Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Monday, September 14, 2020

Dealing With Death

I found out Saturday that my Aunt Dot passed away on August 1.

Obviously, we were not close. Aunt Dot was the ex-wife of my mother's brother, Butch. They divorced when I was a child and I have no idea what happened to Aunt Dot in the interim.

Over the course of learning of my uncle's passing and the subsequent family interventions that required, Aunt Dot got in touch with family members, including me and my brother, via Facebook.

Until then, I'd heard nothing out of her for decades. I barely remember her.

When we became reacquainted on Facebook, we did not interact much. She remembered me as a child. I was quite young when I last remember seeing her. 

She told me in a message that she wanted to write a book, that she was glad I'd become a writer. 

I didn't offer to help her write a book. She had hinted at that in one of her messages to me. I told her I'd be glad to take a look at something she finished, but I wasn't going to write something for her. (I get asked to do that a lot - it generally goes like this: "My life is so interesting and really is a story that needs to be told, won't you write it for me and if it makes money you can have half." The latter is either stated or implied. I always say no. It's a rule I made years ago.)

She messaged me a few times and commented on a couple of my posts, particularly anything pertaining to my mother, whom she remembered fondly. I always responded and I was polite.

I had wished her happy birthday on June 24.

She had cancer - which I didn't know but apparently my brother did - and she died not long thereafter.

I don't know how I feel about this. She was not someone I knew. I mean, I knew her when I was a child, but as an adult, I did not know her except from our Facebook interactions. I had, in fact, unfollowed her because she was posting political and religious items that I simply did not care to deal with. 

Maybe I feel a little confused because I unfollowed her. I didn't "unfriend" her. I just didn't want to be preached at. I don't go to FB for that.

From the comments on her timeline, she was well-loved by her friends. I'm glad to know that.

All I remember of Dot is that she was always nice to me and I had no reason to be unkind or cause disagreement with her. So I didn't.

And now I find she has passed away.

People pass through our lives, come and go, and are in and out. She was there near the beginning of my life, and I was vaguely there at the end of hers. Isn't it odd?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Twenty Years

Twenty years ago today, I received the early morning phone call that my mother had passed away in the night.

She was in a nursing home by this time, dying of pancreatic cancer. I had seen her the day before, but not the day she passed away. Had I known she was so close to dying, I would have done better. The doctors, though, kept saying she had another month or so.

Obviously, they were wrong.

My mother was 56 years old when she passed away, and I have now outlived her. Fifty-six is quite young, if you think about it, and yet, not so young, either. My mother had had a difficult life, I think, and perhaps she was ready to go.

I recall that I'd summoned a pastor in to see her the Monday before she died on Wednesday. I do not know what passed between them, as I was asked to leave the room. I do know the pastor said he was glad I had asked him to come as he left. 

My mother never mentioned the visit.

It was, I suppose, the last thing I did for her before she passed away. I visited Tuesday but not the day she passed on. She had seemed strong on Tuesday, and I certainly hadn't expected her to leave us so quickly.

At any rate, I did not want to let the anniversary go without acknowledging it. Twenty years is a long time, though it doesn't seem that long.

I hope she is in a good place.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father's birthday. He missed being in June with the rest of us by one day.

He always has been an outlier. Ha. He likes to think of himself as a rogue, anyway.

Before I called my father around 8:20 a.m. this morning, I heard a story on him. A friend had called to see if he could come over to fish. He told me, "I remember your dad one year was making hay here in front of the house. He was driving that tractor as fast as it would go and he would spear those round bales and never even slow down. I was sure he was going to turn the tractor over, but he never did and he kept right on going."

I laughed and said, "Dad only has two speeds: all out and asleep."

My father is 79 years old. He came over on my birthday in June to say, "I came to see you because I've never had a 57-year-old daughter." Well, I've never had a 79-year-old father!

He may have slowed down a little, but not much. He is retired - sort of - but still keeps his hand in the politics of the business he built up starting sometime in the early 1970s. He likes to work around his property - and I mean big jobs, like moving dirt with heavy machinery. He plants corn to feed the bears. I have no idea why.

He played the guitar, and I enjoyed that and hearing him sing. Because of him, I grew up around music and that was a great gift he gave me.

Dad with his current band

He was gone a lot. He traveled as a salesman and he played in a band on the weekend. After he bought the farm, then his "free time" was spent working on it, making hay, taking care of cattle, along with his work and his music (he didn't give up the music until after I'd left home). 

