I really didn't understand the trolling. I never once posted anything about the election, only history and freedoms and family (and bacon!) and I hope they will leave me alone as I've sorely missed all your company. I realize I have probably lost 95% of my readership built over 10 years but I am thankful for those of you that still visit, read, stop and say hi in other social media, and even buy my books. I am indeed grateful.
I won't be able to post daily like I used to. For most of first 8 years of the blog, I was living on my own and had a lot more time to write. Now I have the company of my husband, a 100-year-old house under restoration, and Dad is requiring more of my time and commitment, gladly given, so it leaves less time for writing. But thanks for being my blog family.
The pictures of Dad and the house here were taken on a visit the year before my brother died, making the photo 5 years old. Colonel Harry Allen D. He still lives on his own, house and yard tidy, still spry, though he turns 98 in a couple of months. His companion, the great and powerful Oz, was almost 12 when this picture was taken. Dad can no longer drive but he still works out 6 days a week. He can't do 18 holes on the golf course anymore, he goes for a walk every day the weather permits. His secrets to health? Exercise, hard work, integrity, commitment, good scotch, and adopting two kids when your friends are becoming grandparents. Yes, we have a home nursing aide 12 hours a day, to help with medications and meals and companionship since he refuses to leave his home to live with us, but he is still mentally sharp and wishes to keep as much of his independence as he can.
He never planned on getting Oz. She was the family member of a family member who had been childless despite years of trying. Suddenly, there was a baby, one which the Dalmatian didn't kindly share the house with. Despite the movie of their namesake, it's not a breed good with children, and action needed to be taken. Surprisingly, Dad was the first of the extended family to offer her a home.
Being a senior, she didn't need a lot of exercise though they enjoyed that long walk each day. The evenings were spent with her dozing on the dog bed that Dad spent more on than what was granted for our college educations. Dad was of the mindset that he put himself through school, we should do the same. In looking back, I'm glad as it gave me a work ethic lost on many, as well as making me more self-reliant and wiser about the perils of the world to a solitary soul.
They were stories, such as the rest of us are building, but his have in their background the shadows of two women and two children he has outlived, looking down on him wistfully, with sealed lips, and heaven's healing. He visits them on a round trip drive of several hours to the military cemetery with his nurse, a stop at several graves, a garland of leaves and flowers woven around the simple stones, fresh as is their memory.
He's doing well despite a mild stroke about 10 years ago. I took much of the summer off from work and stayed with him through the initial recovery and he was up and moving about surprisingly fast. He was out of the wheelchair in three weeks. The doctor recommended a cane when he started getting up and around walking. He didn't want to use one as "those are for old people". So I got him a hand carved "hiking stick" with a big bear on the crest of it. That's so not a cane. He used it on his walks until that day he had to acquiesce to a walker (with flames on it no less). But he still walks and for that I am grateful.
It is hard to come to grips with aging. I see it in myself, after blowing out a knee and having much its support structure surgically removed, the damage beyond repair. I remember the Orthopedic surgeon saying "I usually see these injuries in professional football players - what did you DO?" to which I replied, "busted a move, walking the dog". I went from rappeling into a dark place surrounded by crime scene tape to having to use a scooter at Wal Mart. That was not a fun time.
But getting past that, the surgery, physical therapy, and a year with a German physical trainer that wore a shirt that said "I'm the trainer, you are the victim", otherwise a vibrant pretty young woman, I made it. I may not be as fast as I once was, but like Dad was as he reached middle age, I'm stronger than I was at 30, wiser, no longer snared or fixed in the frail web of hopes and fears that is our youth, but fixed and established on that rock which is our well-aged reasoning, with which we cope by some means, or perish.
98 years. I realize, having lived more than half of that, how much Dad has seen. From growing up in Montana, with woods rich with game and streams full of fish, dark soil drenched under Spring thunderstorms, rich and waiting for seed. From desolate hard winters, in a time of our country where bellies were empty and they looked out on barren land where hope should have been, wondering if they would survive until spring.
Then war, chosen by destiny out of a paradox of background of squalor and strife, he became an officer in that great war, as if God himself put a warrant on his hand to protect his men, and bring them home. Those were long years indeed, separated from my Mom, where words were shared without speaking and they would weep without tears. Life ahead then was just a dream that both of them were too quietly frightened to have. But he survived and came home - to my Mom, who waited years for his return, only to marry him and bury the first child they bore together.
