Fathers Day

~ Papa and me ~

Tomorrow is the 100th Anniversary of Fathers Day, a day set aside to honor and remember our fathers and forefathers. This year music is on my mind.

My father discovered his passion for music when he heard Woody Guthrie on the radio for the first time. He learned how to play the guitar as a young man and when I was little, apparently I loved to dance when he was singing and playing. Dad also taught himself how to play the piano, and many nights I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of his simple tunes. We had Peter, Paul & Mary records in the house, and his favorite piece of classical music is Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

~ me ~

I look at the picture of me next to my father playing his guitar, and even though I don’t remember that far back, I somehow think that this is where it all began. My love of troubadours playing their guitars and singing their own songs… My dad’s gift to me.

My paternal grandfather was twenty-eight years old on the first Fathers Day, and in this country only a year. He was a Ukrainian immigrant who bitterly regretted coming to America. He lived with us until he died, when I was in third grade. I have no memory of Pop ever showing us any affection. He spent his days cutting and clearing the brush in the woods around our house. My sister and I were afraid of him because if we bothered his neat piles of wood he would furiously wave his axe at us and shout at us menacingly in Ukrainian. I suspect it was a good thing that we had no idea what he was saying.

So… I was very surprised several years ago, when my father happened to mention one day that when his father was a young man in the Ukraine he crafted his own fiddle and played it at the weekly dances in his village. (I wonder if this was what attracted my grandmother?) It gave me a new dimension of his personality to consider…

John Philip Sousa

The difference between a fiddle and a violin? There’s really no difference, but the old saying is that the violin sings and the fiddle dances.

My adored maternal grandfather was five years old on the first Fathers Day. I wonder how his family celebrated the new holiday? Oh the questions we never think of asking until it is too late! He played the trombone and his favorite musician was John Philip Sousa. When Grandfather was a young man living in New Canaan, Connecticut, he played the trombone in a marching band and he often spoke of those days as some of the happiest ones in his life. It was always a treat when he pulled out his trombone to play a few notes for us. When he hummed he even sounded like a  trombone!

Woody Guthrie

As Dad slips further into dementia I am happy for the days we spent listening to Woody together. I gave him The Asch Recordings, a box set of 105 Guthrie songs. We also watched at least four different Guthrie DVDs over the past few years. Good memories for both of us…

I’m looking forward to seeing my dad tomorrow. I hope he will be having a good day, but even if he isn’t we will make the best of it. Play some music… Talk about the things he can remember…

my mother

Write something, anything…

Tonight there will be a full moon. Today is the day my mother died, nineteen long years ago. She was only 59. I was only 34. So young, the both of us. Fifty-nine seemed like such a long way off then, and here I am now, at fifty-three, wondering at the last nineteen years, each day so long in the living and yet the years speeding by. My son is 34. I look at him and try to imagine him motherless, as I became at his age.

It’s amazing that I still miss her so and often wonder what life would now be like if she was here… Somehow I want to do something in her memory, but I’m not sure how…

Elisabeth J. White

Mom was a nature lover and avid bird watcher. One time she found a baby owl that lived in our bathroom for a while until it was ready for release. Our childhood was spent camping, canoeing, and hiking. She was a physical therapist and loved to read. If she wasn’t outside, she had her nose in a newspaper or book.

Her high school classmates said of her: “With charm of soul possessed by her, she rules herself.” So true. Until I left home, I was unaware of the “war between the sexes.” My parents had a true egalitarian relationship. Mom disliked cooking and it was unremarkable to me that Dad did the cooking and Mom mowed the lawn. They modeled interdependence and mutuality for me and my sister.

She loved her grandchildren, my children, and took each of them separately for a special week-long visit at Grandma’s before she was too ill to enjoy them. After her special visit, my then ten-year-old daughter declared her intention to move in with her grandparents. Her grandma gently explained to her that it wouldn’t be as much fun if she was living there full-time.

