If you’ve never roamed around my website into the Short Story Archive, I invite you to do so. For whatever reason, this morning, I suppose because it’s Mother’s Day, I was struck by a desire to go and look at one I did which has a unique twist to it. “Mamma in Moonlight” http://bit.ly/174Vq6v is actually a prequel to, “The Frequent Bridesmaid” http://charliehudson.net/stories/story200606.html
This is not normally something I do. I originally wrote, “The Frequent Bridesmaid” and some time after that, I ran across a writing challenge (I think it was), where you were given the first line and went from there. In this case, the first line was, “Mamma has always had a love for possessions.” I don’t recall why that one struck me as it did, but I realized it could match with the previous story. It is what I refer to as “drippingly Southern”, and yes, I know there is no such word. This falls into the category of words that should exist and as a writer you can sometimes get away with such antics. Although I do behave when a book or other publication is involved, I’ll exercise my right in a blog to step outside grammatical boundaries in this case.
Anyway, if you want to sit and relax with a couple of short stories, you can take them in either sequence. Have a great day. Circumstances are such that I’ll be working most of the day because in the freelance world, deadlines don’t really respect weekends or holidays. I will stop around 4:00 and will celebrate Mother’s Day after that.
I managed to let a couple of extra days slip by without posting and could say I’m not sure how that happened except I do know. I’ve had overlapping deadlines and am juggling several other projects and let the calendar slip a bit. On the other hand, I certainly don’t get bored. I caught up with a friend by phone whom I hadn’t spoken with in a while and have been looking at different travel arrangements I need to make. No exotic locales this time – all family or business related. Our son, who as most of the regular followers know, is with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in the DC area. (http://www.bmdc.org) We try to go up to see him perform at least once a year and there’s almost always a performance close to our granddaughter’s birthday. It’s a little later this year being in May about six weeks after, but that’s close enough. The performance is ordinarily at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, but that’s being renovated. The Lansburgh Theater is in a different location which means managing new logistics. It’s supposed to be a nice venue and is where the Shakespeare Company often plays. It’s very much “in the District” not too far from the Capitol and the National Mall. Although we spent a fair amount of time in the area, we almost always took the Metro in. I don’t recall us being near that theater, but if we take the flight I think we will, there will be adequate time to scout things out.
The trip I’ll be taking to Wisconsin the following month is to present at a quilting guild and then go to see my friend whom I called the other day. I wasn’t sure if everything would come together and as she said, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. It looks as if it will all “sync” nicely and I am looking forward to it.
Valentine’s Day used to be important to me for reasons that I’m not going to go into. I enjoyed the whole of it even when I didn’t have a “Valentine” to celebrate with. I find that has changed now. I don’t mean I’m anti-Valentine, merely that it doesn’t carry a great deal of significance. Several years ago, we stopped going out because quite frankly, it tends to be the same kind of semi-chaos as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Since we both enjoy cooking, Valentine’s Day is another time we do a special meal at home. (The exception obviously is when we travel.)
We’re at the stage where we buy fewer and fewer gifts and with trying to watch my carbs, a box of lovely candy isn’t really a treat. (Well, okay, a few will do). Flowers are nice, although I’ve never particularly cared for roses because they simply tend to wilt too quickly. I think as much as anything though, with us having been married for more than 28 years, it isn’t that we’ve lost romance. It’s actually the opposite. Our romance is a daily thing, a thing of comfort, of a togetherness that doesn’t need a special day to acknowledge it. After all, when you’re married, there is the anniversary and often the anniversary of when you met. (Which was ironically Feb 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day and then I didn’t see him for a while because he left on a business trip).
I know it can be a difficult day for some people – those who aren’t in a relationship and would like to be or those who recently lost someone they love.
Whatever category you fit into, I hope you enjoy or make it through the day. And if it isn’t an easy day, be gentle with yourself as you reflect.
One of the reasons we added Kindles in our household is because like so many people, we cannot bring ourselves to throw away books and there really are limited places to give them to. By the way, for those who might not know, the Homestead Kiwanis have a marvelous “Just One Book” program where they give books away at different events. They mostly need children and young adult books though and we have none of those left around.
Anyway, back to the main point of the post. We have a stationary recumbent bike we both use 2-3 times a week. When Hubby is on it, he watches a lot of webinars. I pop in a DVD and depending on the DVD, may also read. The other day, when I was looking through the numerous filled bookshelves, I saw Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. Published in 1974, it was praised as, “The Fabulous Journey of a Man in Search of Himself”, and sold quite well. Bear with me for another aside because it’s pertinent as to why I didn’t read the book before. Most of you who follow this blog are aware my first husband, my son’s father, was killed in an accident when our son was only four months old. The wonderful man I married eight years later is the one I usually talk about in these blogs and he has been a terrific stepfather. I was a Captain at the time of my first husband’s death and through one of those quirks in Army assignments, I wound up in a special training course several months later. Let’s just say I was still going through emotional adjustment. During a discussion with some friends, as the topic turned to unexpected blows most of us encounter at some point, one guy said, “I suggest you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think it would be of interest.” I politely said I would, not particularly planning to. About three months after, I was settling into the new house at my new assignment, and having put off unpacking multiple boxes of books, decided to tackle that task.
