Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks every day

Today's column is being written on Thanksgiving Day. My calls are checking in with the relatives and friends. Food is stacked in the frig waiting to be called to the table. My family is taking a walk. Millie has a sore foot, so she and I are watching the Westminster Dog Show. Just about as exciting as it can get.

Nolan likes to mosey over to the music toy. He spins a wheel and music begins to play. He then stands bouncing to the music. Not quite like the Thanksgivings I remember when the Johnson family gathered on Neff Road. But music was there just the same. Like many families from Darke County, we grew up with music. For generations, our family had gathered around the piano to sing. The men sang just as powerfully as did the women, perhaps because there were fewer of them. Mom pounded out carols on the piano. As a small child I remember looking at each adult loving that they all sang. They didn't just sing! They harmonized. I think perhaps these were some of the best times of my growing up. Men who seemed toughed from working in the fields and wielding heavy loads became transformed when they sang with their beautiful voices.

Instead of extended family. It is just our little family. Much too much food and a whole lot of overeating, but traditions are followed. Instead of my mother cooking and me making the best of it since I hate cooking, my son takes up the turkey and creates a feast. Traditions set for the babies who, too, will someday remember.

It is a time of being thankful. Of course, I'm thankful every day, so this is no biggie. I find that it is a time of being especially thankful for the people who have been in my life. It is a day of missing. Many of those who lived in the area of Neff Road passed just this last week. A time of mourning overshadows this time of family. Still the joy of having those people in our lives and having shared wonderful memories makes one even more thankful for the past and grateful for the each moment of the present.

Thanksgiving doesn't just come one day and leave the next. Thanks should be a part of every day. For time, it does pass quickly.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From a Neff Road daughter

Today I'm taking this space to tell about a friend of mine who recently passed away. He was more than a friend. He was indeed one of my fathers on Neff Road. Victor Lavy left us on November 10th. He left not only his family but many friends as well. This is for you, Victor.

Probably two things that stand out for me when I think of Victor were his bib overalls and his laughter. His laugh was the same as that of the daughter he lost. Marilyn died while on a mission with her husband. It was a loss that affected us all on Neff Road. When visiting Victor and Doris, we would often talk of Marilyn. The hurt never left but the joy remained. I learned about strength in that home at the end of our lane.

As a child, I often played with Merrill and Don at their house or the boys came to ours. With our older siblings and the Stager kids, we play baseball in the meadow while Victor and Doris watched from the front porch and the sheep dodged the balls. We could hear Victor and Doris laugh and cheer us on. Every time I saw them we laughed that when teams were chosen by the two self appointed coaches, I was always standing alone at the end with each team captain trying to pawn me off on the other team. This is how memories are made and cherished.

Seeing it backward from my 66 years allows me to understand how much Victor and Doris loved me. They always watched over the Loxley girls even when we came home with our families in later years. When I lost each of my parents, Victor wrapped his arms around me and allowing my tears fall. I knew that every time I went to visit him, Victor would open the door smiling and with a ready hug. I was loved.

Things change and those who lived on Neff Road migrated to the Brethren Home. On each trip back, I was excited to visit each old neighbor. Victor would hold my hand and tell me how much he loved his bride. We talked of the old times and caught up on the activities of his children. After a chat, we held hands and went to visit Doris. Once I  knocked on the door of Doris's room. Victor opened the door a bit and Doris popped around the corner and planted a big kiss on me. A couple who loved one another for 72 years. They loved me as their own. Memories that I hold dear.

Victor Lavy lived a long life of 93 years. They were years of struggle and pain, but the faith of this family held them up and gave them laughter and joy in life. I know that next spring I will think of Victor when it is time to hunt mushrooms. I know that on every trip back I will shed a few tears for the missing of a warm hug. I embrace the friendships that I have with his son Lowell and daughter Geneva. I still have the love of the Lavy's in my life.

Rest in peace, my dear Victor. This from a 'daughter' of Neff Road.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A friend request

"No, that can't be him," my friend said. We were about 2500 miles apart but picking up where we left off as teenagers.

