Sunday, January 06, 2019

How to Remember

     A visit to the local potter, a staple in our community, was on the list the day after Christmas. My son and I wanted to find out if he made pots for cremains. He showed us some lovely examples for those folks who earlier thought of what we only recently considered. He creates a vessel of your choice with tops. He also crafts small vases which will hold one flower. How do the cremains fit into something small? These tiny ones have a color glaze with cremains added. When he pointed out the exterior of one small vase, in the white area of a red were scattered reflections of silica or the cremains.  A teaspoon of cremains is all that's needed to create a beautiful glaze. In the larger "urns" the glaze is seen but inside are the remainders. If you have a pet's ashes to add to yours, he creates a separate area. When disposed of, all the ashes mix as they aim for their destination. The urns then can hold flowers or sit on a table top.
     On my computer I accidentally hit a key and a site came up in which cremains are added within beautiful blown glass. All shapes and sizes. I recall the site was
     My previous ideas described are just two of at least 17, according to funeral There's the diamond which can be worn as a ring, earrings, cuff links, etc. Actually this is an old tradition.
Then added to fireworks so you can "send" your loved one into the skies with a bang; include ashes taken by an underwater company in England who'll add them to reef; and--I'll bet you've not thought of this--have a tattoo artist add to ink and select a design or name or dates to a body part; or allow an artist to add to paints and create a design on canvas for you.
     I can't leave out what many people prefer--plant the ashes around a tree in a memory garden or in you own garden. Place a small plaque under the tree, or hanging off a limb, name, date, etc. If the tree is outside your dining window, you can remember that special person more quickly.
     So many ideas in one place. Hope you find something perfect  for your loved one(s).

Friday, January 04, 2019


    This is not an interesting subject but it is one many of us become involved with.  Over ten years ago I cared for my dear mother. This was my gift for the wonderful life she created for me. I loved taking time to talk about yesteryears, driving to her hometown and locating the area where her home once stood. We visited aging cousins and searched for "familiar" places that no longer we're familiar.
    Then she had to have dialysis. That required me to drive her a rather long way from home and spend the four hours required to clean her blood.
    I thought I was handling the responsibility well. I had my dad at home and my husband returned from work waiting for supper nights. Before I knew it, I crashed.  Couldn't take what was needed to keep my wonderful mom happy in her last days.  We had to move her to a retirement home where she was cared for by others. Broke my heart. In the meantime Dad died.
   No one can imagine at the beginning of their care taking that the responsibility will be arduous. Of course, you can move the parent immediately to a home, but I wanted to keep Mother close and show love and appreciation as I know she'd do for me.  However, there comes a time and situation that keeping a parent at home is too much.
   In 1999 there were no guide books to give instructions to the care giver. Everyone had to use common sense. For example: when I found Mother walking down the hallway with her shirt on inside-out, I'd ask,"Mom, where are you going?" She'd wave her hand and keep going. I'd follow and find her in the kitchen where she'd put the skillet on the stove and turned the heat to high.  I thought this amusing. I'd turn off the skillet, guide her back to her room and we'd chat awhile.
   Or, she'd relate at breakfast when I'd eat with her and Daddy, "A man was in my bed last night/A couple was pushing me off my bed/Marvin (her deceased brother) slept with me." Daddy and I would go along and tell her to kick them out. If it were her brother, I'd ask, "Did you ask him what he was doing in the area?" She'd have a plausible answer.  This was rather fun, you know, playing along rather than fuss and declare, "Oh that's all in your mind."
   Mother loved to travel. In those aging days she'd say one day, "Lets go to Colorado today." I'd say, "What a lovely day to go somewhere." So we'd hop in the car and I'd drive around and then tell her it was too late to go to Colorado without plans. We'd spend the next day looking at a US map, plotting how we'd get there. Another time she'd want to go to New York, Chicago, Florida. The map was a way to keep her happy. We'd talk about the sights we'd find in those places.
   Now I'm caring for my husband. The good point is he has his mental faculties. Oh, a bit of forgetfulness, but he can still give me a word I'm searching for as I write a story. He reads and naps. I cook and deliver his two meals, roll him to the bathroom, keep him warm. He is easier than my mother was, so I shouldn't complain. Yet, stress creeps in like a fog and before I know it,  fatigue has embraced me like an old coat. We're solving that situation soon.
   Have a wonderful January, everyone