Mom didn’t have any sons, so she adored her grandsons, who were thirteen and fifteen when she died. My older son was her little shadow and loved following her around, helping to feed her chickens, weed the garden, pick vegetables for dinner, or whatever else they found to occupy themselves out there. There was a special bond between them and he took her death the hardest.

It’s kind of funny, Mom had no interest in art or interior decor. My sister and I, who have more of an eye for balance and color, were continually exasperated at how she arranged the furniture and how nothing seemed to go together. One day while Mom was at work, my sister took it upon herself to make new curtains for the kitchen, paint it and put down some pretty shelf paper. Mom didn’t seem to notice and merely shrugged when my sister pointed it out to her and asked her if she minded. We later learned that her mother, who was an artist, had tried many times to give her daughter a hand with the decorating, but her efforts were for naught.

Some things skip a generation, and if my sister and I are like our grandmother, my daughter is very much like my mother. Especially in the wanderlust department. Mom loved the adventure of travel, and as Dad puts it, she dragged him to Greece to live for a couple of years when an opportunity to do that presented itself. And they took trips out west and through Canada to explore another of her passions, the culture of Native Americans. They also took a trip to the Ukraine, the land of my father’s ancestors.

First Congregtional Church Cemetery, Harwich, Massachusetts

Yes, I still miss her and her Seminole skirt. Had she lived I’m sure we would have found her rumored New England Native American ancestor by now. Yesterday I immersed myself in genealogical research, which was an occupation we both enjoyed. My goodness, what would she think of all the online research now available? When she died she was learning to use the online genealogical bulletin boards that seem so primitive now.

Well, I could go on, but this is long enough. Somehow I think my mother knows that she may be gone, but is by no means forgotten. And that I’ve learned that all we have is now, and that when all is said and done, that is enough.

Bernie

The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!

3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.

The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:

4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…

It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.

A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.

Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.

another start

With recent health concern a source of distraction I am trying to find a focus, and will try to jump into writing and see where it leads me. I have two blogs now, at WordPress and Gaia Community, and for the time being I’m going to cross-post, until I figure out what I’m doing.

I had to laugh when I read my horoscope this morning, something I rarely do:

You have a lot of fresh thoughts and, fortunately, many of them could make good sense. But your mind is running so fast now that you are on to the next inspiration before you’ve done anything about the previous one. Unfortunately, an important innovation might be forever lost if you don’t take the time to write it down as it’s unfolding. You cannot rely on your memory; carry around a notebook today and jot down your ideas when they happen.

Fresh thoughts have popped into consciousness all last night and this morning, mixed up with all the feelings of apprehension about tomorrow’s ultrasound. Fortunately I have scribbled down these stray thoughts on a pad of sticky notes that I had already thought to start carrying around with me. Not sure if there is an important innovation captured there…

Yesterday when I was showering and having a little trouble keeping the water temperature adjusted, I started remembering when I was quite little and desperately wanted to stop taking what I considered to be childish baths and learn how to take a shower like all the mature and sophisticated people in my little world. For whatever reason my father was assigned to the thankless task of dealing with my chronic dissatisfaction over the circumstances of my life. One part of the shower lesson was how to adjust the temperature and what to do if it got too hot. Jump out of the shower – one did not need to stand there trying to keep adjusting it if the water was too hot to stand! “What should you do if it gets too hot?” The question was repeated often to make sure I had the point down. It was very important to him that I remembered this. I’ve never forgotten…

Dot connecting… The tragic story of my aunt, Olga, my dad’s older sister who met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, probably shortly before my dad was born and when she was about two years old. My aunt Lil was about seven years old then, and we have her heartbreaking account of the terrible event. In an instant everything changes. Something tells me now that the story of Olga was in the back of Dad’s mind when he was teaching his own little squirt about very hot water.

Never made the connection before yesterday. The thing I like the most about genealogy and family history is discovering why my ancestors behaved the way they did and what motivated their choices. There are a few more notes on my little pad, but this seems long enough for now.