"It is. I'm sure it's him." My friend and I found each other on Facebook about two years ago. An old friendship became something brand new. Sometimes we call one another just to laugh or even more importantly to check to see how the other is doing.

"Well, he didn't used to look that way," she continued. No, we have all changed over the years. When you find an old friend on Facebook, it is often hard to see that person you saw last when you graduated from high school. Those catty teenagers now see no flaws. We just see years that we have missed by not keeping in touch with those who were friends long ago.

I have to say that Facebook has added to my life. I've found cousins and acquaintances I barely knew when I was young. I've found old friends from church and school. The neighborhood kids that played together for years then lost touch can now share pictures and enjoy news of family. A gift has been given to us. The distance between Ohio and Oregon is just a keyboard away.

Sometimes I wonder what my mother would have thought of Facebook. Once she conquered her fear of it, she would have been searching for the many people who passed through our house. She would have been like a detective hot on the trail of loved ones and their families.

Each time my friend and I find someone knew, we reminisce about what we thought about back then. Once in a while old secrets creep out, and we share a chuckle. We talk of the loves and the sorrows in our lives and once more build on a friendship that began over fifty years ago. Facebook made this possible.

There is a joy in going back to the past with those who shared it with you. It's nice to have an old friend share your current joys and sorrows. Someone to listen and give you an opinion. Someone who calls and wants to talk. Many people criticize Facebook, but I think they are afraid to give it a try. For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, I thank you for coming back into my life.

My friend and I sat looking at the picture each on our own computer screen. "Well, I guess you're right," she finally admitted.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beginning at Painter Creek Church

Often I tell people about life on the farm and living constantly with the many jobs of the farmer. We didn't leave our place of employment. No, we lived our employment. But we had a second residence. A place where we spent many hours a week. As a kid my comfort level there was no different than at home. The place was Painter Creek Church of the Brethren.

I sat thinking of the church and its influence on the lives of those back the lane on Neff Road. Dad and Mom sang in the choir. Every Wednesday night they took off for practice. They went so many years that Mom often directed the choir. I sat in the pews on Sunday and listened to my parents, Uncle Keith and Grandad Loxley singing praises to God. It wasn't unusual for one of our family to sing a solo or play the piano in accompaniment. Music echoed in our faith and in the background of our daily lives.

Every Sunday we entered the church and found the same people in the same pews. Jess and Rosie Riffell sat in the front right pew. The older generations sat in the back right side. The noisy kids sat with parents on the left. Friends and neighbors we had known all of our lives surrounded us, caring for us even as we grew to adults. The church was the hub of the community. I loved to meet up with my best friends Doris Royer, Vivian Force, Mary Kay Snider, Brenda Stager and Priscilla Wyan. I always begged to bring one of them home to play after church.

My parents were youth leaders and Sunday School teachers. In later years they took on the job of custodians. It wasn't that we were immersed in faith. Mom and Dad lived their faith without wearing it as a banner. They practiced in life the goodness of a Christian faith. I think that was where I learned that the world is my church. Giving, loving, caring were the practices in and outside of our home.

When I had just moved to Oregon, I discovered that my husband was unfaithful. My life was in shambles. I had two small children and no idea what to do. I came home to the farm to hide from life for a month. My parents took over the loving care of my children while I calmed my heart and began to look forward. It was a hard journey. After about three weeks, I wandered to Mom's bookshelf. I found a book about silent faith. Suddenly my life became clear. I knew that I was in good Hands. A faith that I learned as a child growing up in Painter Creek Church was part me. My church based on peace and love gave me a way to understand my faith.

This isn't meant to be a preachy piece. The little church where I grew up cradled me in faith. Those same people are as dear to me now as they were then. My heart sings when I see them on return trips. They were all part of my growing up and part of my family. I know my story is shared by others who grew up in country churches. We all shared the story of the land and God who created it. My heart will always with the little church called Painter Creek.