Donna’s birthday party

I wept, several times.

I wept when I saw Sarah and Harvey, Gladys’s grown up children.

The last regret she told me just before she passed in 1984 was that she wouldn’t be here as Sarah and Harvey grew up.

But Sarah, now a nurse in intensive care with children of her own, looked so much like her mother, and I felt Gladys had come to the party for her younger sister’s 80th birthday.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her, and I wept.

I wept when I saw my grand niece Haylee who was recovering from an auto collision (she showed me the X-ray) of a broken pelvis (pinned back together) and an almost severed spine which would have left her a paraplegic.

And I wept, not for her injuries as terrible as they were, but for her bravery, resilience, and youthful beauty.

She has grown a lot since she came with Donna to the Oregon coast for a visit and made a glass heart in Lincoln City. Her fight with this traumatic injury was lessened somewhat (she told me) because she was a dancer.

I agreed and later told her father, my nephew Bruce, Donna’s eldest, that I thought it was not only her physicality, but her attitude that served her recovery.

I wept a second time hugging this fragile but enduring, tenacious eighteen year old. Her strength gave me strength (I’m weeping again as I write).

I wept when my brothers, Ron and Don, showed up,with Ron’s wife Pat. I thought he was angry with me for changing my last name from Meskimen to McAnelly because of father issues.

He told me he had contacted each of his sons, Eric and Paul, asking them if he had ever done anything so bad as to piss them off and change their last names?

And then he invited me to Loveland for a sleep over Thursday. I have not been to his house since he had moved there from his retirement house in Estes Park a few years ago.

Well, you know what I did, a little bit.

I spent a lot of time with Susan, Bruce’s wife and Haylee’s step mom, with whom I have not conversed for years but with whom I share an interest in geneology. She said she was using it to find a lost relative.

Susan is a caregiver for Stephen who was with her. I had a long talk with Stephen, who would take awkward notes to help him remember details of what was said.

When I was telling Stephen and Susan about my efforts (unsuccessful so far) to be a better listener, Stephen gave me some advice: you are giving that person a ‘gift’ when you listen completely to them. I told him he had just reversed my attitude 180° with that one word, “gift.”

This party was like the gathering of friends and family at a funeral, but without the death.

I also laughed while I was at the party. I laughed with my brother Donald about our spaghetti dinner in Louisville a few years ago. I laughed at the birthday cake with the number 21 in candles on the top. I laughed when everyone put their name tags on Paul.

It was a great party for my beloved sister who was turning 80.

Later I read her the story I had written for her called “Donna and me.” (But when I tried to print it out for her, I sent it to the wrong printer and the lady at the desk one floors down gave it to us when we went down for dinner.)

Before I close I should also mention the popularity of my kilt, especially among the older women. Several talked to me at length about their own Scottish heritage, tartans, and then asked if I play bagpipes. No one asked what clothing I had on beneath my kilt, not even my brother.

I smiled.

-Small town boy

Donna and me

My sister Donna will be 80 in two days.

I will be 76 this summer.

But our relationship goes back to Fremont, NE in 1944, my first memory, of a hot sidewalk, bare feet and my sister.

I remember her kindness in 1948, or so, when she threw me a surprise birthday party, keeping me upstairs till all the guests arrived, in Coleridge NE.

She was always a step ahead of me. In Fort Collins, CO, in the fifties, she played drums; I played trombone. 

“Was I Donna’s brother?” People would ask.

Yes I was.

She led the way in good grades, comportment, and beauty. I was a far second.

Admiring her from afar, celebrating her goodness, beauty and kindnesses (especially toward me).

We did get into a little trouble together when she let me drive our old ’36 Buick Victoria, (at age 15) and I drove through a stop sign on to a highway and we got hit. She quickly switched seats with me before the state police arrived.  No one was hurt. No one knew this story till now.

She went off to St Luke’s in Denver for nursing school and left me to fen for myself.

When she wed Jack, I was devastated. My sister with another man. Married.

I got over it.

When I got divorced in 1971, she was concerned. When She got divorced a few years later, we understood each other.

Later after her second husband died from suicide, we were told a family secret: our father had not died from heart failure in 1950 as we had been told, but had committed suicide.

Donna was living in “the Springs” (Colorado Springs) on Tesla. Every time I made it to Colorado from where I was living in Oregon, “the Springs” had increased its radius by another mile.

