Trees and The Present

gaintredwood1

Last summer in the Redwood forest in CA, being in the presence of these stately old trees is humbling, yet it is impossible not to feel joyful. My cousin Patrick and I.

Anne Dillard “At the apogee of the road’s curve grew an enormous oak, a massive bur oak two hundred years old, one hundred and fifty feet high, an oak whose lowest limb was beyond the span of the highest latter, I looked up: there were clothes spread all over the tree. Red shirts, blue trousers, black pants, little baby smocks——There was a gay assortment of cotton underwear, yellow dresses, children’s green sweaters……You know roads. A bend comes and you take it, thoughtlessly moving on. I looked behind me for another split second, astonished; both sides of the tree’s canopy, clear to the top bore clothes. Trompe!

But there is more to the present than a series of snapshots. We are not merely sensitized film; we have feelings, a memory for information and an eidetic memory of the imagery of our own past.

Our layered consciousness is a tiered track for an unmatched assortment of concentrically wound reels, Each one plays out for all of life its dazzle and blur translucent shadow-pictures; each one hums at every moment its own secret melody in its own unique key. WE tune in and out. But moments are not lost. Time out of mind is time nevertheless, cumulative, informing the present. From even the deepest slumber you wake with a jolt–older, closer to death, and wiser, grateful for breath. …..Yes, you say, as if you’d been asleep a hundred years, this is it, this is the real weather” Chapter 6. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek

200yroldvirginia

 

This Tree….I took this photo in Virginia, most likely around 2009, it is huge. Two days ago while reading Annie Dillard’s book Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, I happened on her description of similar tree and finally, I think, her way of describing this enormous tree captures it’s size. The other part, where she sees this tree with all those clothes hanging  was priceless, can you even imagine? Me, even with her vivid description, I still have a difficult time seeing those clothes hanging on such a tree. But, this is a tree like she saw. I am sure. I don’t think we run across trees this size often and when we do, we remember. I’ve visited the Redwood Forest in California, they are monster trees, but different. But, as she says in this quote above, we have a eidetic memory for the imagery of our own past. I get that, for that is what happened to me, upon reading this above quote, my memory went immediately to the photo and I couldn’t brush it away, I had to find that photo (where did I put it?). My OCD kicked in….

 

More on Trees….Father Sean Caulfield. Chapter 10 Spaces…

” I sit here looking at a pine tree outside my window. At first glance all pine trees, or at least of the same species, look alike. We look at them but we do not see them. In fact, no two are alike. To see the tree, we must look intently, concentrating on the spaces between the branches. It is not the branches, but the spaces between the branches that define the personality of the tree. It takes a little time. We must focus and hold. The tree does not yield up its secret easily. The secret is really our secret. We put our spirit on the tree, much like a composer does on the sounds, and it comes back to us changed. We become when we contemplate. Eventually, and this is consoling or a frightening thought, we become like the God we contemplate, the God of love. We take the tree into our spirit and it quietly reveals it’s own spirit –“you alone are the one who cares to know. I was not and I am, and now that you know me I shall never cease to be. I am part of your fullness forever. To a logger I am only money, to an artist I have aesthetic value, to another I give shade or warmth to his furnace. But to you I am the word of God. This is the inner essence of my being. When he fashioned me out of nothingness I was modeled on himself. In some small way he had to be like a pine tree for a pine tree to exist. I am a word he speaks in trunk and branches and spaces…….” This is a little of what the tree says as it bends down and embraces me with its branches. To say that it actually does that would involve us in magic. But, not to see or hear anything would leave us blind and deaf to the reality around us, doomed to isolated and uninteresting lives. And once we grasp the personality of one tree, then all trees get into the act.”

