From animation to art

When disability changes personality

One night last week, my mind found a hundred different sunset silhouettes to keep me occupied through the sleep hours. Wonderment filled me as I woke, had I ever seen any of these pieces in real life? One in particular was a tree swing, only the rope’s obvious use and frayed strings were more evident. Another was a scene from the Disney movie Bambi that is actually a fire in the back ground. One was the two doves on the tree branch, but with more leafage than the one below. And there are the fishing scenes on the lake, and the moored boats next to docks. While three hours looking for any silouettes on the internet was an empty handed fishing trip. The only ones in my dreams that sort of matched were these two. Each one in my vision did not have an ovious sunlight, the sun being off to the side of the actual object of focus. Sunset is implied rather than targeted.

And why would such art images fill my mind so much? I am unable to dissolve their possibilities in my mind. Each one just keeps recurring at some point in the day. What does this thought process mean to me? And why a sunset? I am not a prophet, I don’t think. Are these prophetic in their nature or a symbol of the past?

More revelation has come to me over the days since these images first appeared to me. I see so much more than the setting sun or a tree swing resting from its flight. The waters of the lake have no ripples from the jet-skies, or the breeze. Each item seems quiet, tranquil, peaceful.

At rest.

Years ago, my brother and I would write little plays and act out various performances. Remembrances of woodbox stages, and piano bench theatre fill my memory. We dressed up as pirates, or Indians and cowboys, or maybe Cleopatra, it does not really matter. Imagination was lord and we were King and Queen of the drama world in our home. From those days I learned to mime, to pretend, and to fib my way through our play day.

Throughout my childhood, from my early temper tantrum fits into my teen years, I learned the power of dramatic and emotional hand gestures. These seemed quite effective in the whole of conversation, speech, and relating an incident to an audience.

Until…

One day as a teenager, during my “waitress” years, I learned a valuable less about the tragedy of lost peripheral vision and hand gesturing. My father (who is the carrier for my families genetic retinal degeneration) was telling some story as he often did. While dramatizing his tale to a table of men, he used his hand to gesture some scene. Unbeknownst to him, I was coming in with his refill of coffee. I had tried to get his attention, but everyone knows how difficult it is to get my dad to quit talking. Interruption is not much of an option. Needless to say… the coffee got spilled.

Those were the days of my growing up. Many instances like that very one happened frequently. The challenge was to wait long enough to get noticed. Or to have the patience to wait out the telling. Or to simply never serve. Some chose the later. Gradually my father leaned not to wave his arms about while fabricating his stories. Sadly, it took me a few years to lean this dismembering of my arms and hands from conversation.

And not too recently, a plate full of desert was easily sprung to the floor when because of my lack of sight, my hands reached out for the item only to flip it through the air. Videos of food flying, cakes tipping to the floor, or cups leaping through the air are not funny to me. They are a part of the surprise of visual impairment. Sitting perfectly statue is the best response to the possible “Boo!” Not really so fun anymore.

One example that still frustrates me is my children’s club teaching years. Much of what one does while teaching children is achieving compliance so that the teacher can do her job. One particular student of mine never learned to stay in his designated space. I was actually okay if he did not sit, but the wandering into my space caused acciden after accident. My frustration reached its boiling point each week at lesson. Every night, I would go home in tears because Nathan would get “HIT” every week either by my arm, hand, foot, or another appendage. Could he never learn that I could not see him coming towards my path? I cried every week, because this child made teaching club miserable for me. My eyesight made teaching kids impossible.

Finally we made it to the end of the year and I quit teaching kids club at church. I was heart broken to end on such a sour note. I loved teaching, but children have this nasty ability to move faster than my eyes. Peripheral vision is key to dealing with “needy” children who cannot comprehend another might have some disability that clashes with theirs. I was so sad.

Ending my teaching due to my eyesight.

Yep, It was just one more thing my eyes had taken away from me. Grief set in for some time. I still don’t want to attend a Vacation Bible School program or any child focused event. It hurts. I still want to teach. But it is not possible. These encounters with moving targets still continue. I can’t even read children’s books very well because the text is so unpredictable on the pages. It’s all over the place. Up, then down, then in the middle, and sometimes on the edges. Uff. It’s just too much to feel lost all the time.

So RP changes personalities. Where does the teacher in me go?

What happens to the dramatic, funny girl that once loved to tell a story and get laughs from the room?

One time someone told me, I acted like I did not want to be in a particular place all the time. Actually, that’s not it at all. When someone hands me a cellphone with an image to look at, I simply do not see the gesture. My focus has been on their face, and unless the words indicate their actions… It is not within my perpheral anymore. People in a room throw conversation around like a hot potato. It has become difficult to follow who is talking and where the ping pong ball is now. There are times it gets so tiring, I just don’t try to follow it.

So interjecting appropriate conversation has become difficult when there are more than two or three people in a group.