At one point, he had a lot of birds, like quail and guineas. Chickens, too. I remember having to fetch the eggs until my mother figured out I was allergic to the chickens and the straw in their nests. I stayed sick and my father didn't have much patience with a sick kid, especially a girl.

Dad with his wife, Rita

His focus was on making money and being successful, not on parenting, and while I turned out ok, I have always thought that was more because I raised myself and read a lot of books. He was sometimes generous; he gave me an old car to drive when I got my license (a Datsun), and he helped me buy my next car, paid for the big wedding I didn't want but my mother did, and helped us build our house. 

I appreciated the time he spent helping us put in the electrical wiring more so than any money he gave us. Money is his love language. Time spent with a person is mine. They don't necessarily work together, and that's okay.

My first guitar belonged to him - an old Gibson that he said a woman gave to him because he rescued her from a burning house. I think I have that right. The Gibson later was damaged when my parents' own house burned down. That seems rather circular, doesn't it, in the telling. There should be a poem there.

When I was 14, for Christmas he and Mom gave me an electric guitar, an off-brand that looked like a Gibson Les Paul and actually played better than a Les Paul. I still have that guitar. It is heavy and it has a short in the wiring now. I had someone fix it but the repair didn't hold. Then I started having back issues and it was too heavy to play. Now I play a lighter electric guitar, but that old no-name electric guitar will always have a special place in my heart even if I never hold it again.

Dad with his grandson, about five years ago

We went camping when I was young, though I don't remember those trips, just stories about them. I recall an odd and long adventure that involved a drive across the United States when I was 12. We saw the Grand Canyon and many other sights on our way to visit my grandparents, who had moved to California when I was six months old.

Other vacations were spent at Myrtle Beach. Everybody in this area goes to Myrtle Beach. We went so frequently those times all run together in my head, like the ocean waves. Memory in, memory out. Who was there? Who wasn't? 

Dad has always worked hard and played hard. He is an extreme sort of fellow.

So happy birthday to Dad. Look forward to having an 80-year-old father next year.

Mom, Dad, me, & my brother, 1983, at my wedding.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Pandemic Journal - Day 101

Wow, I can't believe it's been over 100 days since this Covid virus moved in and kicked the USA's ass. And it's still kicking ass. The numbers locally have increased and continue to increase. We now have 21 active cases. Last week we had 16 active cases.

Nationwide, the cases are climbing to rather scary numbers. We opened up too soon. Even Republicans are saying to wear a mask now. Well, Pence is, anyway. I wonder if he'll get kicked off the election ticket for going against the supreme one?

I have decided to remain solitary and defend my home and person from any and all infections as much as I possibly can.

That sounds better than, "I'm a wimp and afraid of a virus." Maybe.

All in all, things are going ok. I know of some folks with the virus right now. They are not seriously ill. I know a few people who have been asymptomatic but tested positive. (I don't know why they were tested in the first place.)

I had a long, thoughtful chat with a friend on Friday. She gave me lots to think about. So I have been busy thinking.

Today I have my house cleaner here. She is wearing a mask. Unless I am in my office, I too wear a mask. Yes, in my own home. I wear a mask to protect her in case I'm a carrier, and she to protect me in case she is. It's just how we do things now.

I think the last week of June is not a good week for me, all in all. My mother's birthday is June 20 and my grandmother died on June 28. It is hard not to think of them on those anniversary dates. They're almost on top of each other but there's time in there for the angst to settle down deep if you're not paying attention.

And let's face it, with everything that is going on, it is hard to keep on top of little things, much less the big important ones.

This is a picture of my grandmother holding my mother. I'm going to guess this was taken September 1944, since my mother was born in June 1944. There are still leaves on the trees in the photo, so it couldn't have been beyond that.

My grandmother was born June 11, 1923 (June really is a hard month, isn't it?), so she was 21 years old when my mother was born. I don't know much about my grandmother's early life. She worked at the Valley Dale plant in Salem until she had my mother. My great aunt also worked there. Grandma then became a mom to six kids, and she kept almost all of her grandchildren at some time or the other.

My mother was 18 when I was born, and I was the oldest grandchild. When I was sick, I went to stay with Grandma if I had to stay home from school. My mother worked only a block away from my grandmother's house. I was sick a lot, so I spent a good deal of time on Grandma's lap. 

