Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh October Oh 8, Oh my

Oh my gosh, this week has been a roller coaster. This beautiful woman is our little girl who all of a sudden turned into a lady, said "I love him" and walked away from our home into his arms. And he is an officer and a gentleman and it took us all, gaspingly, completely, by surprise.

I think you could pretty much ask just about anyone who knows our Memers if she is the type to do this and it would be a definative "No!" On the other hand if you asked any of us how she was going to fall in love or who she was going to fall in love with none of us would have an answer for you, either. Ryan is a perfect match for her. They are both very conservative, yet in different ways so they balance one another. They are both compassionate, yet over and about different things. They respect one another immensely. She loves the fact that he adores his mother. He loves the fact that she adores her family. We love that about both of them.

The day before their wedding he found out that the cabin at Camp Rilea where the wedding and reception was going to take place had been taken over for a generals' meeting and instead of getting into it at 10 am Sunday morning to decorate for the 2 pm wedding we wouldn't be able to get in until 12 or 12:30 pm!!! The first thing Ryan did was gently but firmly forbid anyone to tell Aimee about it. This was to be her day and NOTHING was to stress her out. Next, he started making phone calls, and kept calling until he made it perfectly clear that he didn't care who it was who was trying to cork him out of the cabin it was his, he had reserved it and he was moving his wedding party in at 10 AM to get ready for his wedding. Aimee didn't find out until Monday what had happened.

Of course, there wasn't much anyone could do about our aunty dying. Some, in the end, just were too emotionally drained to make it to Aimee's wedding. She was totally fine about it, because that is how she is. She doesn't see herself as being the center of the world or even a small peice of the world which is why seeing her as the center of Ryan's world is such a joy for those of us who love her. And seeing her light up when he looks at her is such a wonder. Something one takes for granted in others but had never, ever seen in our serious Memes. She never had even a casual boyfriend. Didn't believe in dating unless you were thinking of marrying. You "hung out" with a group unless you felt like the person was someone you wanted to consider for lifetime partner. If you thought of them that way you worked with them on projects you enjoyed, and some you didn't so much, to see how they handled themselves. And only then did you consider going on a "date" with them. You can guess how many didn't pass the first few prerequisites!

I am in meltdown mode right now. Between sobbing at memorial services and graveside ceremonies and tears of joy at the wedding and reception as well as preparations for all of everything and driving to Hood River and Portland and all points in between I am utterly exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. The month started out with a convention being planned for 400 and only 100 showing up (but plans still had to be made accordingly) and ending with the wedding, a funeral and a vacation (ha) stuck in between and I am really and truly ready for a REAL vacation. Do I get one? Nope. I am, instead, filling out grant forms (yep, another project) and gearing up for the November-December season of madness.

I think, though, I have learned something with the passing of aunty. I think, this year, this season cards will be going out. A few written every day. She is not here to do that. We will all miss that so very, very much. Her little cards and notes that just said she cared. Oh, damn. Even with all of the joy of the wedding and the knowledge that she would have died a much more painful death if she had lived this next year out, it hurts to know she is really and truly gone.

Oh, October '08, one month we will remember in this family for many years to come.

Friday, October 17, 2008


It was so beautiful at Twin Lakes. Peacefully, blissfully, quiet. Our vacation together was supposed to have been for 10 days but life happens and we got exactly half that. Hubby got to finish out the trip here with his sister, brother and brother-in-law which was nice for him. He got some good fishing in and a lot of much needed rest after working a couple of 12 and 16 hour days on 5/7 and 6/7 weeks. We did not get to go out in the canoe which we had hoped to do on Monday. Instead, I was headed home on the Greyhound.

Its funny that we live in the woods, yet when we take a vacation we retreat further into the woods. Often, we have taken just sleeping bags and tents and gone as far in and away as one can go. There is something healing and refreshing about lying on the ground, gazing into a campfire or bobbing along in a stream. Crickets, frogs, various birds and the chirping of the chipmunks as they warn one and all that there's a blundering, big foot crashing through the underbrush.

I come home to a household in partial mourning for my mother's sister, partial chaos trying to pull together my middle daughter's wedding, and partially battling the flu -which everyone had neglected to tell me would be waiting to pounce the moment I was picked up from the Greyhound "station". Since when did they change the Greyhound Station from the convenient place of the Kelso trainstation to Longview's Holt's Market? My mom, dad and grandson are waiting at the train station to pick me up and I am waiting at Holt's Market to be picked up at 7:00 pm after riding the bus since 10:30 am. Fun city. How did we even handle that kind of crap before cell phones? Even with cells it's hectic enough.