As it grew, Donna grew, moving her nursing career into a business, and become a – Republican!

As a liberal Democrat myself I cringed at her bumper stickers when I was visiting. Reagan? Bush? (I haven’t seen her car this year to know if there’s a Trump b.s. on it).

Always cordial and welcoming, she welcomes me again.

I love you Donna, my sister.

Happy Birthday!

– Small town boy 

Security or Balance?

I noticed, when going downstairs while using the handrail,

That I don’t cling to it for safety/security,

But I lean on the handrail,

For balance.

And, as always, I seek the metaphor for life, my life.

I think security/safety is important for a stable life, but

It is balance I seek for a meaningful life.

Balance is often thought of as a teeter totter between two members of a dichotomy:

Good/evil, fit/unfit, religious/atheist, etc.

But there are no dichotomies; there are three or more forces involved in each problem.

As a physics teacher, I believe in force vectors, in which the sum of each force AND their directions determines your movement.

Unattended, forces are exerted, causing movement.

And so what reaction to these forces do you perceive?

A. Nothing, I am blown by forces not of my making.

B. Resist the impinging forces by my own personal strength.

C. Seek balance, seek to balance forces with other forces that act in opposition or in replacement of forces arrayed to place stress in my life.

For me this balance comes in the form of meditation, jigsaw puzzles and bike rides.

Walks in the beach, turning off cable news, spiritual practices, walking with the dog etc. offer balance to my stressors.

Hugs, cuddling, touch, kisses, are powerful forces in this regard.

And so, instead moving according to forces I don’t control,

I sit quietly as the whirlwinds if life,

Not fighting,

Just leaning 

In a direction that

Gives me balance.

It is this balance that sustains me in the face of trauma,

Like death of a loved one, illness, surgery, motor accident, addiction, and so on and so on.

Balance, and God,

And my wife of forty five years.

Love is a great balancing agent.

I see others, people who don’t have balance,

And I can’t give them balance,

I can only be sure that I am balanced.

Can you see?

That I am balanced?

And not teetering?

Sometimes, sometimes, I teeter,

When I teeter I know what to do,

Seek balance, find equilibrium,

And go on to the next event.

– Small town boy

Don’t Eat the Donuts!

I love donuts.

The woman behind the donut machine,

In Steele’s grocery in 1950’s Fort Collins, CO, 

Next to St Luke’s Episcopal church (my church) on College and Oak (I think),

Across the street from BPOE, the Elks club,

Watched the donuts drop in to the carrousel of hot lard,

Move half way around the track and flip to cook the other side,

And then continue the full circle to drop down the chute to be captured,

And frosted.

I delivered the Coloradoan newspaper to her home,

So she would give me a warm, sweet, mouth watering sample donut,

When I came in and she was cooking them.

Now I can’t eat them.

I have type II diabetes and am on a diet, having lost 26 lbs.

Last week we were in Wheatland, CA after the passing of my 37 year old grandson,

And near the Suites we stayed was Krispy Creme.

I can’t eat them either.

They have a similar way to cook them, in rows instead of a carrousel,

And like that other donut machine, they flip half way to brown the other side.

I just love Krispy Kreme’s.

Oh sure there are other donuts in my life, non edible and non enticing:

The spare tire in my Honda Element is just such a donut,

A small tire only strong enough to get you to Les Schwab to fix the flat,

Or better yet, to remain hidden under the back deck while AAA is called.

Remaining hidden is a good thing for donuts.

There is also a donut (hole) in my Medicaid, wherein I have to pay until I get out of it;

I hope Obama care fixes that.

Sometimes love handles that live around my middle are called a donut, now called muffin too?

I don’t eat them, but they are there due to some heavy donut bouts in the past. 

I used to stop at the donut shop in Hollywood, Portland, OR to get a bag of  donuts to eat on the way to school in Corvallis or Eugene,

Not Dunkin’ Donuts, the other one.

I’m paying for that now.

I never cared much for the boxed powdered Wonder bread/Hostess donuts,

Too dry, not fresh.

I don’t sit on a donut, though I have in the past when hemorrhoids got bad, a cusion of air, that is.

Anyway despite my digressions,

I still have donuts on my mind,

Hot fresh frosted cake donuts with sprinkles.

I have yet to visit Voodo Donuts in Portland, home of the donut with bacon on it?