During the summers we stayed with her, too. I remember those best. She's walk us up to downtown Salem occasionally. We'd go to Brooks Byrd for a snow cone and to the Newberry's to buy a little toy. We usually purchased balsa wood airplanes, those paddles with balls on them, or jacks or something. The walk did not seem that long but it was about 1.5 miles one way. My grandmother would have been in her late 40s and early 50s then, I suppose. She had her last child in 1964, on my birthday. Yes, I have an uncle who is a year younger than I.

Grandma was always kind to me, but she and my mother did not get along well. My mother and I also had our problems, and in hindsight I suspect my relationship with her mirrors to some degree her relationship with her mother. I mean, that's what she knew, right? So of course it would. But by the time Grandma became a grandmother, she knew more and maybe was a different person. People change, after all.

I hope I have, and for the better.

Anyway, those are memories and not anything about the pandemic, but I wanted to remember my grandmother. 

We have lovely blue sky at the moment, and it appears the Sahara Dust Storm of 2020 has blown on out of here. The air was very hazy and brown over the weekend but it seems much clearer today. 

What a strange year we are having.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Happy Birthday to My Brother

Today is my brother's birthday. It's not a significant number, it's one of those in-betweens. He is turning 54 years old. Yikes.

My brother is an interesting man. He's turned into a good brother as time has passed. He has been there for me during some of my worst "adventures" - including the time my husband put his hand in the hay baler, and he was helpful back in November/December when my husband had his ankle surgery.

It is good to know there is someone in your life you can count on when the times are tough and the chips are down.

He lives six miles or so from me, at the foot of the mountain. He's a little more rural than I am, now, as the area growth has begun to creep out this way. It will be a while before he will be bothered. Heck, he doesn't even have internet service except via satellite or something.

My brother has two children and a stepson, and he takes very good care of all of his family. He likes to hunt and fish and enjoys the outdoors. He is into fantasy and shares with me a love of the Lord of the Rings and Games of Thrones. He likes Wonder Woman, too. He has a very good singing voice - much better than mine - and he likes to dance.

He is the president of a company in SE Roanoke that employees just under 100 people, I think. I'm not quite sure of the number of employees. The company was started by my father and my brother has worked there all of his adult life. He went into the business right out of high school. He is very good at what he does.

So happy birthday to my favorite brother! (Or as he reminded me this morning, my only brother.)

I was going to steal photos off his FB page but he's deactivated his account. He is not much on celebrating things so I guess he didn't want all those "happy birthday" wishes from his many friends. (Maybe he doesn't know you can cut that particular feature off and no one will know when it's your birthday.)

My brother as a baby with big sister.

Just the two of us.

A Christmas photo. Maybe when he was two?
Another holiday memory, a little older now. Six or so?

A school picture.

A birthday long, long ago.

High school senior photo

2016. This seems to be the latest photo I have on my hard drive.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Congratulations to My Niece

I know it wasn't the graduation they expected, being pronounced graduates via youtube, but it's over and done - time for these kids to put this weird spring behind them and look forward to whatever is coming next. For my niece that will be college, hopefully on campus and in person and not online, but even if it is online I'm sure she will do fine. She wants to be a nurse. I wish her well and hope she creates a wonderful and fulfilling life for herself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Bolton Bible

These photos are of the Bolton Bible. This is my husband's side of the family. They once owned the land we farm. His many great-grandfather on his great-grandmother's side purchased the property in 1859.

I do not know a lot of about these folks as I haven't pursued that line very far. A distant cousin in California found us and she shared these pictures with us. She had located the family Bible and now has it in her possession. She has become the family historian, although she is not from the same son as our line. The relationship goes further back.

The last photo is a picture of a piece of paper that was in the Bible. I cannot make out what it says.

This did make me wonder if there is a family Bible for my lineage, like my mother's and father's. I don't know of a family Bible for either parent. My mother is dead but I shall have to remember to ask my father the next time I talk to him. If there was a family Bible, that doesn't mean anyone in his line has it. It could have found its way to Memphis, for all I know.

I had planned to do more genealogy work this spring as we revved up our county celebrations for its 250th birthday. Those plans all derailed with the pandemic and my husband's retirement. I have information on a few specific lines but I am missing much on my father's side of the family along with several branches on my mother's side. I would like to sort out my husband's lineage as well, as it does not appear anyone but me has an interest in it.

It is a time consuming project and not one I wanted to get into while worrying over diseases and retiring husbands. My ol' brain can only stand so much stress.

However, it is on my list of things to work on.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Secret Surprise

Saturday, I received an envelope all the way from Italy.