After playing phone tag with my mother and then my father, FINALLY one of them answers their cell. Maybe my grandson showed them where the phone was. Why is it when you are in a small space with the dang thing you can't pin down where the ring is coming from? I have to frisk myself when my phone rings because I can't remember where I put it. The most convenient place for me to have it when my jacket pocket isn't available is, well yeah, its in my bra. However, it can be verrrrry embarassing for it to ring when it is there and you are talking to someone or, even worse, if you have forgotten you put it there and you are in the middle of an interview. Sigh.

So, I get back home to comfort my mother and, basically, take over the homefront so that she can be on the phone 24/7 to family all over the globe and I am assaulted with the flu bug. I thought that since I got home I would at least be able to do some articles for NCO, but nope. The most I have been able to do is post a couple of media releases before hacking up a lung and sneezing out a few more brain cells. I have two sweaters for two grandsons halfway knitted and have thrown myself five pity parties which have been attended by myself, my grandson and an assortment of his stuffed animals.

My head feels as if I have stuffed it full of cotton and my eyeballs feel like I have used the cotton to dry them off. Obviously I am not operating at my optimum and now is when my grandson choses to talk philosophy with me. "Who lives in those houses," he asks as we look at pictures hubby and I took when we were in Haifa. "Those aren't houses those are shrines," I tell him. "Does God live in that one?" he asks. "No," I tell him, "that's where 'Abdu'l-Baha is buried."

"What," he shouts, "He died? Does anybody know?" I start to laugh but see he is dead serious. "Yes, everyone knows, honey." He shakes his head, "I didn't know it. How come I talk to him if he's dead?" I tell him, "You can hear and understand more once your soul leaves your body so 'Abdu'l-Baha can hear everyone now that he doesn't have a body to restrict him." Thinking that by talking about things in a practical and adult like fashion he will grow bored and, basically, leave me alone so I can groan and sneeze. Instead, his eyes well up in tears, "My soul's going to leave my body and go away?" Not thinking I answer, "Well, yeah, everyone dies." And he let out such a howl I just about peed my pants!

"Wait, wait don't cry, baby, its going to be in a real long time!" I say, as I snatch him up and cuddle him. He's not having any of that. He pushes against my chest, "But I don't want to EVER die." Thinking desperately through layers and layers of cotton balls I finally find what I am looking for. "Remember the story about the caterpillar?" I ask him. "Uh-huh," he whimpers. "He ated until his tummy hurt and then he made a 'coon and turned into a butterfly." It is one of his favorite books and we had even got a caterpillar which he has named "Johnson" (I've no idea why) so we can watch the process.

"Do you remember what happens, though, to the part that looks like a caterpillar?" I ask him. He stops sniffling to think. "The butterfly just came out of it, it just was gone." This time I watch him closely to see how much more I can say or should say. "Was the caterpillar dead or did he just become something more?" I ask. "He's something more," grandson said with a smile. "Now, he can fly and he's prettier and he can see more." Okay, this is good, he's not crying any more. "That's sort of like our souls. First we are in this body and then when it is time for us to fly we won't need this body anymore and we will leave it behind." Tears start to fall again.

"I don't want my soul to leave me," my grandson says. A little three year old who has listened to the Narnia series and Pullman's His Dark Materials along with his prayers and listening to his Papa read the children's version of the Dawn Breakers. Too deep for my muddled head. "Honey, you are your soul. Your soul cannot leave you. You are like the butterfly. You use your body. You will always be you." He stops crying and hugs me. We rock back and forth for a while. I think he's going to go to sleep. My headache is finally subsiding. It is finally quiet. "'Bicka?" he whisppers, "little kids never die, do they?" I wonder what hubby is doing right at that moment and long to retreat into the woods. I answer my grandson.

Sister-in-law Janice w/hubby Jim, out on the lake

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Penury for your thoughts

Poverty (also called penury) is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens. According to Mollie Orshansky who developed the poverty measurements used by the U.S. government, "to be poor is to be deprived of those goods and services and pleasures which others around us take for granted." This, according to wikipedia, is a pretty fair definition of poverty but one wonders how the way that definition looks may change in the near future.

