“Year 2 ! It’s a tradition!”

I met my only cousin on my dad’s side last night for an event and dinner. It’s the second time in two years. Before that, it had probably been 10 years since we’d seen each other.

We didn’t grow up together with lots of cousin visits. I have a few pictures of us as kids – she’s a little older than me, and her family lived far away, so we just didn’t see each other much.

We reconnected via WordPress University – a blogging class that WordPress offered several years ago. We both blog – she about her family genealogies, and me about depression as a Christ follower. We were excited to share comments back and forth as we read each other’s blogs. She has done quite a bit of research on our grandfather, and it’s been so fun to read about our grandparents and their families.

A year ago, she told me she was coming to the area for the Virginia Festival of the Book. So I found a presentation on mental health books, and we met there. We enjoyed the panel, but had even more fun at dinner and a wine bar. I spent the night in her hotel room – she showed me love letters from our Papa Joe to his wife Kitty. We really had a great time reconnecting.

This year’s Festival of the Book rolled around, and we met for a panel last night, then went to a local pub. It was fun again to connect and catch up. And we made plans for June when my folks visit, to take a trip to Washington D.C. and see places of our dads’ and grandparents history! She’ll be the guide, as she knows the places. But we’re expecting “the trip down memory lane” to spark some stories from my dad. I’m excited!

And I’m so happy to have renewed a relationship. The older I get, the more important family is to me. So I’m thrilled that “cuz” and I have a new tradition. Two years and counting!

Papa Chuck

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately – my mom’s dad. I won’t go into all the reasons why he’s on my mind, but I think I may be grieving his death. Seems a little strange, since he died over 40 years ago, when I was 12. Even so, I find myself thinking about him, and wishing he was still in my life.

There have been milestones when I really missed him. Like when I presented at the High School State Optimist Club Speech Competition – I took second place. And when I got married – I think he really would have loved my husband. And when my daughter, and later my son, were born – I wish he could have met them.

He was a big man, with a booming voice and even bigger laugh. He adored my grandmother – we called her DeeDee. One time, when I got to visit my grandparents for the week, I watched him twirl her around the floor at their Arthur Murray Ballroom Dance class. They looked so magical and light on their feet; he held her regally.

He was gentle – I remember him petting his adorable new German Shepherd puppy, Noble; later, I recall the firmness with which he trained that dog – firm yet kind. And when I cried all the way home from a visit to their house, he talked to me on the phone and calmed my tears.

He was wise. Every opportunity was a teachable moment, from raking leaves at the lake to eating in the cafeteria. One lunchtime, he let me choose where to sit, and I picked the front of the restaurant instead of the back tables where we usually ate. So mealtime became a lesson in dining room table etiquette – we needed to be on our best behavior if we were going to sit where people could watch us! On another occasion, I remember leaning on a cabinet display when I went with him to the store, and he pulled me back a bit to show me the fingerprint mess I had made on the glass. I think if he’d had Windex with him, I’d have been cleaning off the smudges!

He was a preacher before I knew him. (By the time I recall him working, he had left the pulpit and was a big-wig at a major employer in his hometown.) He loved the Lord, as did my grandmother. Together, they left a beautiful legacy of faith in Christ through their daughters and us grandchildren and the generations following.

He loved to read, and his floor-to-ceiling bookshelf was packed with all kinds of literature. I remember when he took an interest in bonsai trees; I got one from my son for my birthday last year, and I think of Papa pruning his tree every time I water mine. I seem to think his was greener and bigger than mine is.

For that matter, I recall him as “larger than life.” It may be that it’s just from the perspective of a young grandchild, but I remember him as big and generous and kind and loving and firm and gentle, all at the same time.

I know I’ll see him again someday, in heaven. Until then, I’ll remember these moments and many other special times. I’ll try to be the grown woman he would have been proud of. And I’ll sit anywhere in the restaurant, because he taught me which fork to use first!