– Small town boy

Costume, Disguise, and Character

Whether your costume today is: rural/farm, ethnic/kilts, formal/suits, hats/coats, burning man blue, hair (facial or otherwise), clown/red nose, sports/swim, or nothing at all,

It will be your costume.

It will, like it or not, reflect you, though in disguise.

Which one is the Real You?

The one you wear today?

You can’t not dress in costume/disguise.

The more you try, the more you are in costume

For your role today.

 But don’t judge the book by its cover

The ultimate purpose of costume, is to reflect character.

Character is you at your core, your core values,

Your rep, your reputation, your innermost strength, your self.

What a character.

So this is a gentle reminder,

To stretch your image today by wearing something flamboyant,

Or something that reflects ethnicity or gender or sexual preference,

Move out of your comfort zone.

There is no easier way than costume.

-small town boy

Healing/Greiving

I had surgery on Tuesday, and now I am in the healing process.

Healing is like grieving, you can’t hurry it.

Both are recovery processes.

Both trying to repair the body,

from trauma.

The mental body, the emotional body, the physical body, and the spiritual body.

We’ve been given the necessaries for this process,

And though we grow impatient,

they work, after a fashion.

Seeing it in others or helping them see it,

Doesn’t help much when it’s you that is healing.

Small steps, some backwards, some forwards,

Like the frog in  the well: two forward, one backward.

Oh, how we take for granted the uninjured self.

When we’re whole our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits

Are involved with other things, not suspecting

What’s around the corner.

What is the good of trauma? It shakes me up, like an earthquake,

That allows rebuilding of fundamental structures, 

Allows change to occur.

Things I thought were important, aren’t so important now.

Things I had forgotten were important, become important once again.

Grief and healing; healing and grief,

Once thought too painful,

Now seen as brief.

bless me father.

-Small town boy


My doctors, Brant and Wang.

Trees fell down

There are trees down in the forest.

Some fell, but mostly as a result of storm damage.

A natural end to life in a vertical posture.


Now I lay me down to sleep…

No!

Prematurely, not due to any weakness in my limbs,

I am fallen to die,

And then, after a time,

Resurrection, just as Christ died on a tree and was resurrected after being placed in a cave on the ground,

I, laying here on the forest floor,

Will become a nurse log for others to grow from.

The cycle continues.

I m fallen, but others will rise 

With my help.

From

My life comes the life of others,

Standing in the sun.

Amen

– small town boy

Sons-in-law

Sons-in-law are different than daughters-in-law.

As I’ve said elsewhere daughters-in-law are God’s gifts to dads.

Sons-in-law are God’s quiet warriors,

that enter the family on the arms of my daughters,

And caretake everyone, quietly, with honor and greatness.

If, if, you are blessed enough to have discerning daughters,

And that is not always the case.

Some men are not more than sperm donors.

Some men abuse my daughters,

And leave them pregnant, alone and unsupported,

Only to return later to try to take the glory denied them by their denial.

But the good ones, like my sons-in-laws are superior men.

I have great sons, don’t get me wrong.

 But these sons-in-laws, of their own volition, married my daughters,

And helped in the raising of the family,

Providing a role model for the boys,

And for the girls too.

They don’s spend a lot of time boasting, preaching, being totalitarian

Heads of their families.

They work. They are at home. They argue with their wives. They hold their children and spend “quality time” with them.

I had no such father myself. So I really appreciate these men who fathered (really fathered) my grandchildren.

I have followed the line from Marco Polo (the TV series) in which Ghengis Khan said, “You have to become the father you wished you had.”

My son-in-laws help me with that.

Thank you Russel and George.

I. Love you.

– Small town boy

Breath

I breathe.

Again.

I breathe,

And with each breath

My lungs extract life

In the form of oxygen 

And send it to refresh my heart.

My heart thus refreshed

Sends it on to my brain,

And the cloud on my spirit lifts

Just a little.

More breaths, more breathing,

More refreshing,

And I can go on.

Simple, slow recovery.

I just keep breathing.

Thank you Jesus,

And all those tiny angels

That I sent to my friend last year in her grief,

They have returned to me.

Their job is never ending.

Their job is to give us strength and courage

And hope.

Take a breath, take another, and another.

Recovery is slow 

But hope is eternal.

– Small town boy