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Relax and Remember

My blog entries were quite some time ago. Those gremlins of age hit at the wrong time. I've beaten ill health, but aspects still remain with different names: memory loss and arthritis. Two worst ailments that refuse to disappear.
Musings while driving today: 
The accident I had last summer day. Every time I turn the corner of those two streets I drive several times a week, I remember clearly what happened, although the facts were mixed like a martini at the time of the impact. I'm positive I turned left behind a car before the light changed. What happened was a small Ford truck slammed into my right fender, both of us turning away from a more serious bender. He didn't want to press charges, the cop said, as I fumbled in the glove compartment for identification. I knew not to say, It's not my fault, Sorry, I didn't see him, or I did not run a red light. Ford driver's comment was She ran the red light.  In the process of police interrogation my  blood pressure hit the top, my innards squeezed and churned, and my voice was a bit shaky. Of course my gray hair and the handicapped card on the dash didn't help me look and act younger. However, I manage to review the scene every time I reach that particular crossroad, and every time I knew, just knew that guy ran into me.

Now my hair has silver stands that my adult children accept. I colored my hair from age 40 til 80, when I realized I wasn't going to see many people I wanted to think I was ten years younger.  And  the walking cane I now use has overshadowed my hair color. Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, that owning a cane and carrying (on your arm) opens more doors and achieves more kind remarks (Good morning, Well, hello, You need a bit of help) than if I leave my cane in the car. I love to know there are thoughtful souls, young folks as well, who exist in my small world.

Driving allows me to rewrite one of two stories I paid to have criticized. Because they have merit, I have to rewrite certain paragraphs the critics suggest.  One story is based on a real incident of a friend of the family. This meant changing names and towns, and anything my friend would attach to her own experience. The second one is based on some poor wives who have husbands who demand too much. This main character decides one evening to find a way to get rid of this non-romantic buzzard she married twenty years ago. My critic suggested a scene to be transferred to the opening of the story. If you have similar problems, ladies, let me know. I need more fire.
Oops, this is enough for one entry.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The Telephone Call

The time was the 1930s. My parents both worked nights, including Christmas Eve. I was too young for our small family to have formed any traditions at this time of the year. On this particular evening I was staying with my dad at his job. He was a telegrapher for the Postal Telegraph Union, later to be called  the Western Union. 

In those early days there weren't many  crayons and coloring books, so my responsibility while waiting for daddy's job to end at midnight was to stay quiet. People came and went sending their families a beautiful Christmas telegram.  Noise from electric machines was loud in the back of the room. Local messengers came in and out to grab local 'grams to deliver immediately.

1938 clipping

The office was one large room with a small area entered by the front door where a counter ran from one end of the room to the other. Here, patrons composed and finalized their  telegrams. More telegrams were sent in those days because many people didn't have telephones. To receive a telegram--strips of paper upon which a message had been typed then pasted onto a sheet of paper with a big banner at the top declaring: POSTAL TELEGRAM could be joy or sadness.

For a time I sat looking out the wide windows at the rushing people outdoors. In those days much purchasing occurred Christmas Eve.  When people became less, I'd get up and hop across the front of the room from one linoleum block to the other, counting the entire time. Never did the numbers change.

At one end of the counter for patrons was a telephone booth. The phone rang. I didn't move. I had never heard that phone ring. I continued to sit, the phone continued to ring. Finally, one of the workers in the back yelled, "Get that, Vivian, I think that's for you!" I didn't rush. Who called little girls? With a bit more effort from the man in the back, I opened the door, stood on the seat and picked up the small black receiver, leaned into the phone and said, "Hello?" 

"Ho, Ho, Ho, is this Miss Vivian?"

"Yessss, sir."

"Well, Miss Vivian, this is Santa calling you from the North Pole. I'm about to leave and wanted to be sure I have your list filled."

My heart pounded like a hammer on a nail.  Santa had called me! Nervously I recited my three requests: a pink dress with pockets, a Sonja Heini doll wearing ice skates, and a barrette for my hair.

"That's what I have on this list, too, little lady. When you get home, go right to sleep, and I'll be there before you know it! Bye now."

I dropped the receiver, ran through the swinging door separating the front from the back and jumped up and down like a toy clown, and yelled to the night workers, "I just talked to Santa Claus. " They hugged and danced and said, "What a lucky girl you are!"

After closing time Daddy and I hurriedly walked the six blocks home. I jumped into bed without any supper. I couldn't wait to wake up the next morning.

Many years passed before I asked my Dad who called that night. He admitted it was he; but I declared "it surely didn't sound like your voice." That story became a part of our celebrations every Christmas until I left home.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Know-It-All Person

You know people who'll insist they know a subject better than you. Oh, if you could sweep them under the carpet, wouldn't you feel better? Well, I'm one of those. I pride myself remembering many facts and I have a stern personality to back my decisions/opinions. My serious mien doesn't scare anyone.  But when I know something to be correct, I'm out to prove it.