No matter what he lost, family, or health, he never complained, he never cried and when I watch him napping I see those hand, those old Colonel's veined and sun- marked hands, holding strongly to his Bible that he reads from each and every morning.
I realized it as I watched him. The future is what we make of it, every single day, a gift. We don't see if it if we are too much in a hurry, something Dad taught my beloved brother and I. The clouds may sometimes darken the sky but the joys are still there, showing themselves in a profound, attentive glance, like a hatchling peering from a next deeply recessed nest in the boughs of an ancient tree.
Dad still shares those pearls of wisdom and though at times his voice on the phone on the more difficult days is little more than an anxiously happy whisper, I listen. The conversations aren't deep, usually, he just wants to hear about my work day, what we had for dinner, what the weather is. Yet every conversation is permeated with our history.
We talk every day, but we communicate beyond that as well. Dad doesn't have a computer, a cell phone or tablet. So for my Dad, between many phone calls, I write letters and he writes them back. Letters. Faded with time, a bit frayed around the edges, the words upon them written with clear, flowing script. The stamp carefully placed, the envelope addressed with precision.
It started with letters from my father to me when I first moved away from home, carrying with them that sense of watchfulness that no parent ever loses, no matter how old you get. I never took his questions as to my life and who I was keeping company with as being intrusive, rather they were a vigilant affection, even as he put to flight the recollection of the world's abiding danger and trusted me to make my own way.
No one really had computers back then for personal use other than at school, the phone was the most common source of connection for the family. But as computers became second nature, my father continued to write me letters, refusing to learn to use a computer. Harriet (my stepmom) would read him my blog, the words in there as meaningful for him as if I had written them on paper, read aloud by the woman he loved. (Yes, Harry and Harriet). But he will not take up a keyboard, and will not before he is gone, so others print out some of the posts for him to read now that she is gone these many years. He's probably raised an eyebrow to more than one, but he knows how he raised me, where I come from, and where my heart is.
Simple letters, simple words.
The letters themselves are not full of particularly sage wisdom, or things that might be considered of great depth. They are simply the doings of his day and the memories of his heart. What was planted in the garden, where he went out for lunch after church. A bird he saw on a long drive, a story of that steelhead trout he finally caught under the covered bridge at Grey's River. He wrote to me after he buried someone he loved more than life, words flattened out on paper, like rain, but not lost like rain, streaming out to a valueless torrent of dissolution. His words, though heart-rending, uplifted me, a love not lost through life's unravelings. When I held on to him at that grave, while taps played in the distance, his words were engraved on my heart.
They were words that didn't teach, or lecture or portend, but words, that on their reading, mattered. For they filled me with elation that in their capturing, those moments would never be lost, that even when my Dad was gone, there would be stories, of meals, of moments, of caring. They are words gathered in a bundle wrapped in ribbon in a drawer, words worn like a garment that will keep me warm as November descends.
Is that a testament to the power of the word or simply the power of the habit of writing? That which, however mundane, comes to our mind each day. Small, succinct phrases of thought that capture the dots of our lives, connecting us, transcending time or moment. What was in the past is here in my hand now, as if it transcends time and for just a moment we are free of the confines of past tense.
He is here with me now, with his story of that fine day, that could have been a week ago, or 50 years. His words caught and released, a brilliant day, a fighting salmon. A trip to the store, or a small prayer over his breakfast, shared with me here, as if the paper had caught it in time. Our lives are in these moments, gone too quickly, rushing water over our days.
Each of us lives in the present, yet we contain our past, and we can not put our future into words until it too, becomes our past. Time is an illusion and death is a transient bend in a long journey that will take its own time. Past, present, future, I'll retain my Dad's stories, his laughter splayed across a small white page as if part of the paper. As I fold it up and place it carefully in my desk drawer, to perhaps be opened up one day again, a thought comes unbidden. I realize that what is here, be it thought, emotion or the trivial events of our day that we share, for someone, somewhere, will be the most precious of memory.
As I write these words Dad will still be asleep, Oz contained in a small wooden box on which rests a pawprint that was her last act. Dad slumbers in memory surrounded by those things familiar for decades, left in the warm comfort of the annealing ash that is his history.
I take out an envelope and small piece of paper, and on it scribe some other words. Not a blog post, but simply words. You have loved me when others did not, I am grateful to be your family. There is no place I am going to mail it to right now but I feel better for writing it. I put it in the envelope and seal it with a small kiss from my lips, the paper resting for a moment like a wafer on my tongue, confession, redemption.