But just becuase I miss a lot of conversation cues, does not mean I miss every facial gesture. Sometimes I am completely passed up when a “picture” on said phone is shown. This does hurt. Not intentionally, but it does. Sometimes, I see someone roll eyes in my direction at another person because I missed something. Yes, that hurts too.

So I have changed.

From animation to still art form, I have become the unused swing hanging from the tree branch. While everyone else around me is playing baseball, or croquet in the lawn, I miss the whole thing. The ball wizzes right by my head and I haven’t seen a thing. I am lost. And no one has found me.

I am blind, but now I see. I see that I cannot be the same animated dramatic energetic self I once was. Moving too quicly through any space could be hazardous to my health. Having a friend that can’t even sit still for a conversation is not my cup of tea. I had a friend like that once. She was so busy bodied that I would get a head ache trying to figure out where she was all the time.

Now I see that being lost all the time might just be part of who I am. Getting my dog to figure out that she has to be my eyes is the task at hand. If she becomes a new tripping hazard….

Well, the blind fold might have to go up for a day to teach her that she is IT! When I am around people that do not see me as blind becuase there is no blindfold, well, life turns into a still life form in a piece of art. I become a silhouette sitting on the dock while others are gazing at a glorious sunset. The suns rays are not my friend, so I am looking at the silhouettes. The sky has a beautiful orange and pink glow. I hope I don’t forget it.

Painting grey skies yellow

Psalm 107:29-30. “He calms the storms, So that all is still, They they are glad because all is quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.”

“Come see the sky with me.”

The night is fresh with the moisture from the recent rain. The storm clouds pass. Look at the back side of the formations. We are sure that the worst of the rain is further to the east. The sun dips below the horizon. The glow of the clouds leaves an ominous light upon everything. A yellow sky bids us farewell, “good night, sleep tight.” We watch the gray humid forms. There is no longer a shadow’s direction. Everything seems painted yellow. No sun rays focused on any particular world. The shadows all but disappear. The greenhouse seems to glow in the aftermath of sundown.

who had painted our grey world yellow?

“Come see the sky with me.”

Just one month ago the flower bed was bathed in purple. The irises that remind me so much of my Grandma Millie lasted for nearly ten days. This year no wolf-like winds huffed and puffed to blow the flower house down. I wish I could capture them better. Perhaps someday I can bring their essence into my dull winter days with a larger picture or the perfect purple shawl.

Today this sane haven of beauty brought me a plethora of tiger lilies. These are planted in memory of Gavin’s Grandma Edna. She use to have a huge gathering of lilies just south of the garage on the home place. Now there are too many machining tools there. The bright orange blossoms made me so happy this year. It’s the first year we have had thus many blooms since the garden bed was planted.

“Come see the sky with me.”

While I was pulling the vigorous grass and creeping weeds from the bed, one of last years kittens decided to play with me. I did not care for the scratch I recurved. So Cotton got a scolding and he left my flower patch. The playful kittens remind me of all the kitten knick-knacks that my other grandmother had witting around. It seemed she had shadow boxes on every wall. I often wonder if she ever had a favorite,or were they just an nderfoot nuisance. Life on the acreage would not be the same without them.

And so these things still storm-less, are painted and colored by hues that no one can reproduce. Pictures do not dare to display the depth of the beauty real life has to offer. take some time to watch the world today. See what colors the sun paints on your evening sky. Discover the flowers as you pass by.

Come see the sky with me

Let me paint the orange anew

Let’s imagine a world mauve and blue

Come see the sky with me

Can we reproduce that purple hue?

Can we paint the grey into greensand, the red a yellow too?

Come see the sky with me

Let’s watch the sun set down

The horizon with lots of lavender round

Come see the sky with me

The moon is orange and brown

The rainbow is upside down

Come see the sky with me

Have you ever seen such a glorious pink?

Have you ever had so much time to think?

Come see the sky with me.

-written by Yvonne Annette

Visual textures

Study and survey

This little desktop doily found it’s way to our end table. I thought it would be fun to continue the tea doily into the next round and see if we like it. Yep. It’ll do. And since my hubby sits or stands at his desk at work, a little thing of beauty next to his armchair is kind of nice

Then I completed another row on a different project. That project is a scrap journal of all my projects. I decided to to try this gem. The patter is the “Nomad by Fate.” However, I call this one “Gypsy Diamonds.” Too many colors and no particular color scheme makes it a bit busy. But the texture study is challenging.

I have always loved textures. Feeling the yarn thread through my fingers is soothing. And the fabric made by the varying stitches is always an enjoying study.

A student is usually considered a beginner or an amateur. Many of the patterns that I crochet are intermediate or difficult. Though the crochet hobby has been in my life for some forty years already, I still find new things to learn. Knowing all the stitch language from english to british along with the international pattern symbols makes me feel like I can tackle anything. But the most fun is taking something by sight, studying the photo, and crocheting my own idea. It’s this ability that drives me to learn new patterns, and try something new.