Some of the trees that I have met…..

beautifultreeva

A Virginia favorite

 

redwoodgaints

To really get this photo, you would need to lay down and take the photo. I did not. ha! Redwood.

junopoplartree

Thomas Jefferson described the Tulip Poplar as “The Juno of our Groves” when he forwarded seeds to a Parisian friend, Madame de Tesse, in 1805. The Tulip Poplar, also called Yellow Poplar or Tuliptree, is a fast growing tree and the tallest hardwood species of the eastern North American forest. — at The Saunders-Monticello Trail. This tree was once standing next to Monticello, but as you can see from the hollow interior, it finally became time to cut it down. Now it’s been placed out on The Saunders-Monticello Trail.

rexandtreeonblueridge

My brother standing near a beauty on the Blue Ridge Mountain Trail.

missouritree

Lovely view near Shell Knob, MO. I lived here one year.

tree

Another Missouri tree near me. (well, two trees really)

piphitree

In Virginia where I worked, this tree on the right had to be taken down, it was a beauty.

virginiacollectiontrees

There is something about this view that moves me.

Sean Caulfield goes on the say “The spirit of the forest is awesome and sublime. It mocks the pettiness of our lives. But even our lives have spaces, spaces in human affairs. They are the non-temporal moments when thoughts die into decisions, decisions into act. They form our personality.

The finite is complex. It is easily fragmented. Contemplative awareness can hold it together. It draws together all the powers of our spirit and body to center on the deepest level of our being where God, the ground and source of being, is present as gift and salvation. In quiet contemplative praying fragmented people are put back together again. Back at the time when I was pushing the idea of opening a monastery in the Philippines I was, myself, a very fragmented person. I was being told that I never ceased being a diocesan priest and I should return. I was torn apart within, not knowing what to believe. There was nobody who could give me a sense of direction or say; “Look, this is all part of being a monk.” I am not given to superstitious signs, but there is a harmony of things that to the intuitive mind indicates a way to go, a time to make a decision. I did not have that harmony, and there was no indication that any decision would be a step forward. I spent weeks in prayer, nights in nightmares. We have this conceit in the Trappist that our way of life is the ultimate in human endeavor, and flunking out is regrettable failure. We put a great deal into the life and leaving it is traumatic. Eventually I wrote my former diocese and was invited to return. I had been 18 years in the Trappist.”

He goes on to say on the day of his departure, he was saying goodbye to a few of the monks and one replied: “Ah well, there were some good things about you.” Sean says he was so low “this condemnation by faint praise actually picked me up.”

So where do I go from here? I’ve been typing from two of my favorite writers today. I’ve been inspired by them and their spiritual harmony with trees. I love the honest and humble writing of Sean Caulfield, he let’s me see his warts and all. Reading his life experiences, ups and downs, is educational. I tend to be so hard on myself, I shelter myself from others in order to live in peace. They say in order to experience peace, you have to lower your expectations. I not only do that, I just stay away, then I have no way to get hurt. I guess it works, I feel contented. I’ve passed the point in my life where I feel obligated to achieve new heights, I basically want to find a way to live in harmony. I get to live that way out here in the woods, I have a very simple life and my days are pretty ordinary.  I want to end with something profound, but I am having a time with that right now. I am not getting much original thought. I am thinking of a quote I read yesterday and wanted to make a point of retaining it, maybe I will end with that.

Many of those who strive to overcome pride are hoping to puff themselves up with this triumph. Hakim Jami

That quote is indeed worth pondering…..have fun!  Go climb a tree?  I don’t think that would be safe for me. I used to do it and loved being up in our tree house. An old osage orange (or horse apple tree)…..wonder if it’s still standing? hmmmm?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stress – UGH!

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.George Burns. (he should know)

Want To live Life Without Stress And Worries, I don’t Need To Be Rich And Famous, I just Want To Be Happy…

Realize that not all movement is progress. When stress and tension and chaos surround you, pause for a moment and relax. The best time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.

Live life in harmony. Balance the elements of life around you to live in peace. Let your worries go. Do not stress over things you cannot control. Live and be.

Saying yes to Happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out.

