Friday, December 31, 2010

Senior Adventurers

I wasn't going to write today, but a thought occurred. From the missing of loved ones? From the passing of another year? Whatever the source, this thought needed a voice.

Yes, my friends, we all get older. Those of us over 60 know that the body aches and does not always cooperate. The thought we had in one room is gone when we get to the next. The grey and white hairs have become the natural color. Our families are requiring less of us. Many of us have lost dear ones. Some of us have had our struggles this last year. But I have good news. I have hope for the year 2011.

More and more I have thought of the wisdom I have gained regardless of the things I have lost. I embrace the knowledge that has come from loss. I embrace the me who has evolved over these years. I have a brain, folks! I have a brain that has barely been tapped. The grey matter in my thick head (as some would say) has only begun to be explored. Now how exciting is that news?!

My younger years consisted of growing up, marrying, raising children. I didn't have time find what I believed sorting through everything I'd been told. I didn't have time to think of me and my place in the world. I barely had time to think of the world.

We may be older, but we are considered younger. The longevity of life has lengthened. So we need to grow with it. I have friends who are senior citizens who have conquered Facebook in order to keep in touch with old friends and new. Other friends are authors. Some have working careers. I'm not sure we knew that we could still be valuable after a certain age. I don't think we have allowed ourselves to embrace this thing of aging.

Millions of dollars are spent in diet programs, face and body lifts, botox, hair color....everything to make us look younger. Well, I'm not younger. You can dress up a pig, but it's still a pig. We may be older, but we still have a great deal to contribute and to learn. Why stop now?

I have often wondered why nursing homes don't supply voice recorders for residence to record their family history....their stories. Slide projectors and video recorders can help keep the memories alive and awaken new part of the brain. Volunteers can assist the elderly in stretching their minds, by sharing their stories. A family tree can consist of more than just names and dates. It can consist of personalities and stories. The residence homes are full of wonderful history...history we can all appreciate. We are creative and full of wonderful thoughts and ideas.

My hands are painful and hurt. I can not hold a pen for long, so I type. The computer has become my paper and pencil, my tool for expression and communication. I started on the computer when I was in my late forties. My first fear of tackling this new technology was soon dismissed when I found that I could figure it out myself. I just had to say "I can".

We have a gift, older generation. We should know by now that fear is a frame of mind. We should know that adventure has no age limit. We are of value. The grey matter might be a bit fuzzy, but the more the fuzz is removed, the clearer the light. What a wonderful thing to discover that we are on a new adventure. We can read, write, explore our thoughts and share. We can be new again by expanding our brains.

A new year is just hours away. Enthusiasm for each day of our lives is at hand now. Come on, adventurers. Let's make 2011 the year we make a difference.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Apologies

I have been under the weather the last few days. Please pick up with me again on Monday. What a way to end the year!

Have a safe and wonderful New Year. May your new year be full of love, laughter, peace and joy.

See you here in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"They're Home Hugs"

The time had come. We all knew when we got there that the leaving would come in a few day. The leaving was the hardest. Each time we returned we knew it would be a long time until we were all together again. Yes, the leaving was the hardest.

One thing I remember most about my parents are those 'they're home' and 'don't go' hugs. Both of my farm parents knew how to hug. They also knew how to miss their children. The little ones would be bigger on the next visit. They would be wary of their grandparents the next time we walked in the door ready for that 'they're home' hug. On leaving, we all knew there would be tears and a hurting that would last for days. A missing that would never go away.

Leaving the farm after a visit was not just about leaving our parents. No, it was about leaving this land that nurtured us and babysat us in our growing up years. The farm was our activity, our adventure, our other member of the family. Driving away stretched the roots of love that held us to the land.

Growing up in a farm family is one of the greatest gifts a child can be given. The work was part of life. The struggles were shared with dedication and pride. Never was there a dull moment. Never was there a wealth. We learned to use our imagination and curiosity. Nature was our teacher and family was the core of our daily existence. Our church was a family who took care one another. Our neighbors were our extended family that loved us unconditionally. Growing up on a farm was a lesson is compassion, survival, dedication and love.