I don't know anyone in Italy.

Upon opening it, I found a small A in a circle.

I initially thought it was a pin, like a scarf pin.

Turns out, though, it's a book marker. It came from my nephew, Emory, who lives in Florida now. He'd sent it for Christmas but it apparently was delayed. I was delighted that he took the time to think of me and order this.

I shall cherish this beautiful little item because it came from someone I love very much. He's a great young man, soon to be - oh my gosh! - 30 years old.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Pictures of My Mother

At Thanksgiving, my aunt came to Virginia from Texas and brought with her the photos my grandmother had had of my mother. She thought I might like them.

Most of them I don't recall seeing. I scanned them, printed them out, and made an album of them and gave them to my brother for Christmas so he would have them, too. I have the originals but I wanted to put some of them here so they would be in my blog. I have my blog bound into a book every three or four months.

Mom hated to have her picture taken, so I doubt she would like to have these photos where everyone can see them, but she isn't around and I want them memorialized here.

So without further ado, photos of my mom:

Mom with her China doll that my grandfather gave her.

I am not sure, but I suspect Mom is pregnant in this picture.

My mother, my brother, my father, and me at the Grand Canyon in 1976.

My grandmother holding my mother when she was a baby.

Mom around age 6 or 7.

My grandfather holding his newborn daughter.

My mother in her Girl Scout uniform.

My mother and my father, taken in 1996, four years before my mother died.

Mom around age 10.

Mom in 1966, bringing home my brother.

Mom's high school photo.

As you can see, my mother had loads of freckles. She told me once that when she was young, someone told her that early morning dew could rid one of freckles. She spent a summer getting up very early, before everyone else, and going outside to rub her face in the grass in hopes of ridding herself of her freckles. Finally, my grandmother caught her and put a stop to it. As you can see, the folk remedy did not work, although the freckles became less apparent as my mother aged. She was very skilled with make-up.

Also, up until about 1993, my mother's hair was black. Then the gray started showing and she dyed it that burnt orange color you see in one photo. When I remember her, I always remember her with black hair.

Friday, January 03, 2020

My Niece Reaches Legal Age

Today is my niece's 18th birthday.

She is a senior in high school, active in cheerleading. She dances with a dance troop (clogging is her thing), and she won a lot of beauty pageants when she was younger. Something like 100 of them, I don't know. I lost count.

These are photos of her I swiped from Facebook at some point or another.

I don't see much of her and I've never spent the time with her I wanted to spend. She always had a full schedule of things to do and I generally had no clue about what she was doing until about an hour beforehand, which wasn't much notice, especially if it takes a half-hour to drive to anyplace.

I have managed to attend most of her year-end dance recitals and one or two beauty pageants. But I have missed most of her growing up. I'm the aunt who gives her something at Christmas, and that's about it.

It wasn't the relationship I wanted, but it is the one I ended up with. It saddens me that I don't know much about this child - young woman, now - but it is what it is.

I hope she has a wonderful life. I think she's off to college to become a nurse, though I'm not sure what school she is going to. I hope she is very happy in her choice of profession.

I hope adulthood doesn't weigh her down.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


We had a surprise visit from James' Aunt Nancy and her daughter, Ann, today. They live in North Carolina.

Aunt Nancy is the last of the siblings of James' dad. She moved to Georgia and lived there until a few years ago. Maybe the secret to longevity is getting away from home.

Aunt Nancy with my husband. See any resemblance?

Cousin Ann. I have always liked her though I don't know her well.
Photos taken with my iPhone, which doesn't work as good as it did before an update. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Happy Wednesday

Today I'm happy that the sun will be coming back up so my husband can mow hay. He is not very good with bad weather.

I'm also happy about, hmm. Well, nothing else comes to mind.

But I'm grateful for many things. A roof over my head, breakfast, Milky Way bars, texts, friends, my husband, a glass of water, and the telephone book.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world. Check out the gal that initiated this here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Happiness Friday

Last night I went to listen to my father's band play at the local retirement home. Dad is in his late 70s, but he is in good form.

I enjoyed listening to him sing, and watching him be the showman he is. He's very charismatic and good at working a crowd. He always has been.

His band, called Stone Coal Gap, played mostly 1950s music. I knew all but three of the songs. Many of those songs I grew up hearing my father sing. He's always been into music.

Here are photos of him and his band at their gig last night. My dad is the guy in the pink shirt up front singing and playing the guitar.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world. Check out the gal that initiated this here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

I Have Taken More Breaths

Today is the day that I have taken more breaths than my mother.