Lake House Floor Plans

Lately I’ve been thinking about floor plans. Old ones, like from my childhood. I’m picturing the house from my early years, my old church, my grandparents’ Lake house. I’m drawing them in my mind, and imagining the flooring, the room locations, the wall colors. These are a kid’s memories, so I don’t know about the accuracy of them, but I do know the magical recollections in my head.

One of my favorite places to think of is my grandparents’ house at the Lake. I enter the house from the car port – up a few stairs to the door. The covered parking had some cobwebs in it – such is the nature of living at the Lake. I remember sweeping the car port, and raking leaves out in the front yard and down the long driveway. My mom was swatting a wasp from my shoulder with her broom – that didn’t go so well!  I also remember swimming in the lake – pretending with my sister about the fancy house on the other side. I can still feel the spot where sand became muck, and we couldn’t put our feet down without the squishy feeling on our toes. And neither of us wanting to leave the Lake to go up to the house to the bathroom, so trying to convince each other to pee in the water. I confess I did, even though I told her I did, then told her I didn’t. Funny memories.

The door from the car port opens into a carpeted “hallway” – not with walls, but with a long built-in coat closet that blocked off vision into the rest of the house. Just to the right and up the few carpeted steps to the formal dining room – such a beautiful space. There’s a polished silver set near the long dining room table.  I walk to the left of this “hallway” and enter the formal living room –  a large room with a fireplace, tall ceilings and a big window that looked out onto the lake. My favorite way into the living room was to step down from the dining area into the beautiful room. I always felt like a princess, entering from above into the expanse below, with the thick carpet and white couches and shiny candlesticks. Fancy memories.

Back up at the dining room level, if I walk straight through, I’ll see the small hallway to the right that takes me to two bedrooms – the master bedroom with a large bathroom, and a guest room. There’s a guest bathroom on the way. Papa’s dressing room was just to the left, and his changing valet was visible from the doorway. How cool was that? A funky chair to hold his clothes. I think there was an electric shoe polisher in the room too – push the button and the red and blue fibers swish quickly and presto! shiny shoes! Nostalgic memories.

I keep walking past the hallway and find myself in the long galley-style kitchen. I guess pantries lined the right side, because all the counter and sink space was on the left – looking out the many windows onto the beautiful green space and lake. When the stray cat in the bushes bit me, this sink is where my mom and grandpa treated the wound, with Papa sucking the potential poison from the spot in my hand. Scary memories.

A little jog around a bump out, and there’s the eat-in informal dining nook, with the laundry room and door to the backyard behind me. I remember meals at this table – delicious food that DeeDee made, and petting Noble the German Shepherd puppy in the laundry room. I know we went out the back door to the woods  – there was a large woodpile, and lots of trees. Sweet memories.

I walk through the nook – I think there was a sitting area with a door out the front of the house, and then through another doorway that opened into the library/TV room – a big white space with books on a wall, a big leather couch and chairs – plenty of room for the grandkids to gather and watch, though we weren’t all visiting at the same time very often. Definitely after Papa’s funeral. There were so many books on the wall – I marveled that Papa had read each of them. How did he have the time?  Maybe over the course of his lifetime. Sad memories.

What a beautiful home. Such lovely thoughts. Family memories.

 

 

Papa and My Husband

(My grandfather died when I was in middle school. I didn’t meet my husband until I was in college. Yet, I think they would have liked each other.)

Papa, in heather gray, raked the colors fallen from the trees. He loosened his grip as his large weathered hands – wide thumbs and fingers and calloused palms – tossed the pole onto the pile by the lake. Reaching down, his touch was gentle as he brushed my cowlick behind my ears. My husband reaches out to wipe my tears – the same hands – wide thumbs and fingers and calloused palms. I am comforted. Mine hides in his, like in days past, as we stroll back to the house.

 

Writing201 Poetry: skin (topic), prose (poetic form), internal rhyme (literary device)