For instance, advising my daughter and her husband about the new plants they should put in the yard. I've been through so many plants and flowering bushes and discarded the same number through forty years that I know what is best for OUR yard.  Mind you, not anyone else's.

Despite never having studied plant science, two summers visiting plant growers in New Jersey on the lookout for just-the-perfect greenery and blooms to sell in my son's Kudzu store in Barryville, NY., I gained a lot of expertise. Twice a month I'd journey fifty miles south where the soil is a gorgeous black and flowers and plants flourish.  At the end of one summer's discussion with nursery owners as I selected the best plants, I loaded up on the Latin names so I could repeat them to store customers.  I learned which plants liked sun, which felt good in the shade, which ones grew best in pots, which needed no special care.  Armed with this knowledge in one summer, I could have opened a nursery.  I visited some of the prettiest companies showing their best in acres of tilled fields.  I loved these trips and what I learned.

When my daughter and her husband bought our house with the idea we parents would remain en situ, I tried to remain quiet about the changes made inside the house. When it came to hiring a landscaper, I sat on edge. These fifty-some year olds didn't ask me for advice, since I'd planted more shrubs and blooming plants in our yard than they..My choices often were not those of my husband's, who didn't like to dig in the soil.  I'd choose a plant, dig a hole and let it marinate for a year. Then my husband would play "Let's change shrubs" The more I planted the more he'd pull up because he didn't like the leaf shape or the blooms turning yellow, or the black spots that formed on leaves after a rain. You can tell we didn't see eye to eye about beauty.  

The day the landscape plans arrived to discuss any changes, I sat down and googled all the plants to be sure I was correct about shade and sun.  I pointed out to son-in-law the shady areas of the front yard, stressing that the plans call for sunny plants, vice versa. He insisted "things have changed since you last planted anything in the yard.”A nice way to say “You don’t know anything, you’re too old.” When the workers came one morning with threatening clouds overhead, I watched as hostas found their place in the sun and small palms in the shade. I barked at the men, "You have to move these to there and those to here!" I had the authority of experience, didn't they know? With a hang-dog expression boss man looked at me and said, "I can't change anything on the plans." I stomped (well, almost) into the house and saw hosta food within easy reach of the ten deer I'd seen last week crossing the road.  Don't tell me there's this spray and that one that will drive the deer away!

On one of my trips in New Jersey was a visit to a hosta farm.  These variegated green leafed plants originated in the Orient and brought to Europe in the 1700s.  Today there are over 2,500 cultivars  and I believe this farm has every variety planted under shady trees scattered over five acres

My first question to the grower was "How do you protect the leafy greens from deer mouths?"  His answer, "There's not anything except daily spraying and watchful eyes.” Their kids had the fun of watching out for deer and other small animals,, plentiful in the area.  Some precious hostas that cost tons of dollars had a fence enclosure. I became enamored with the varieties and realized our local nurserymen never sell any but a few of these varieties.  Some were as large as four feet across. One plant would suffice for a bed.  So with that visit I became an expert on hostas.

Our house now sports a beautiful landscape. The workers have gone home and left a beauty of greenery speckled with yellows.  Hostas will wink in the sun, starve for water in the summer's heat. By next summer we’ll have the prettiest front yard of anyone on our block.   How many days will pass until the deer find their midnight supper at our front porch?  

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tribute to My Sister

I remain at home a lot now. At my advanced age I find little entertainment to take me away. However, I feel the pressure to finish family genealogy and write more about my family.  I began family stories in earnest ten year ago. Mostly I write about my growing up front the 1930s until now.  Amazing I can remember my growing up years better than my today time.  I don't keep a journal.  Too much triviality is written there.  My sister faithfully kept her journal for over ten years. I have to read hundreds of pages to glean anything of any importance.  It is through her writings that I find the key.

Sis died December 31 of last year. She passed away on my second son's birthday. How fitting. We'll never forget the date.  Sis was persistent in keeping a journal, even as she lay dying, she'd ask for her "notebook." Barely able to hold a pen she hen-scratched something, unable to follow the lines, weaving her words only she could understand.

She and I had decided a year before to donate our bodies to the local University of Mississippi Donor Program.  We'd never been ones to visit our parents' burial places, change dry flowers to new, sweep off the leaves from their eternal beds. We didn't want our families to feel pressured to honor us by spending thousands of dollars that could help a grandchild finish college or pay for summer camp or  purchase new books to read.  Little did we know she'd be the first to leave.