This year I turned 56, the age my mother was when she died. Her birthday is 12 days after mine. Twelve days from now, my mother will have been dead for 19 years.

The numbers are kind of wonky. I was born when she was 18 but she turned 19 just 12 days after I was born.

Nineteen years difference between when I turned 56 and she died.

She died on August 24 at 1:45 a.m., so this morning when I woke up, I had already taken more breaths than she had, as she did not live out the entire day of August 24. She only lived less than two hours of it.

This has eaten at me since my birthday. It is a strange notion and I have fretted over it more so than I think healthy. I can be morose that way sometimes. I hope that is over now, now that I have outlived my mother.

This morning when I was realized that I didn't have to wait until tomorrow, that in reality I've already lived longer than my mother, even to this very moment, I felt relieved. I felt like I'd jumped through some magic hurdle that until then I didn't even know existed.

I also feel sad, because this was a very young age to die, really. I know it is beyond middle age and heading on into plain ol' "old," but 56 is not that old, really. Not when my grandmother lived to 87, and some of her family lived beyond 100. Heck, I haven't even reached the halfway point of the age Aunt Pearl was when she died at the age of 107.

My mother was scared to die, I know. She fought it hard. She didn't talk about her fears to me, though. I think she did with her sister. But not with me.

I was 37 years old when my mother passed away. She probably thought, and rightly so, that I couldn't relate. I couldn't, not really. Not at that age.

People in their 60s still have their parents with them today. I was not that fortunate with my mother. But she died young and still pretty, and even though it was cancer that took her, I suspect she would rather have died while she had her looks than to have grown old and haggard.

I wear "old and haggard" like a badge of honor. I earned the soft-white hair, the wrinkles around my eyes. They are external signs that I have lived.

Forgive me for the weird post. It's just been that kind of Monday.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Word About My Grandfather

My maternal grandfather's birthday was July 24. I thought it was today. Oops.

I called him Granddaddy but his name was Claude Lewis Harris, Sr. He was born in 1918 in Botetourt County, VA, to James Thomas Harris and Sarah Newton Painter.  He was one of seven children.

Grandpa and Grandma married on September 16, 1942, when he was 24 years old. For a while they lived in an apartment above a store on Front Street in Salem.

Here's a Google street view:

My mother was born in the upstairs apartment, or so I was always told. Later, I'm not exactly sure when, my grandfather purchased this home on East River Side Drive in Salem. It is one of the few still standing along that area, which tends to flood. It looks very small now, but when I was a child it seemed plenty big.

My grandfather worked for Kroger in its Salem warehouse until he died on January 2, 1976. He was 57 years old when he had a heart attack. I'm not sure what the deal was with him and his pension, but for some reason Kroger refused to pay my grandmother whatever it was she thought they owed her. Nobody in the family shopped at Kroger for a very long time after my grandfather passed away.

He smoked cigarettes, and worked on television sets in the basement. He had a workshop where we were never supposed to go (of course we did), and we definitely were not to mess with his tools (we generally did not). I remember him as being mostly rather gruff, probably wondering who these kids were that were at his house all the time.

He always drove a big white Ford car with a blue interior. Occasionally he took us on day trips to Hillsville, where there was a big store called Hills there that had all sorts of trinkets, and to a place called Sunset or Sunnybrook or something like that up near Floyd. That store also had all sorts of intriguing items.

Once he raced us kids in a foot race, I remember, laughing all the time he was running. He also, after I reached about the age of 9 or 10, let us mow the yard. At the time he still had two boys at home - my uncles, one who is four years older than I am and the other who is a year younger than I am. He'd pay us each a quarter and we'd split the yard-mowing up for the privilege of earning that quarter.

Then, quarter in hand, we'd race off to Orange Market on Apperson Drive to purchase comic books, candy, and a soda (yes, a long time ago, you could buy all of that for a quarter. Or maybe we put our quarters together, I don't really remember).

Granddaddy came home from work every day at 4 p.m., and we ate dinner when I was there at 4:15 p.m. My mother worked about a block away, so if I stayed home from school because I was sick, I stayed with Grandma, and by the time Mom left work at 5 p.m. I was fed and she could take me home to Botetourt and put me to bed.

I have a single photo of my grandfather here somewhere, but I can't find it to show it to you. The family wasn't big on pictures so I don't think there were very many photos of him around.