No longer do I drive up the lane knowing that those wonderful hugs will be waiting for me. But the life I grew up knowing in Darke County has followed me throughout my sixty-three years. The hugs are still in my heart at the end of the holiday season. The drive away from the farm still lingers. The friends and family, the neighbors and cousins fifteen times removed are still with me.

The tinsel goes back into the box. The tree sits at the curb waiting for a boy scout to gather it up. Christmas cards are read once more. Now I give the warm hugs to my family and friends. I savor the stories from the farm and share them with my granddaughters.

You know, a farm girl never really leaves the farm. No, there are no good-byes, only a once-farm-girl now a farm woman living in the burbs in Oregon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas

The tinsel is sparkling, the grandchildren home. It's time to focus on the holiday and take a break from my blogs. Please stop back on December 28.

Have a wonderful holiday week with your family and friends. Many blessing to you all.

Merry Christmas from a girl who once lived back a lane on Neff Road.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Yearly Gathering

Christmas on Neff Road. Family gathered for the holidays. Well, not always. With all of the Loxley girls living away from Darke County, Christmas together was always iffy. Winter weather was definitely a problem.

I remember packing up the kids in our station wagon along with Christmas presents. Determination and maybe a little stupidity put our car on the road heading south from Appleton, Wisconsin, to the house back the lane. Did we turn around? Of course, not. It was Christmas!

Sometimes we ended up with ill children. A child with a fever, a runny nose, a barfy stomach was not unusual. Still Christmas took place with the family gathered around the tree. For sisters who rarely saw one another, this was a precious time. For parents who rarely had their children together all at once, it must have be a treasure. The Loxley's were home.

Jobi, the oldest of the grandchildren tended the smaller children giving the adults time once more to gather around the kitchen table. As the children grew, they would play with the Sparks kids and start to understand the importance of the visits. Before we knew it, they, too, were sitting around the table with the adults.

One year we all pitched in and got Mom and Dad a slide projector and screen. A history would be recorded. For my parents, a family could be shared with friends and neighbors. The old projector is a marvel to my grandchildren. They don't know many of the faces on the old slides; they weren't part of this history.

Oh, how dear those trips are to me all these years later. I just turn on the old memory and once more I am back in the warm embrace of the farm back the lane. I am richer for my history. I am rich for the life we lived on Neff Road.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

White Christmas Dreams

Microsoft needs to not send so many updates at one time to my computer. Overload, changing settings, all in all, frustration filled my morning. Since I have vented, I will continue.

'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow'. We can sing all we want, but it's not looking like snow for  Oregon....again this year. The first few years we lived in Oregon, we rarely saw snow. We didn't even have a lot of rain. Having moved from Wisconsin with a dependable white Christmas, this was a bit disappointing.

We didn't have much snow through the '80s. Even a skiff of snow brought out the rare sled and cardboard boxes. Anywhere there was even a small rise on the street, the kids were there. We lived on a steep hill. James and Stacey loved it the winter the big snow.
1980's

Snow. It goes with Santa, right? Well, unless you live in the south.

We sold our snow shovel when we came out west along with the snow suits and heavy boots. We didn't need them. They did no good on black ice which is a winter hazard here. Skiers are pretty well suited for the random snow falls that happen to make their way to the lower elevations.

I wonder if children still snow on the hill at the farm. I'd give anything to sled there just one more time. We may not have the snow in Oregon, but Neff Road is white.

Not much of a blog, but sitting here in 45 degree weather makes me long for other days.

'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revisiting

Mother died ten years ago. When I made mention of her passing on my Facebook page yesterday, Meg, my childhood friend's daughter, reminded me of the pictures hanging on the wall along the basement stairway, hanging in the house back the lane on Neff Road.

Please visit my other blog at www.agrandparentsvoice.com to see an older post that needs to be revisited. It is a blog for my mother, a friend, a neighbor, an honorary grandma. It is a blog for everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ours To Share

We came back to the house down the lane on a freezing December day. Snow and ice chased away many who would have come to pay their respects. The icy roads did not deter our duty, our drive to Newcomers to say good-bye.