Don't we assume that poverty in the United States means you can't provide for yourself and must have help to put a roof over your head or food on your table. Financially you are unable to to take care of yourself or your family. But is that really poverty? It is "poverty level" but don't most of us have the opportunity to learn so we can obtain better employment and "escape" poverty?

As our economy spirals downward worldwide, what will poverty look like? Will street after street of $500,000 homes stand empty as more of us turn to shopping carts as our only means of affordable housing and travel? Will "common necessity" no longer mean a roof over our heads but a shopping basket to keep our meager possessions in? Will an education protect our jobs? Find us new jobs when businesses go bankrupt?

Worldwide, approximately 25,000 people die every single day of starvation or other poverty related causes. In September 2000, the 189 countries of the United Nations unanimously agreed to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty,” specifically hunger and the “major diseases that afflict humanity.” They agreed to commit .7% of their national income. That's 7/10ths of one percent of each $100 that we make, world wide for a total of $195 billion a year. Of the 22 of the world’s wealthiest countries that agreed to commit to 7/10ths of one percent the United States is in last place towards accomplishing their commitment.

Norway, Sweden, Luxemborg, Denmark and the Netherlands have all reached their goals contributing over 80 cents per one hundred dollars of income. The United States is tied with Greece in contributing a total of 16 cents per 100 hundred dollars of income.

What will tomorrow bring? As we bail out institution after institution we watch as only the very rich are helped and still the stock markets fall lower and lower and no one on main street is being helped. I can't help but wonder if those who are our "leaders" are working for "us" or against "us." Maybe, I am the one that is confused? Maybe, I don't understand who "us" is.

Poverty. What it looks like today and what will it look like by the end of 2008? Who is truthfully telling us? Today is blog action day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the Roof

Terrill Laura, front on the right. My mother, Jerry Roberta, front on left, Beryl Verdeen on the left in the back row and Dale Lemuel on the right, back row.

Our aunty died Sunday. I received a text message to call home, using the emergency code. Sadness enveloped the extended family, first in ripples starting before 5 am, and then in waves as each part of the planet woke up. Each and everyone of us sobbed, "Not Teri!" My vacation was over as I hopped a greyhound home.

At four am Sunday morning my aunt moaned and said to my uncle, "Oh Jim, I hurt so much," and then she died in his arms in their little beach house on the banks of the Necanicum River in Seaside. She was 66 years old, the longest living kidney transplant recipient in Oregon. My mother gave her one of her kidneys in 1980.

We just recently found out that the kidney my mother gave was beginning to fail, but no one expected her to die just yet. She had an appointment to see her doctor about when she would have to start dialysis. They think she died of an aneurysm or blood clot in her heart.

My mother drew the short straw to call my uncle in the DR. She called the only phone number in El Llano de las Pinas that she had. A neighbor's by the name of Mercedes, who ran joyfully down the street to tell Dale he had a phone call from the Americanos. My mother heard a houseful of joyful people calling to one another that Roberta, the Americano, was on the phone. My uncle came on, laughing and asking what was so important that my mother couldn't just email him "Its Terrill Laurel, she's gone, Dale, sister's gone." He wailed. My little uncle who thinks tears are silly, living in the land of hystrionics, wailed and all around him the Dominicans joined in as he told them in Spanglish why he grieved.

How we envy him. We, who sit here in the northern clime and let the tears run down our cheeks and silently brush them away. My mother said it was good to hear them howl and wail, they who hardly knew her sister but knew the sorrow of losing loved ones know how to grieve with all their heart. We let it out in little spurts and ask to be excused for our tears. "Pardon me, I've just lost a loved one" as tears stream down our face for no apparent reason as we stand in the grocery line. "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you just said, someone that I love has just died" we mumble, as we look blankly at the checker who is waiting expectantly for the debit card to be slid through the machine.

We press our lips tightly together, shake our heads and squeeze our eyes shut. We pat arms and tell one another that it will be alright. Why can't we be like the Dominicans? Why can't we be more Irish? We can't we just wail and wail and wail until all of our breath is gone? Just all sit down all together, all at once and let out a long howl? The waves continued, my sister calling a brother in Japan and another sister in Hawaii, my uncle called his son on a fishing boat out at sea. Calls inland as far as Indiana.