I gathered her writing books, not the journals, and planned to read her thoughts penned in moments of joy, of unhappiness, of contemplation. I was six years older than she and we never had much in common. I became her little mother, taking care to see she was dressed in the mornings as a child, then walk her to nursery school and later to elementary school. I reminded her of her duties, her responsibilities, and at the same time giving her permission.  I forgot and stayed her mother when she was grown.  Our mother worked full time. We were latch-key kids in the 1940s. Sis never forgot my rule over her. As an adult I gave her advice, wanted or not, about boyfriends( me, with little experience). I felt I was a good critic of guys. What I failed to realize in those early years was that regardless of what I preached, Sis followed her own heart. In her writings she poured her heart into the pages describing her unhappiness with what she had been dealt. She mentioned often my "meddling." I learned a lot about Sis from the words she poured onto three-holed notebook paper.

We became close when we retired.  We made up for lost time in the 20 years left of her life. We traveled together to writers' conferences, to historical points in the South, to western US to see the national parks in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.  I showed her places we as kids accompanied our parents when they took us "out west" in their new Ford Station wagon with "real wood sides," as the advertisements stated.  She was eight years old, I fourteen. I still had memories of the places we stopped and when we revisited these sites, she had no memory of them.  Through my oral travelogue I reminded her of our young lives. We laughed about how we fooled Daddy when we wanted to go to Sun Valley, Idaho, to see where Sonia Heine had made her movies. We let him sleep in the car, after having driven all night, and Mother took over and steered us to Sun Valley.  In those days before air conditioning, traveling in the cool of the night was preferable.

She critiqued my writings and rejoiced when I won an award. She was always ready to go places. She volunteered one year at Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe (a Presbyterian conference center), and shared her experiences. She went on to Abiququi, NM to help out and she felt she was at the end of the world. She and I went hiking in Santa Fe with Elderhostel.  She proved a better hiker. I was there for support. If I didn't go with her to a destination, she went alone. She attended plays in Montgomery AL several years I couldn't accompany her, driving the four hours there and four back alone. One year we saw all the movies up for Academy Awards, a feat difficult for Jackson, Mississippi, where choice movies are often missed. We attended history lectures and drove hours to visit a grave or a cabin or a road mentioned at these lectures. We'd drive out of the way on one of our trips so she could photograph some famous musician, writer, or historian.

                                                      Me and Sis

We made up for lost time in the twenty years we had together. Then the old scourge returned and took her life.  I'm lonesome. I have no place nor anyone with whom to travel. With Sis' death my original family is gone. She is at peace. Wonderful memories sustain me.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Remembering My Parents

I'm in the middle of a biography of my parents. When my parents came to live with me the last five years of their existence, I made one request of them.  Write about your growing up. I handed them a bound note book I thought would entice them to write.  Daddy, hungrily took the book and went to his office, a separate building in the backyard where he repaired clocks. Mother, on the other hand, put her book in the bedroom saying, "I'll think about it."

In a few days Daddy handed in his book, completely filled with a note attached "Addendum 1 in the works."  Daddy not only had florid script, Palmer's best, but a way with words. Sis and I can claim our love of writing came from him.  Today those words ring more true to his identity than they did when he handed me the book and announced, "There, that's the beginning." I will  write his story  soon.

Mother took her time to write. I knew heart strokes erased much of her memory, as her writing covers her youth with her brothers. She dwells a bit about Daddy's family's unacceptance of her.  Her mind couldn't get out of her childhood. I knew direct questioning would be the best tact for her.

Time after time I'd sit with her and ask questions. She couldn't understand why I was surprised at her marrying Daddy after six weeks of dating.  I held back from then on to make light remarks at some of the experiences she enjoyed: early boyfriends, her poor school grades, life in the big city alone.

My first project was about Mother.  I felt I had a better understanding of her after the many talks. Too, she had diaries she kept  from time to time in her married life, the letters she wrote me, and notes of our small talks.  Together with old snapshots I created Mother's life. I felt good with what I'd accomplished.

I shared the fourteen pages with Sis. "That's not at all what I know of Mother! I'd never have written her life that way. You left out Daddy."  I explained I wanted to concentrate on each of them and then their marriage and family.  " I'll write about Daddy later," I explained. I wanted some tidbits she remembered about the woman who raised us, paid for our every need, taught us to be independent. We were early latch-key kids before the term originated.

True, we siblings have different views of our parents. Surely some events are shared more than others. Sis sums up her contribution with, "I wrote about Mother in an essay. Find it and use that. I don't remember like you did."

My trouble with Sis was my approach. I should have sat down and discussed each parent and taken notes.  I didn't. Don't make the mistake of waiting too long to get your sibs to contribute to family stories.  Writing who your parents were and their personalities are components to letting them live in your own children's hearts.

Note: having my parents write in their own handwriting is as precious as ever. In future generations their descendants will admire "the old way" people wrote.  Be sure to leave something in your own handwriting, whether it is a grocery list or a note to you.