The house on Neff Road had suddenly become just a house. No longer did Mom's laughter fill the rooms, no longer was food cooking in the kitchen. The house had lost it's life. We had lost our mother.

Mom has been gone for quite some time yet her daughters still feel that day when it rolls around. No calendar is needed. A sadness descends in that short time in December before Christmas comes to visit.
My mom didn't know that the next year she would have another great granddaughter. A grandchild she would not see.

It is the anniversary of my mother's passing. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. There are times I'm sure she is with me. When Gabby was placed in my arms for the first time, I was in my mother's loving arms as well. Oh, how I miss her.

The remarkable woman gave a home to many and fed everyone who passed through the old farmhouse door. She cared for the ill and did for those who were in need. She never said 'no'. Mom was grandma to all of the local children. Her toys waited for the children. She was a modern woman even in her 80's. We shared her all of our lives. She was never totally ours.

It is another cold, winter day in Ohio. And, another December of missing you, Mom.

Monday, December 13, 2010

South is Really South

"Wait!" I wanted to yell. "You're going the wrong way!"

Silly me. Geese don't listen. They form that 'V' and are once more drawn on a migratory path that has been traveled by their kind for as long as they have flapped their feathers. The geese all seem to be pointing their 'V'  north. Perhaps the cooler weather in the south has them confused. My rantings below would make no difference.

Since my days on the farm, perhaps the first time my father pointed my little head towards the sky, I have loved the Canada goose. The way they mate for life, fly in formation relieving the leader time and time again to allow time for respite, they struggle to survive in a changing world.

There are two places nearby where the geese come throughout the year to feed and rest. One is on the property of The Sisters of St. Mary's. The geese congregate on the small piece of land. This fall the property was torn up in preparation for a building. The other gathering place is at a middle school. The geese fill the field roaming the soil in search of food. They are so commonplace that no one seems to notice the beauty gathered there. Where is the wonder and awe?

My children laugh when I run to the door as geese pass over just to catch a glimpse of them. I roll down my window to listen to their lofty conversations. I say a prayer for their safe flight, and thank them for passing by my way.

Many years ago I read James Michner's book "Chesapeake". He wrote of how the land was covered with so many geese that people could hardly walk. Their feathers were used to warm the early settlers. Their presence brought food to the table. Their cry was one of salvation for those who worried at survival of the winter.

Yes, I am in love with the Canada goose. I walked to the creek after Mom died as daylight settled in. Two geese came to settle on the creek, a sight I'd never seen before. I sat on the cement abutment with the two feather friends at my feet. At that moment, I knew that Mom and Dad were together. Oh, I already knew it, but Dad knew my love of geese. He wanted me to know that they were once more at home on the farm.

Maybe you think I just have a vivid imagination. Well, you are correct. A little girl fell in love with a big grey goose. She fell in love with it as it flew over the farm on Neff Road. As long as I can hobble, crank up my hearing aid and make it to a window, I will watch them fly above me once more and be thankful.

I hope they find out that south is really still south even though it is chilly. I hope they fly back this way when they do. I will be waiting.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Savor The Time

Walking back the lane one more time. Finding again a time and place in a picture of a Christmas past. The older I get the more precious the faces.

Like many who moved away from home, I would assume that their pictures hold a special place in their hearts as do mine. There is no sadness in the memory only delight at seeing faces from the past and in remembering another time.

Mom loved, absolutely loved having the kitchen table surrounded by her family, full of food she lovely cooked. We sat at the table knowing that Mom had cooked and mashed her potatoes in a large, old kettle. Dressing, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, all the things we knew would be on the Christmas table.

Aunt Bess sat next to her sister. She always brought a good time along with her when she came in from Ludington, Michigan. She and my brother-in-law Bob are gone as are my parents. I can imagine Bob's silly laugh as he sat next to her. My nephews and my niece were young. Oh, such a long time ago. I was pregnant with my first child. Jack, next to me, was growing up. It wouldn't be too long before he left his foster home with Peg and Paul to return to his mother. He would be missed.