And there it was, in the second box I opened, right on top – a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I certainly hadn’t bought it, so it had to have been one of the many books my first husband had when we merged households. I was startled, but still wasn’t ready to read it. I did, however, keep it all these years and am just getting started on it. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll post later after I finish.
Last night was a celebration of some friends’ 50th wedding anniversary and recently another couple we know celebrated their 62d. I fondly remember both sets of grandparents 50th and my sister and her husband don’t have too much longer to wait. Most people have a major celebration as they should although it is interesting that we tend to focus in five-year increments. I will always associate two humorous pieces with my maternal grandparents’ anniversaries. As they were approaching the 55th, my aunt wanted another big open house and my grandfather said, “Let’s wait and we’ll do something big for the 60th”. They almost made it, too. Which leads me to the second item. His birthday and their anniversary were only a few days apart. Sunday was our general family gathering as we would drive the 20+ miles after church, one branch of the family lived in the same town, and although my aunt and her family lived a bit further, they would come in for special events. I can’t recall if it was the 57th or 58th anniversary approaching, but the point is the optimum Sunday was going to be maybe the day after my grandfather’s birthday and a couple of days before the actual anniversary. In looking at the calendar, my aunt suggested this particular Sunday and once again my grandfather declined. “Who knows? Maggie might decide she’s had enough of me and leave before the day and we would have celebrated prematurely,” or something like that was his wry response.
Of the guests gathered for our friends’ celebration, they were the only couple who were on their first marriage. Granted, two were previously widowed; one of whom has not remarried yet, but the other attendees were divorced with a mix of remarried. That thought leads me to one of only a few segments I distinctly recall when Toffler wrote his book, Future Shock, back in the 1970s. He said we would see a surge in later-life divorces because as people were living longer and staying active longer (especially working at second careers), there would be a recognition that staying in an unhappy marriage was not necessary. It was a radical idea at the time, but I have watched it play out among friends and casual acquaintances. So, for those who by virtue of living longer and managing the realities of marriage for 50 years and more, it is indeed reason to celebrate.
Tomorrow will be a travel day for us as we make the annual trip to Georgia to be with Hubby’s family. I gather an actual cold front is supposed to sweep in, so I’ll need to find a couple of sweaters or at least a jacket to pack and go with layers. Fortunately, we’re at the stage of our loves when we can travel on Tuesday and return on Friday and we always have a handy housesitter available. Travel on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving is a hassle we don’t deal with unless it’s absolutely necessary.
I’m not certain of which “cycle” his family is on though. Like many of us who marry, you have to decide which sets of parents you spend which holiday with. In Hubby’s case, the younger generation has “aligned” their visits so the “distant” cousins can be together with the nearby ones every other year. Since all the younger generation also have children, that means in the “aligned year”, the holiday crowd goes from around 12 to around 30. One of Hubby’s first cousins hosts almost every year and embraces the cheerful chaos. They do live in a perfect place for spreading out and especially for the youngsters to be able to run around, plus there is the dining room and the dining table as part of the large kitchen. Her husband is great with frying turkeys and by the time everyone adds their “special” dish in, you can’t possibly eat with less than two trips to the buffet. With my mother-in-law in assisted living, we aren’t certain if she will be up to joining us and have been told they do a wonderful event at the place where she is. We’ll be flexible on that since I imagine she won’t really know how she’s feeling until Thanksgiving morning.
So whether you are traveling, staying close to or at home, have a special holiday tradition or prefer to have a quiet day, may it bring you pleasure.
I suppose I should have timed a previous post for today, but I’ll elaborate instead on a post I did quite a while back. I happened to be part of the Army during the fairly early transition to what was known as VOLAR, the All Volunteer Army. I’m not about to get into the complexities that went into that decision and very fundamental cultural change. The point is with more than thirty years now of a volunteer force, and admittedly concerns for deployment to dangerous places, there can be a reluctance by parents or other adults of influence to encourage young people to go into the military.