This was the aunty that encouraged us to skinny dip. She liked hinneys and taught us funny songs. She was the aunty that you called when you just needed to vent, but you never, ever, swore in front of. If she didn't like what you were doing she would tell you about it, but only you, she never, ever gossiped about you or anyone else. She was the peacemaker. If you ever called to complain to her she would listen but she would always ask that you look at it from the other person's point of view. She hated conflict, especially in the family. I think we all broke her heart at one time or another but she never held a grudge that I knew about.

She gave me a ring with a peridot in it for my high school graduation. I used that ring for a wedding ring the first time around and one day I looked down and the stone was gone. Shortly after that I knew my marriage was over. She also let me borrow her set of pearls which #4 stole from my jewelry box. Somehow or another aunty found out that I had lost them and #4 had them and #4 ended up with a pearl necklace out of the deal and aunty got her pearls back. I ended up with egg on my face! I am sure #4 will correct this version of the story :).

Aunty had two sons who she was very proud of and four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Each of her sons knew they were her favorite just as each of us neices and nephews secretly knows, in our heart of hearts, that we were her favorite. She did that to us. You knew you mattered to her, that you were very special to her. You knew she missed you when you didn't call and not in that naggy way that you "owe" her a phone call but in that real missed way, like because she hasn't heard from you a little piece of her day/week/month wasn't quite complete because she loved you that much. Where she got that kind of energy I will never know.

Aunty and uncle were supposed to have gone over to visit with their friends, Jim and Diana, on Sunday and uncle had to call and cancel that appointment. He told Jim to find a way to break it to Diana gently. Jim hollered to Diana that Terrill had died and Diana began to wail. Uncle says it was actually the first time he got to chuckle because he thought, "Will, hell, I could have broke it to her like that!" But that is how each of us reacted to the news. With a wail, "Not Terrill, not Teri, not aunty!"

And this grand lady wants no services! She saw the costs that went out for her parents' funerals and she was appalled. She saw the grief of the funerals and thought by avoiding the funeral she could avoid the grief for us. She asked to be cremated and placed in the same plot as her mother-in-law with the absolute minimum expense. And we all wailed, again. This thoughtful, caring, kind and considerate person forgot one thing, this isn't really about her it is about us and how can we go on without stopping a moment to say good-bye? Without giving her due regard and a royal send off?

In Hood River she is known to hundreds of people as the hair stylist of the stars. She did the hair of many windsurfers as well as pro ball players and a few other well-knowns. Yet, she would treat one of the gals brought in from the local senior citizen centers as if they were from Hollywood. Many a person used her chair as a psychiatrist couch and some as a confessional. All of their secrets she kept and literally took to the grave with her. She loved her job because she loved people and her clientele reflected it. Hood River not give their prized hair dresser a send off? She had better think again!

Should we cry for days, weeks and months seperately and alone, trying to ignore our pain? Or, do we come together and give it one good cry with as many good memories shared that our pain naturally dissolves, tears of sadness mingling with tears of laughter? Although our aunty was right so often I think in this matter she was wrong. In her humbleness she probably had no idea what an impact she had on so many lives. She never retired, her drugs that she had to take to keep her kidney going cost so much money she had to keep working, as did my uncle. Her doctor told her that he wouldn't retire until she did and when my uncle called him on Sunday to tell him he could finally retire he wept. For Teri, he would have gladly worked for another twenty years.

To Aunty Bubbles, Aunty Teri, Terrill Laura, Trinket, Trinky our peacemaker, our cheerleader, the holder of the family silver and crystal punch bowl, our etiquett guide and moral compass, we salute you and will try to be proper when the situation calls for it and skinny dip when the opportunity affords it. We promise to sit down together at dinners as a family, and we know that whenever we buckle up in the car and start our round of car songs you will be with us, singing out loud and strong the silliest of car songs:

Oh, I wish I were a bottle of pop, bottle of pop. Oh, I wish I were a bottle of pop, bottle of pop. I'd go down with a slurp and come up with a burp oh I wish I were a bottle of pop, bottle of pop!
Oh, I wish I were a bar of soap, bar of soap. Oh, I wish I were a bar of soap, bar of soap. I'd go slipp'in and a slid'in down everyone's hinney oh I wish I were a bar of soap, bar of soap!
Oh, I wish I were a fishy in the brook, in the brook. Oh I wish I were a fishy in the brook, in the brook. I'd go swimming in my nudie without my bathing suity oh I wish I were a fishy in the brook, in the brook!

She joins her parents Roy & Beatrice Woods.