When I look at pictures of the family back the lane, the sounds, the smells assail me. I know the same is true for my sisters. We weren't all on the farm often. I was in Wisconsin, June in Indiana and Peg in Marion, Ohio (I think). Before too many years passed, she would be in Pennsylvania then Virginia, and I in Beaverton, Oregon. The family would be spread out and the Christmases at home with all of us there a thing of the past. Indeed, this was a snapshot of a moment in time.

I often think that those of us who have lived away from 'home' for many years have a different appreciation than those who stayed close to the homestead. What was once taken for granted is priceless. Even the view out the kitchen window draws me home to memories of sitting there watching the birds. Over time this glimpse became a treasure. No family tree can show the personalities of these people, the love they shared, the taste of a mother's pumpkin pie, the sounds and scents of the farm. Words can only describe but lack the essence of the house and time on Neff Road.

We all have our glimpses. For those of us who lived far away, the glimpses make us realize how much we missed on the days that were just days.

We sat around the table not knowing that the time was to be savored. I sit looking at a picture and am filled with the joy of remembering. Remember the kitchen, the people, the Christmas on Neff Road.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanks, Santa



What do you remember? Games, toys, presents from Santa. What do you remember?
Yesterday I wrote a blog for A Grandparent’s Voice and was drawn back to a memory of the Cootie game we had when I was a kid. There weren’t a lot of games in the Loxley house. Uncle Wiggly, checkers, pick-up sticks, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head. Card games filled the drawer in the desk. Canasta, Authors, the old cards from the game PIT with the bull and the bear. Brenda had a Carrom game we loved to play, and the Riffel’s had my favorite, Stadium Checkers. More than likely these were all once toys from Santa or some loving adult who scrimped and saved so a child would find something special beneath the tree.
There were several dolls that found their way to our house on Christmas. I’m not sure who bought them for this once little girl. My favorite was Amosandra. I found her by the tree in a grey baby carriage. Mother had made a yellow hat, gown and blanket for her. Later Terri Lee, my Tony doll and Tiny Tears would join her in my room. Aunt Bess bought wonderful gifts. I remember finding the yellow, wooden horse in my grandparents’ front room. I could sit on it or push it. Aunt Bess also gave my last doll to me. Evidently someone had told her how much I loved Emmet Kelly the clown, because the doll arrived back the lane when Aunt Bess came to visit.
Noise from the basement filled the house. The youth group kids were roasting hot dogs. More than likely Mom laid out her usual fare of potato chips, potato salad and her cherry delight dessert. Popcorn balls would be stacked high in Dad’s popcorn pan. It was Christmas in the Loxley house.  
As the merriment carried on downstairs, I sat by the tree in the living room with my newest toy. I think my sister, June, was with me. The little plastic bells were lined up in a row with the colorful music propped up behind them… my first experience with music before I would someday sit at my first piano lesson.
I attribute my love of the theatre to a toy set from June. Surely she didn’t know that I would spend hours and years playing with the toys of the Disney TV Playhouse. I went online to see what my set would be worth now. The complete set depending on condition ranges from $200 to $518. The stage alone in mint condition is worth $165. My set isn’t worth much. A little girl played with it until the characters were worn and the stage bent. There is no price on memories, those memories from Christmases past.
I still have three of the plastic bells. My granddaughters love to ring them. The old stage is in a box in the garage along with the surviving characters and props, some broken, some not.
Old toys, old memories. Priceless pieces giving us glimpses into the past. Just the thought of a Cootie Game or a brand new Potato Head under the tree are enough to bring back memories of the days when we waited for Santa.
The toys are mostly long gone, but still the memories remain for the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saving The Stories

They remember. I was too small. Vague memories tug at the edge of my mind. I remember the little pink coat, the way it smelled when it was wet. I remember the hat being tied beneath my chin. A whisper of memory quickly passes remembering the snow at The Mead in Ludington, Michigan. Just a whisper. But, my sisters remember.

I didn't know the questions to ask. So busy with my life, I didn't notice that there were questions. Sitting around the kitchen table on the farm on Neff Road, I listened to family stories. Friends, family, neighbors. Whoever walked through that door opened more information into the family past. But I didn't take note. I didn't listen.

We didn't have a video camera back the lane. Our neighbors have some old 8mm film of us as little kids, but we had nothing but an old box camera and a little Brownie camera. We had no tape recorder to capture the stories, to hear the voices. Our history was related in the stories we heard. I was so busy with children and my own life that I didn't listen closely enough. I didn't know the questions to ask. I didn't care enough.

We went to visit my Uncle Bob at the Brethren Home. My kids were teenagers and not really interested, but we took the video camera along and set it up. I was beginning to realize that I needed to ask the questions. The tape was filled with family history and the telling by my uncle. For some reason, I never set the camera up on Mom and Dad. My questions for them were not asked. Not then.

I am curious now. The stories of the past are important to me. I lived with my parents for eighteen years, yet I knew so little of their growing up. Since Mom and Dad are gone, I do the next best thing. I ask my sisters. We piece together memories and experiences. They remember.

My children do not ask the questions. I try to share my childhood memories with my grandchildren. They aren't really ready to ask the questions either. So I blog. I write a history of the family I remember. I write a history of another time in Darke County, Ohio. I write a history in case someone asks the questions when I'm not here to answer.

We are all family history. We are all important to those we love whether or not they realize the treasured memories we possess. For some day, some distant day, someone will ask, and when they do, they will be glad we remembered.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Remember

The old trunk sits in front of the sofa. Papers, computers, a cup of coffee, remote controls, a candle and coasters litter the top. To look at it, you couldn't tell the treasures it holds inside. Once in awhile I open the trunk. I spend long periods of time going through the contents. The trunk is full of memories. The trunk is full of pictures.

Many of those pictures find their way to this blog. But there are those that do not. Yet those bring back memories and smiles. They are the school pictures, pictures of childhood friends and classmates. Picture of graduates with writing on the back saying things like: Friends forever; Let's keep in touch; Remember. Faces that would fade away with time. So why do I still have the pictures?

Over the years I have tossed pictures of scenery that have no meaning to anyone but me. Some of those pictures, those that are blurred or too dark, have disappeared in the recycling. Those school pictures of kids who were not really friends have also found their way out of the trunk. Yet those of my classmates who were with me during those twelve short years stay nestled in the trunk. They hold memories.

I guess we all wonder who will want our pictures some day. Who will care about those people from our past. Who will know the stories and history that accompany these pictures. Who will care.

When I knew I was going back to my high school alumni banquet last April, I went through my old pictures. I debated taking some of the pictures, the memories back with me. I wondered if anyone I knew would be there or even care about old friends and old pictures. A lifetime is short, but friends forget and move on.

It is the holidays. I look at the old trunk, a trunk that is for me a treasure chest. The pictures are just pictures that sit in the bottom of the trunk, but once opened, the trunk fills the room with the memories it holds. A lifetime is short....and I remember.