I do understand and there are physical requirements of the military that can’t be overcome – some of which are quite odd. Asthma is an example. Some individuals suffer asthma as children, but for whatever reason, the condition disappears. In other cases, asthma is only induced by very specific irritants that do not usually occur in the military and therefore, asthma is not a disqualifier. However, exercise-induced asthma is a permanent disqualifier. And not everyone is emotionally suited for the military. That, however, is a little trickier because there have been a great many individuals where that initial assessment (whether their personal view or someone else’s) was incorrect.
For the sake of this post, those who are physically and emotionally suited for service, should seriously consider it. As always, there is the option of going in as enlisted or going in through ROTC (or one of the service academies) to be an officer. Yes, the option still exists of enlisting, then applying for Officer Training to become an officer. Each of the services have slightly different programs and requirements for that option. Most initial military commitments are four years, although there are variances, to include a mix of active and reserve time. If four years seems “long”, it’s basically the same amount of time as high school. I’m not going to say the military magically transforms everyone – it doesn’t. There are jerks, bullies, and incompetents just as in any given large group. They, however, are the exception and a small percentage. Structurally, the military is not set up for everyone to stay beyond the initial commitment. However, no matter what service is entered and no matter what skill is pursued, at a minimum, there will be some type of training that in general can translate into later employment. More importantly, I can promise the individual will have probably accomplished things he or she might have thought were not possible. There is, of course an element of irony as I write this that our son chose not to enter the military. As I said, it isn’t for everyone.
In the on-going round of trips to Louisiana, this is the normal one where I always go for Daddy’s birthday. The flights were on time and uneventful – the weather no problem at all. That does help even though the planes between Atlanta and Shreveport are the “puddle jumpers” without much room and difficult for anyone who is above average size. Not a problem for short people like me, but my seatmate was pretty cramped. Anyway, I stopped by to see Daddy for a while, then proceeded south to visit with some old school friends since I hadn’t been down during the past few trips. This is the annual Antique Car Show in Natchitoches and even though the main event is tomorrow, quite a few were already on display. I think the oldest was a 1932 Ford, although there was a real variety of decades and models, to include a Studebaker.
Today will be all day with Daddy at the assisted living facility and I’ll take him to lunch somewhere. The food at the facility is okay and he keeps ice cream and other stuff, but there are certain things they tend not to cook considering the resident population. I’m not sure what he will be in the mood for and we will see how he is when noon rolls around.
This is one of those trips where I am doing multiple motels; one tonight, one tomorrow night, and a different one on Sunday. It’s the most practical approach even if it means not really bothering to unpack.
Serious content alert. Yesterday was a long day as I flew to Louisiana after getting word a few days ago of my stepmother’s passing. The event was not unexpected, although there was thought it could be a bit in the future. The point to this post is something I’ve written about before. Once an individual goes into genuine decline, you don’t know what the timing will be. Without being alarmist, that’s when we should figure out how to make a visit or strengthen contact as a “just in case”. One of the aspects of hospice is to provide that framework since entering into hospice essentially makes the announcement of, “I don’t know when, but I am accepting the approaching stage.” Although I say, “our culture tends to make discussing approaching death an uncomfortable subject”, I’m not certain other cultures do a better job of it.
The concept of “Celebration of Life” does make sense and most people embrace that now, for that is what we hope family and friends can remember of an individual who is departed. I don’t know which culture is responsible for the old questions of, “Did you find joy in life and did you give joy?” as a measure, but it is a good one to keep in mind.
Serious content alert. No, I’m not feeling morbid, but with my recent trips focused on aging parents and three friends/acquaintances losing a parent within the past month, it brings reflection. There is an item that comes around periodically on Facebook to the effect of rather than spending money to attend my funeral, reach out to me while I’m still alive. (It’s a fairly long piece and I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search.) For most of us, not showing up to a funeral where we are “expected” causes a feeling of guilt, and in reality, if there is someone who can use you in particular for support, you should go if at all possible. On the other hand, going to visit the older (which is the topic of this post) relative/friend in their waning years is likely to be better for that individual. What to talk about can be the most awkward aspect and if it’s possible, getting the person to reminisce is often the best solution. Let him or her pick the timeframe they want to linger in and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve heard the same story before. And if it should be that the individual wants to express thoughts about their own mortality, don’t dismiss it with something like, “Oh, you don’t want to talk about that – you’re going to live to be 100.” Of course it’s not a comfortable subject and you certainly don’t need to be the one to bring the topic up, but be willing to listen if the conversation goes there.
In other situations, visiting is not financially possible, and telephoning might not work either if someone is losing their hearing or has dementia/memory loss. Cards and letters though – except for severe cases of dementia, they can make a difference. In this day of so much electronic communication, it’s easy to dismiss something as “old-fashioned” as a letter. And if you don’t feel comfortable with saying a lot, a card will be better. There is such a wealth of choices out there, whether you want beautiful or something cute. It doesn’t take long and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes.