiring to make all of it count, isn’t it?

Mainly, I try to keep in touch with friends and spend as much time with them as possible.  My family is around and I get to observe and participate as much as they let me. I used to say I wanted to stay healthy enough to keep up with my grandkids. These days, I want to stay healthy enough to watch them grow and live their lives.

I have seven grandkids between the ages of 17 and 21 and a nine year old. Every step of their lives that I get to witness is a treasure. The flip side of that is that every year that I am with them is another year for them to have memories of me. And I want to make that count. My maternal grandmother and my paternal grandparents were such an important part of my life and I only wish I had more memories, more information about them, more, more, more. With people marrying later and later and putting off having children, I wonder if there will even be grandparents at some point. It would be sad.

So, I dream now of watching my grandkids graduate, get jobs, marry and have some very special great-grandchildren for me. Well, not for me, but you know what I mean. Every day is a treat, a time to discover something new, an opportunity to explore and share. Sunrises and sunsets are still a wonder. The ocean, the sky, mountains and deserts are still miracles. Every living creature is still amazing.

But, today…today, I’m just a mom who lost a child. A mom who flipped through pictures and chose this one to share because it sums up a whole lot to me. Life.img_5786