 

 

I can hear the distant drumroll of thunder, the sky is bright blue and sun is shining. It is a mixture of both the strong elements, the soothing brightness of the gleaming freshness of mid-day and the eerie sounds of looming storms from a distance? I guess today presents both. I wonder if that is a metaphor for what I am writing and thinking about today, the way life mixes both elements into our present. Life holds all the cards, we draw randomly the ones we’ll be challenged to play. My life is great, it is so full of goodness, mercy and contentment. I have been gifted. I am indeed grateful.
What will tomorrow bring? Who knows? I wake each day, open my eyes and I have to admit, I drag myself out of bed. I am grateful I can put my feet on the ground and I have the full capacity to live independently. I have devoted little dog who loves me, no strings attached. She has needs, which I provide her, I have needs of love and acceptance, she provides that and we live together in goodness and harmony.my cute patio another angle
I am graced, but I am challenged as the next with times of stress, how much do I dump on myself? My job has stress, and I must learn better ways to deal, I pray for that wisdom to present itself.
I am graced beyond my wildest dreams.

Miss you every day Momma

God looked around his garden

And found an empty place.

He then looked down upon the earth,

And saw your tired face.

He put His arms around you

And lifted you to rest.

God’s garden must be beautiful,

He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering,

He knew that you were in pain.

He knew that you would never

Get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough

And the hills were hard to climb.

So He closed your weary eyelids

And whispered “Peace be thine.”

It broke our hearts to lose you

But you did not go alone…

For part of us went with you

The day God called you home.” by Wendy Bradley

mom 4

(my mom, she is probably 16 years old)

My life changed last week, my dear mom passed on to her next destination. Some people tell me she is in a better place, that is hard to understand. However in fairness, I too, have told that to people before, but it was when the end of ones life had reached the place where there was nothing for them to enjoy. I could see it being said, “they are in a better place”. My mom was not actually there yet, but she was not exactly living the life she had enjoyed over the past 8 and 1/2 decades. She was in a state of limbo, some days better than others. I was sad to see her finishing her last chapter in that nursing home, but it wasn’t gloomy. She seemed to be pain free, content and in good spirits. Daddy on the other hand, was in misery. He begged to die. He was a much stronger person than mom, so if he had reached his tipping point – I believed him. He endured his misery in order to remain here with her. When he died, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He WAS in a better place.

mom 3Mom feeding little ole me, this had to be 1951

The woman who told me yesterday in Alanon that my mother “was in a better place” came across deeply disingenuous. I could spend most of this blog writing about that, but, no need. Her response was generic.

IMG_1465Thanksgiving Day 2016 – we fixed her dinner and gathered with her at the nursing home to have a family dinner. My brother Rex standing above, it was a good day.

 

I don’t know if mom would be happy with her final outcome. There are many ways one could spin her final months. She was content to be in that nursing home. She introduced  the aides as “her friends”. I think the day I heard her say that, I had the best feeling; she had embraced her surrounding and her day to day contacts as if they were special people in HER life. Indeed they were, they were kind and loving to her, that was a gift.

 

And then, I needed to move on, not overthink all of it. It was what it was. Dad’s death, mom’s inability to shake her grief, her alcoholism that plagued her until that last stroke, and the severe stroke (s) that finally landed her in the nursing home, her dementia that came on as fast as the stroke, and later I figured out that these strokes had been coming over a period of years and she had been declining bit by bit, but that realization came later and hindsight is 20/20. All of this information does not come to you wrapped in a pretty package, it is information that slowly develops if you want to figure out what had occurred. I do. That is not what I am writing tonight.

Tonight is about a dead gray rabbit and dying baby squirrel

The rabbit was in a dream one night ago, it was lying on my front walk. I do not know why it was there any more than I know why I dreamed about it. I tried to get some information from my google search, but it wasn’t that easy. I am still clueless.

The baby squirrel was in the parking lot this afternoon, it was so little and would not move. We knew it had something wrong. We finally figured out it had been injured in the head, and the boys wanted to ‘put it out of it’s misery’, which, is not a bad thing. But, I ran off when they suggested it. I realized it wasn’t a bad idea, but emotionally, I ran.

 

Dead rabbit in dream, dying baby squirrel and mercy killing. How are these two events connected? Are they? I think they are. I just went through a miserable week of watching my mother die. It was not a cake walk by any stretch, nor was it a bad thing. Her situation was terminal and if by some miracle she had survived, her way of living would never be the same. It was a stretch to say her quality of life was good at the nursing home, but it was not complicated. She had a routine, she was safe, and some days she knew what was going on. The medical situation that took her life came suddenly and I guess for whatever reason was her end. It was her time to go.

 

I could write and write about the circumstances, I could debate the decisions we made, I could debate the what-ifs and even question the soundness of her Doctor, all within my rights. But, in this case, and really out of respect for all concerned, I leave it be.

IMG_1952We were all there, by her side, til her final breath. My sweet brother sat all night with her, he sang to her, he read Psalms to her,  it was a long night, I took a break, went down and tried to sleep, then he came and I went to sit with her. Wednesday night March 30, 2016.
IMG_1951She is still in ICU, I think they moved her to Comfort Care mid day Thursday March 31st. I am sure she still knows me, this is hard to look at, however, I am glad I took it.

 

I was with her from Wednesday afternoon about 6pm March 30th until April 1st at 1:45 pm when she took her last breath. I slept there, ate next door at Tad’s and ran to Prescott one time to shower and change clothing. It was a long 36 hours. I will never forget.

 

So what about the Rabbit and Squirrel? Not sure, maybe all they were meant to do was inspire me to come here and write. It worked.

 

When we are grieving, moving in a slow healing process through fear and loss, we are also undergoing an extraordinary awakening of the heart. Grief can broaden our capacity for empathy and deepen our strength. We mourn the absence of a loved one, the loss of safety and the disappearance of certainty – the stark awareness that none of know what might happen next.

But even here, there is a great life teaching: the truth of impermanence, the preciousness of this fleeting moment. The recognition that we don’t have a moment to waste – and the realization that love is the rational act of a lifetime. – Stephen Levine

Today I realize more that I did how much I have to allow that grief to flow through me. As this unit of my parents has moved on, the finality of it has yet to fully become part of my conscious thoughts. Maybe it is supposed to be that way, many folks tell me they continue to think of their parents almost daily. I do also.

 

Timothy Shriver: “If you get grief wrong, you get a lot of things wrong”.

Not being able to acknowledge grief, no one to talk about it with, or to even allow yourself the time to feel the pain. you hide from pain; you hide from the things that bother you, hiding comes in many forms – be it drinking, drugs, food, and even shopping (ahem) can be a form of denial, the internet can become a way to avoid feeling. I think I ran across one of my methods, which has become almost an obsession since mom passed, it is looking for a small condo. I filled many hours browsing the hundreds of photos of condos in a variety of communities in Arkansas and Missouri. Nothing has become of this diligent search, but the idea made sense to me. I thought about slowing down on my search and immediately this empty feeling came over me. I think the condo is a way of moving on, then when I don’t have that hope for tomorrow, the pain of my mom being gone comes back. There is an insecurity that I have that if I don’t allow myself to find a place to go, a home of some sorts, that I will be drifting out there in the unknown.

IMG_1963Rest In Peace Sweet Mom (April 1, 2016) No Fooling About This One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a beautiful inspiration

philanthropy-sigma-chi-2015-647Fr.Berrigan’s words inspire me “The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere.
“I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where.”
“I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently” They recall what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “…The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear it’s sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And for me, fr.Berrigan he truly lived out the beatitudes “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.”, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
Image

I Was Madea Today (almost)

Okay,  So, I wasn’t at K-Mart, I was at that other “mart” big box store. And, I did not go get the heavy duty lift and turn the woman’s car over, but the rest was close.

I was driving around and around the parking lot looking for a spot closer to the door, and I am sure I was driving slow. Then suddenly I see back up lights on 3 cars in a row, up in the parking spaces at the front of store, golden!

I slow down and wait, I  am blocking traffic in the front parking lot,  waiting on one of these dummies to back out, mind you there are three with backup lights ON. I wait and wait, and finally the third car from front starts to back out, ever so slowly, I am still waiting, and then the second car looks like it might go, so I wait a little longer, cause I don’t want to get backed into. But, just as I was about to start toward the parking space, some idiot gal speeds around me, just like in this video and gets my spot. I couldn’t believe it, I was pretty mad, thank goodness the other car backed out, but still, I was first in line for the next spot, just like Madea. But, instead of getting out and chewing this person out, (hey…I’ve done that….and I am NOT PROUD OF IT) I started laughing, because all I could think of was this movie. I am the old geezer taking my time and pissing everyone off. I love it, really.

So, in order to give myself a good laugh, and memory of this, I am writing it in my blog. Who knew I would get to star in my own version of Madea in that K-Mart episode. Thank goodness for laughter, even when it is just something petty like this.

 

Miss you every day Momma

God looked around his garden
And found an empty place.
He then looked down upon the earth,
And saw your tired face.

He put His arms around you
And lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful,
He always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering,
He knew that you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb.
So He closed your weary eyelids
And whispered “Peace be thine.”
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone…
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.” by Wendy Bradley

mom 4

(my mom, she is probably 16 years old)

My life changed last week, my dear mom passed on to her next destination. Some people tell me she is in a better place, that is hard to understand. However in fairness, I too, have told that to people before, but it was when the end of ones life had reached the place where there was nothing for them to enjoy. I could see it being said, “they are in a better place”. My mom was not actually there yet, but she was not exactly living the life she had enjoyed over the past 8 and 1/2 decades. She was in a state of limbo, some days better than others. I was sad to see her finishing her last chapter in that nursing home, but it wasn’t gloomy. She seemed to be pain free, content and in good spirits. Daddy on the other hand, was in misery. He begged to die. He was a much stronger person than mom, so if he had reached his tipping point – I believed him. He endured his misery in order to remain here with her. When he died, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He WAS in a better place.

mom 3Mom feeding little ole me, this had to be 1951

The woman who told me yesterday in Alanon that my mother “was in a better place” came across deeply disingenuous. I could spend most of this blog writing about that, but, no need. Her response was generic.

IMG_1465Thanksgiving Day 2016 – we fixed her dinner and gathered with her at the nursing home to have a family dinner. My brother Rex standing above, it was a good day.

 

I don’t know if mom would be happy with her final outcome. There are many ways one could spin her final months. She was content to be in that nursing home. She introduced  the aides as “her friends”. I think the day I heard her say that, I had the best feeling; she had embraced her surrounding and her day to day contacts as if they were special people in HER life. Indeed they were, they were kind and loving to her, that was a gift.

 

And then, I needed to move on, not overthink all of it. It was what it was. Dad’s death, mom’s inability to shake her grief, her alcoholism that plagued her until that last stroke, and the severe stroke (s) that finally landed her in the nursing home, her dementia that came on as fast as the stroke, and later I figured out that these strokes had been coming over a period of years and she had been declining bit by bit, but that realization came later and hindsight is 20/20. All of this information does not come to you wrapped in a pretty package, it is information that slowly develops if you want to figure out what had occurred. I do. That is not what I am writing tonight.

Tonight is about a dead gray rabbit and dying baby squirrel

The rabbit was in a dream one night ago, it was lying on my front walk. I do not know why it was there any more than I know why I dreamed about it. I tried to get some information from my google search, but it wasn’t that easy. I am still clueless.

The baby squirrel was in the parking lot this afternoon, it was so little and would not move. We knew it had something wrong. We finally figured out it had been injured in the head, and the boys wanted to ‘put it out of it’s misery’, which, is not a bad thing. But, I ran off when they suggested it. I realized it wasn’t a bad idea, but emotionally, I ran.

 

Dead rabbit in dream, dying baby squirrel and mercy killing. How are these two events connected? Are they? I think they are. I just went through a miserable week of watching my mother die. It was not a cake walk by any stretch, nor was it a bad thing. Her situation was terminal and if by some miracle she had survived, her way of living would never be the same. It was a stretch to say her quality of life was good at the nursing home, but it was not complicated. She had a routine, she was safe, and some days she knew what was going on. The medical situation that took her life came suddenly and I guess for whatever reason was her end. It was her time to go.

 

I could write and write about the circumstances, I could debate the decisions we made, I could debate the what-ifs and even question the soundness of her Doctor, all within my rights. But, in this case, and really out of respect for all concerned, I leave it be.

IMG_1952We were all there, by her side, til her final breath. My sweet brother sat all night with her, he sang to her, he read Psalms to her,  it was a long night, I took a break, went down and tried to sleep, then he came and I went to sit with her. Wednesday night March 30, 2016.
IMG_1951She is still in ICU, I think they moved her to Comfort Care mid day Thursday March 31st. I am sure she still knows me, this is hard to look at, however, I am glad I took it.

 

I was with her from Wednesday afternoon about 6pm March 30th until April 1st at 1:45 pm when she took her last breath. I slept there, ate next door at Tad’s and ran to Prescott one time to shower and change clothing. It was a long 36 hours. I will never forget.

 

So what about the Rabbit and Squirrel? Not sure, maybe all they were meant to do was inspire me to come here and write. It worked.

 

When we are grieving, moving in a slow healing process through fear and loss, we are also undergoing an extraordinary awakening of the heart. Grief can broaden our capacity for empathy and deepen our strength. We mourn the absence of a loved one, the loss of safety and the disappearance of certainty – the stark awareness that none of know what might happen next.

But even here, there is a great life teaching: the truth of impermanence, the preciousness of this fleeting moment. The recognition that we don’t have a moment to waste – and the realization that love is the rational act of a lifetime. – Stephen Levine

Today I realize more that I did how much I have to allow that grief to flow through me. As this unit of my parents has moved on, the finality of it has yet to fully become part of my conscious thoughts. Maybe it is supposed to be that way, many folks tell me they continue to think of their parents almost daily. I do also.

 

Timothy Shriver: “If you get grief wrong, you get a lot of things wrong”.

Not being able to acknowledge grief, no one to talk about it with, or to even allow yourself the time to feel the pain. you hide from pain; you hide from the things that bother you, hiding comes in many forms – be it drinking, drugs, food, and even shopping (ahem) can be a form of denial, the internet can become a way to avoid feeling. I think I ran across one of my methods, which has become almost an obsession since mom passed, it is looking for a small condo. I filled many hours browsing the hundreds of photos of condos in a variety of communities in Arkansas and Missouri. Nothing has become of this diligent search, but the idea made sense to me. I thought about slowing down on my search and immediately this empty feeling came over me. I think the condo is a way of moving on, then when I don’t have that hope for tomorrow, the pain of my mom being gone comes back. There is an insecurity that I have that if I don’t allow myself to find a place to go, a home of some sorts, that I will be drifting out there in the unknown.

IMG_1963Rest In Peace Sweet Mom (April 1, 2016) No Fooling About This One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was hard to encounter, it is swarming around me….

IMG_2464

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

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Yesterday, July 22, 2015. My visit to a very good old friend was very difficult. It was so hard to see how far she has declined in the last few years regarding some kind of brain robbing disease. The robber comes armed with so many tools, it attacks our family and friends brains in so many forms and we all want answers we cannot have, so it seems?  The magical, mystical organ we take for granted each day works in amazing wonder, ways we don’t even think about most of the time, we just muddle through our life, enjoying or not, the life we have received. That breath of life, it allows us to wake each day, plant our feet firmly on the ground and begin our daily task. Some [days] more fun than others. We waste too much time dwelling on past mistakes, worrying about future encounters and so much time we miss out in the present moment. I am as guilty as anyone and more than many. Today, I want to spend a few minutes in celebration of this beautiful woman who used to be my sidekick for many years. We did almost everything together. We laughed, partied, worried, cried, traveled, shared secrets, hopes and dreams. It was a time in my life when this lifestyle was about parties, bars, and liquor. None of which I do any of today. Caroline, married a good man, she and her husband have  23 years in union together, they are still married today, but she is in a nursing home. Her life made a drastic change. I wish I could say I have I been there for her in the last years, but after my divorce from Fat Jack in the mid-nineties, I moved away. I also had my own dragons to fight and eventually became an active member of AA and continued to struggle emotionally and financially.  Then after things leveled off for me, I ended up living on the East Coast, which was a good place for me, and during the last 9 years, Caroline, slowly at first, began her downward spiral. First it was a minor glitch, after a major brain surgery, which left her with some memory issues, but the doctors told her, ‘in a couple years things would begin to improve’, which is not what happened. Matter of fact, in the most unimaginable way, this robber of the brain attacked her with vengeance. At first, as I mentioned, it was just a minor memory glitch, and slowly the memory began to loose it’s hold, names, places, dates, anything new, it would not be able to hold, she was in her 50’s. By the time she reached her late 50’s, it was beginning to take control, that robber was running the show. I spoke with her on her 57th birthday, she could barely converse, the words did not come -simple words, conversation was almost impossible. Today, she is 61, and has little cognitive ability going on, or that is what I saw, I am not a medical person. But, I know what I saw, verbiage that sounded like someone with a stutter that never got the word, ever. Endless stutters, which made me think she might have been trying to speak to me? I gave her my all, but eventually the communication gets too tedious even for her, “if” that is what I was hearing her try. The sounds were not close to words, it was a didididididididiididd and it did not end. Finally, after about a long 8 or 10 minutes she got up and walked out of her room, which was really good, because I don’t know what she knows, but it was time for me and Potter to leave. It was going no where. I had hugged her, loved on her, told her I was glad to see her, and tried to “hear” her. It was futile.

Here are our photos Charlie took..

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I wasn’t just leaning away from her, somehow her hand was under my leg and I was afraid I would crush her tiny bones, but she wasn’t helping me move it. It was almost a struggle to get her hand to move.

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We tried (bad lighting) to get her to look at Potter so we could get the photo, she was having nothing to do with looking at him? She seemed to know me, but I really think she might have thought I was someone else. She sure did not know Potter.

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She did give me a smile, but not look up, she refused. My hand under her chin trying to get her to smile at camera without pushing or prodding.

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Not sure if this smile/laugh was just to humor me or she actually recognizes me, but seeing a bit of life pop was good enough for me.  I hope and pray I gave her something to smile about, it would be nice. I miss that sweet woman.

My time here in South Arkansas is filled with nursing home encounters, my mother is also in one, here is photo [below] I took last Monday, she is having dinner. I know she looks pretty bad, this is a woman who kept her hair fixed all the time, always wore makeup and dressed in nice clothing, the robber has arrived here as well. Do we all have this robber whirling out there somewhere? Is this inevitable?

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My heart breaks…..

Dear Peyton

jack and peytonIt has only been 10 days since your dad passed, still a time of grief. I know you will continue to grieve – That is natural.

On December 15th, I was able to make a lasting memory when I got to sit with him and recall some of our favorite memories, we could have spent hours together reminiscing. I will cherish our visit for the rest of my life. Even though I had not seen Jack for more years than I can count, today I continue to morn his passing. He left life too soon.

One thing I know there is a “collective grief” that exist for him and many of us are still feeling the void he left behind. He will be indeed be missed for a long, long time.

Jack was “The Master” of making feel people feel special, he loved to work a crowd and ultimately became everyone’s friend. We witnessed the proof of that gift when we looked around the room at his memorial. I will never forget that day. I pray he was able to feel and be touched by all that love. I think he was.

Like others said, Jack was so multi-talented, loved, respected and admired, yet he remained so humble. He was (like Jiggs said) a GREAT MAN.

I am so honored to have been part of his life and that includes being able to see you and Cliff grow up.

I bought this card several days before his Memorial, but it has taken me this long to compose this letter to you. So many thoughts and words flood into my head, it took a little time to rest my mind and heart to be able to sit and write you. I hope I have done this justice.

Peyton, I pray you will be able to soon replace you grief with joyful memories, of course you will need more time. His loving presence will be missed, that will never change, but eventually the brightest memories will fill your heart and you will be able to think of him with a proud heart.

Jack ADORED ”YOU”. You know that, you will always know that. WE all knew that! I asked him about you when he and I visited, his eyes lit up! He will always be with you!

He never looked for praises, He was never one to boast. He just went on quietly working, for the ones he loved the most. His dreams were seldom spoken, His wants were very few and most of the time his worries went unspoken too. He was there… A firm foundation, through all our storms of life, a sturdy hand to hold on to, In times of stress and strife. A true friend we could turn to when times were good or bad one of our greatest blessings, the man that we called Dad (not sure who wrote this but it fits him well)

I Love You!!!! Always!!!

jimmie