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Than A Picture


Once more I held the picture in my hands, a picture that has captured me since I was a small child. A small girl sits surrounded by presents, every child’s dream. Games, dolls, crafts, Santa just waiting for the little girl’s attention. Our Christmases were always very slim. Oh, how I wanted to be that little girl.
Over the years I came to understand more about that little girl. I noticed that the smile did not reach her eyes. The happiness that should have been shining in her young face was compromised by the disease that held her to her bed. I want my sisters’ memories to tell this story. My sisters, this is for you.
Memories from my oldest sister Peggy:
It was 1945. We all had whooping cough and scarlet fever at the same time. Dad was in the big bed, me on the couch and June in the baby bed. I was eight. The county put a sign on our door “Quarantined”. Mom was sick, but still tried to do the work outside. I think others came to help. Food was left at the door.
We eventually recovered, but June was weak. Since our local doctor didn’t seem to do anything to help June, Mom and Dad went to a children’s doctor in Dayton. He said she had rheumatic fever. There was a new drug he wanted to try on June. Our local doctor refused to give it to her, and she needed shots. I think it was every day. We made a lot of trips to Dayton forty-one miles away.
We played on the bed since June wasn’t allowed to walk because of her heart. We played puzzles and puppet kind of stuff. Even had a walking penguin. We thought up all sorts of things to do (for the days, the months, the almost two years our sister laid in bed).
After June recovered, Dad’s very expensive, registered cows contracted Bangs disease. June came down with an illness caused by unpasteurized milk. The entire herd was destroyed leaving Mom and Dad broke. It was a miracle in that day that June recovered. Mom was so scared that she would get sick again. June couldn’t leave the house without wearing slacks and warm clothes.
Memories from June, little girl surrounded by toys:
As I remember, I had trouble breathing when I ran and played. I was about four. The baby bed was placed in the kitchen during the day. I wanted to go out in the snow and play so Mom took me out on the sled. Peg play paper dolls, puzzles, etc. with me. I had an ultra-modern wheelchair. Becky Groff, the grandmother of the Royer kids, would come down with a basket on her arm that usually contained a snack (cookie) and a book to read to me giving Mom a break for an hour or two during the day while Peggy was at school. Perhaps every other week.
Memories of the sister born until two years later:
Mom and Dad always protected June even when she was older. Their sacrifices were many, but they were remarkable in their care of their ill daughter. They took a chance on a newly discovered drug called penicillin. They took a chance on a new type of doctor, a doctor for children.
The old wheelchair was often put into use when Mom babysat for someone’s child. It was fun to push friends around in it. When we went through the house after Mother died, we found the old wheelchair sitting in the corner of the attic. A reminder of a sister who survived.
I cannot imagine the guilt and pain my parents suffered during those years. They almost lost a daughter. They lost their cattle, their income. But anyone who knew my parents, knows that they were rich with love. Their strength saved a daughter, a farm and a family.
A child sits surrounded by toys.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Udderly Ridiculous

So I'm walking behind the sofa where my granddaughters sit watching kid's TV. I stopped in my tracks, my mouth flew open, and I gasped.

"What are you watching?!?!?!" I yelled.

My granddaughters both looked at me as if I'd grown another eye. Didn't they notice? Didn't they know?

"What idiot animated this show?" I wondered.

Now, I try to watch TV with the girls whenever I can just to see what they are watching. We talk over things that I question. 'Sponge Bob' is a crazy show that often leaves me shaking my head. Luckily, Gabby has a good eye for choosing what is appropriate and what is not. However, sometimes a child does not see the obvious.

"What's wrong, Grammy?" my granddaughters both ask as I rant and rave about the stupidity of editors and directors in not catching this obvious mistake.

"Look!" I exclaim. "Look at that! The bulls have udders! Bulls don't have udders!!!!"

This farm girl was having what my mom called a major 'snit'. Without question, the animator of the film had never been on a farm.

"Have you ever heard of anyone ever milking a bull?!" I continued. "Bulls do not have udders!!!"

"It's okay, Grammy," Gabby said.

"No, it's not! Kids who don't live on farms will think that bulls have udders!!!!"

"Grammy," said Gabby meek voice. "Why don't bulls have udders?"

I explained that cows have calves and the bulls do not. The cows feed their calves from the udders. Their heads shook in agreement, especially since their grandma was close to hyperventilating.

"Well, that's just wrong," said Sydney. "Why didn't they know that?"

I went online to see if anyone else in the world noticed that the 'cows' with really low voices were supposed to be udderless bulls. Maybe it was like theatre in the olden days when men played women's parts. Maybe there was a shortage of cows.

"Get a grip, Pam," I told myself. "It's animated."

Yes, indeed, there was a long list of comments from other adults offended by the uddered bulls. It was udderly (sorry) ridiculous.

My granddaughters managed to calm me down. We had learned bovine lessons. Life was good again until....

"So if bulls don't have udders, Grammy, what do they have?"