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 

Play ball

Neither of my great grandchildren, nor my grandchildren for that matter, know much about baseball.

I tell them we went out every recess to play ‘workup’, the game that allows you to workup from outfield to infield, pitcher to catcher, to become the batter.

And we played with a baseball and brought our own baseball mitts. No protective gear. On the playground. With girls. And after school too. And on weekends.

So when the world series was on everyone listened, asking those near a radio to tell the score.

We didn’t have caps or teeshirts or other memorabilia.

We had bubblegum trading cards. Baseball players in bubblegum, with stats, which we collected and traded.

We went to the movies to see the game, in the newsreel at the beginning before the cartoon and the movie.

What I’m saying is that we didn’t have teams, nor little league, nor Babe Ruth; we had workup, where everyone got to play every position. It was egalitarian.

We didn’t chew and spit or grab our crotches. Well, we chewed bubble gum, for the baseball player cards.

And everyone could play, every position;  everyone, anyone, who showed up.

And we all showed up.

– Small town boy

Shame kills

It was a little matter, really,

But I felt it in my gut, all day,

Shame.

I had given love notes to my dear friends,

And one took exception.


She felt uncomfortable enough to tell her supervisor

At the gym where I work out everyday.

He pulled me into the back room to tell me about it

And to also mention that my colorful spandex workout clothes were not appropriate.

I felt shame.

I knew what it was, but I couldn’t shake it.

I knew that I just had to let it work its course till it dissipated,

But it didn’t lessen, even a little.

I began different scenarios:

-Don’t go back.

-Don’t go back on the days she worked.

-Tell her I was sorry . (Her supervisor said he would)

-Go back as though nothing had happened, like an adult.

Finally after a wonderful birthday party filled with love,

It began to melt.

Until the middle of the night.

2 a.m. And I’m dealing with it, again.

Shit!

All through this experience I’m thinking that Jeff (the Holy Spirit)

Has some life lesson going on.

It had all the hallmarks: deep emotional response, critical to my love experiment, and a threat to my plan of how to love others (by telling them) and a roadblock to what I wanted to do.

Finally, about three, I got the message.

It was Shame that killed my father.

You see he had committed suicide when I was nine.

He had been chasing other women, drinking to excess, and abusing my mother, but

It wasn’t until she served him with divorce papers that he decided to kill himself.

He did it, I believe, because all that he was doing was about to be made public.

He couldn’t live with the shame.

I remember the Super Christmas we had a month before he died.

He was making up for something with outrageous gifts.

I didn’t know that at the time he was already out of the house.

And the next month he took drugs (he was a veterinarian)

And died.

From Shame.

This is a great insight for me. I changed my last name two years ago because he had done this.

Now I feel his pain, his shame.

I’m sorry he felt this.

I love you dad.

thanks Jeff, for the lesson.

I love you too.

-Small town boy

In your dreams

I can smell it, can’t you?

I can hear it running, what a great sound.

 I can feel her on the road bouncing along.


1929 Ford Midel A sedan for sale in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

I stopped to look.

It’s as it was then, not restored as much as kept alive all thes years (87 years).

My father had a coupe that I remember when I went with him to vaccinate pigs outside the little town of Coleridge, Nebraska in 1949. He was a veterinarian.

I remember where he sat and where I sat. I smell his pipe smoke and the cars gas smell.

I remember him talking with me and the sound of the little engine.

I remember feeling proud of him and me going with him and the vibration of the car on the road.

I have yearned for this car, and for him.

He committed suicide 64 years ago when he was just 37.

He left me and my brothers and sisters alone and my mother tasked with raising us.

There is a lot of sensory memories locked up in that car.

I need to unlock it and take it for a drive.

– Small town boy

Dinner

The evening meal, in my house, was supper.

Dinner was the Sunday mid-day meal,

Or a special meal, like Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinner in my mother’s family, the Lanes,

Was an extravaganza, one of two family gatherings,

The other being the Fourth of July.

In the early fifties, after my father’s untimely death,

We returned to Colorado from Coleridge, Nebraska,

And received a 1936 Buick Victoria, which had belonged to my great aunt Alice McAnelly,

And given to us because we had no vehicles.

My father owned three vehicles, a jeep, a Modle A Ford and a Chrysler, but as he left no will they were sold off and mone was put in trust for the children.

Mother called the car Vickie.

We had to stop half way to Lakewood on the way to Thanksgiving Dinner to refill the radiator after it overheated and blew off steam.

(Later, I had an accident when driving it age 15 and drove through a stop sign.

Vickie had trouble with her transmission as her sisters had, so that was the end of her.)

But I digress (a trait of my vascular dementia, I get distracted)

Thanksgiving Dinner was at my Uncle Emmet’s house,

Though we were sleeping elsewhere usually, at Uncle Clark’s or Uncle Howard’s.

All three of my mother’s brothers lived in Lakewood, CO.

The big excitement of the dinner, the Thanksgiving gathering, 

Was the candy centerpiece Emmet and his family made,

Which was usually hidden under a dish towel till time to reveal it.

I remember chocolate log cabins made from Tootsie Rolls,

White divinity snow, marshmallow rice crispie footballs and more.

Not all of these were made on the same centerpiece but occurred on other Thanksgivings.

One year, upon the reveal, we were told the candy centerpiece was a “Kosdoon.”

We didn’t know what a Kosdoon was and conjectured that it was some kind of rectangular mine shaft?

Later the family admitted that it was supposed to be a windmill,

But it had fallen over! They made up the name Kosdoon to cover for the accident.

My grandfather, Albert Lane, sat at the head of the table, and carved the turkey,

After honing the carving knife with a steel that matched it in the handle.

Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, jello, carrots and celery, and more, 

Ending with pumpkin pie.

(I subsequently attempted to make a candy centerpiece when I moved to Portland and was invited to my Aunt Margaret’s in Kent, Washington, but I was unable to make anything remotely similar to the great Emmet Lane masterpiece.)

Dinner to me means family.

Dinner means sitting down to the same big table with a beautiful table cloth, and a kid’s table nearby.

Dinner means food and tradition and family.

Dinner is more ceremonious than supper.

Let’s have dinner, OK?

Breakfast

Breakfast this morning: Raisin Bran and pressed coffee.

Breakfast yesterday, the same.

Breakfast tomorrow: Bare Naked granola and pressed coffee.

Breakfast in Hilo, Hawaii: fruit smoothies with fresh pineapple, mango.

Breakfast in Paris: espresso and croissants.

Breakfast in Dario, Nicaragua, red beans and rice.

Breakfast in South Africa: a full English buffet with bangors.

Breakfast in Calca, Peru: Peruvian coffee, and ….? I forgot.

Breakfast in Mexico City, Mexico at the dumps, OJ, …. I forgot.

It is a good thing I’m trying to remember these early morning reposts because with vascular dementia I might not remember tomorrow.

Breakfast at Rawah Guest ranch in northern Colorado: Pancakes (leftovers went to the braying donkey on the kitchen steps), OJ, and eggs.

Breakfast in Coleridge, NE: Cheerios (to get the western town on the back of each box)

Breakfast with my children: pancakes, eggs and bacon, every morning!

Breakfast camping with Boy Scouts: burnt pancakes.

Breakfast hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Logan bread and Morning Thunder tea.

Breakfast on Cycle Oregon: Pancakes and eggs provided by local people.

Breakfast on Great American Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River, brauts and beer (not really, but at some meal each day)

Breakfast in the military: ( I wasn’t actually in the military but I was in the AFROTC at U of Colo and traveled with the drill team) SOS. “Take all you can eat; Eat all you take.” “Edible garbage and non-edible garbage”

Dorm breakfast: oatmeal

Mother’s breakfast: scrambled eggs and toast.

Breakfast at my daughters: find your own cereal or go get doughnuts and coffee.

Breakfast on the road: the Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s and coffee.

Number of people at breakfast: one.


–Small town boy

Lost Connection

It has only been a year.

I knew her for a year.

She unlocked my life, long enough to extract ten stories

From 1948, from Coleridge, Nebraska,

Where my father took his own life

And sealed those memories in the shadow

That was my life.

We found each other only one year ago,

We discovered a common history, she knew she had Ovarian Cancer and that it was terminal,

She had known it for years 

She shared her bravery and grace with me for one year of my life,

And that changed everything.

Now I am a writer.

Now I share my stories with others.

I have lost my connection to Coleridge and a dark part of my youth,

But not before shining a bright light on those memories that were wonderful,

Those memories not tarnished by my father,

And my heart came to life.

Thank you Verlyne.

God bless and keep you and let his face shine upon you now.

I love you and am a better person for it.

  
– Small town boy

Giving Thanks

It’s that time of year in the States,

Thanksgiving.

In the Lane family, my mother was a Lane,

We used to gather in Lakewood, Colorado

At my Uncle Emmet’s house for the traditional Thanksgiving meal

And a huge candy centerpiece that they made that held the position of honor on the table.

My grandfather and grandmother, Albert and Sadie, were the head of this family

And so he got to carve the turkey, with a big carving knife and a knive sharpener near by.

Uncle Emmet’s family included his wife Louise, son Allen and daughters Karen and Christie (three more were to come along later)

Uncle Clark was the eldest son and his wife was Irma and three sons, Norman, Robert and Neal.

Uncle Howard’s wife was Ruth and there children were Jim and Judy.

My family was headed by lmy mother, Ruth Elizabeth (Betty), daughters Gladys and Donna and three boys, Lloyd (me), Ron and Don the twins.

Big family.

Sometimes Neal and his family might come if they were visiting from Arlington, VA. He was in the Department of Agriculture and his wife was Mary, their daughter Patricia and twins John and Robert. 

Margaret and her husband Monty, from Kent, Wa might  show up for the  summer Fourth of July gathering with a new Oldsmobile they drove back from Detroit with three sons and two daughters. He was a veterinarian there. Sons: Clark, Ted, Dennis and daughters: Emily and Mary.

The youngest member of the  family, Albert, was inTucson at the University of Arizona and might come with his daughter Pamela.

No Thanksgiving passes without thoughts of that family gathering.  All of the adults and some of the  grandchildren are gone now.

But I give thanks for this family that stood by us when my father  committed suicide and we moved back to Colorado from Coleridge, NE in 1950.

We were given a 1936 Buick Victoria to drive as we didn’t have a car then. We had  to stop on a  hll near Broomfield to refill the radiator to make it from Fort Collins to Lakewood.

In order for Thanksgiving to truly be Thanksgiving I must smell turkey cooking and take home leftovers.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with family memories.

  
– Small Town Boy

Teal

Teal is the color of those in support of those with Ovarian cancer.

  
This reminds me to pray for my friend in hospice. 

Won’t you join me ?

Some might think prayer does no good, but I know better.

It helps me work on supporting her transition,

And it helps me prepare for the end.

It helps her by bringing comfort and solace in this important time.

It helps her family as they live and work through this time we all knew was coming.

And it alerts Him that someone very special is coming.

I love you and I pray for your ease and comfort and for those near you.

Thanks for everything.

You helped me find me.

God bless and keep you.

-Small town boy