To survey all the available possibilities and complete a project. All while reading a book of some sort or another. The blue waters shoulder wrap above was my evening television project. When the yarn ends just 20 stitches early and there is nothing that matches it in sight, frustration sets in. But today the frustration lies in a misplaced yarn bobbin winder. Really now, It can’t have taken up legs and walked away. When the mind just simply cannot remember where the squirrel has stashed the winter suppy… Frustration.

The feeling on this three items is so very different. The patterns are completely unrelated. The smoothness of the “Blue Water” is such a contrast to the “Gypsy Diamonds.” The scrap yarn journal is never going to be done. And the tea doily, turned into a desktop display is so pretty. Now – What’s next?

Sometimes writing

Looks like this

There are days the catchy title of a blog comes easily to my thoughts. Other days I think my mind acts like the pieces of this little writing table before we put it back together. Sanding down the surfaces of thoughts is not easy. Blurt might be a good game when speaking what’s on the tip of the tongue, but filtering our words before we say them should be a common practice. So this blog has been filtered through sand, and rocks. Hopefully what lies beneath the surface will be as beautiful as this little writing table when it is done.

Father’s day is one of those days that holds many mixed emotions for me. I love that my husband and his family want to treat their dad special on the day. And I see my kids wanting to do the same for him. But I argue with myself all day about the best time to call my dad. While he is still living, I hear a few voices say. So I call.

As a little girl, the one thing that stands out is the story of our trips through town and the little voice my dad heard in his ear. It is a story that he often embellishes. Standing on the seat of the pickup with my feet planted in the cushion, and one arm around his neck, I would whisper these words, “Daddy, I think the Dairy Queen is open.” I have no memory of those days before my younger brother came along. (And before you get all fussed up about no carseats, remember there was no such thing back then.)

While visiting with the family over lunch on Sunday, it pleased me to hear that my nephew’s little girl loves her ice cream. And that her daddy takes her on ice cream dates every Sunday afternoon while brother takes a nap and mommy reads her book. What a special memory. Even if she is unable to recall these dates, others will tell her about them. And somehow these shared moments will solidify a good daddy-daughter bond that is better than gorilla glue.

The writing table found in our basement or in the old corn crib at our house in Iowa. I used it for 20 years. Gradually the weight of the sewing machine and the vibration wore the joints loose. So my dear husband took it all too pieces, and put it back together again. He used gorilla glue on the joints that needed it and we put a new slide on the slide out writing board. It accepted the first coat of poly-stain on father’s day.

Accepting the many colors of our dad’s personalities can be a challenge. Sometimes I struggle with how to handle some of the things that he cares to talk about. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl. Maybe, it’s because there is a void when it comes to talk about our family life growing up. Realizing that for years, that his only identity was work helps some.

While listening to his talk about he grandkids last evening, it was difficult to pay attention to his words. The radio/television was on rather loudly in the background. So I went along with the conversations with a few “uh-huh’s” while I tried to figure out who was talking. I nearly laughed out loud when I realized it was the gospel television network on cable. I forgot how much he likes the Gathers Gospel music.

He must have asked me a question, because I gave up trying to listen to the “Jesus Preacher” and came back to listening to my dad. Then it occurred to me that I knew exactly why and when he had stopped going to church. And in reality, I had wanted to quit too. That might be a whole different blog, but it boils down to hypocrisy and male leadership that was very ungodly. Not surprised he quit. Just sad that his identity and reason for going to church was not in Jesus back then.

Putting faith in people will always disappoint us. But that does not mean that we should not believe in people. I am glad that through the difficult years, I did not give up on the dad that use to take me to dairy queen. It took a lot of work, but eventually we got back to that. Every conversation that we share, I can glean some tidbit of wisdom. Whether it is for me for for someone else, I try to pick it up and mull over it for a time.

This week it was this… “Every day a man goes fishing, he adds one day to his life.” This statistic is real. I looked it up. What they found, is that people who learn to relax and be patient while fishing, find carry through into their lives. That patience and ability to let go of worries is key to better behavior. No, my husband does not want to take up fishing even though so many in the family love it. We do enjoy our motorcycle rides to no where. Just putt-sing along and watching the scenery roll by. It’s relaxing. Fishing of a different sort.

We put the table together and then I was able to get one coat of poly/stain on before the day was done. The next coat will be applied after a light sanding of steel wool. Relationships aften get rough steel wool in the communication gaps. Rinsing the surface with a quick wash of vinegar water can help. I tell myself that just before I call my dad these days. Rinse our the unfiltered thinking with a bit of dish soap. Let my past grievances go. If there is anything not worth our time, It’s dredging up the pond’s settled muck and throwing out bad bait. Don’t go fishing for old tires, I tell myself. Get out the gorilla glue and go back to restoring furniture, if the bugs at thewater are too annoying.

Psalm 23: 3-

“He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness.

For His name’s sake.”

Fabric of Friendships

Viola after Perry

The fabric of friendships is a cotton broadcloth. Common, everyday, down to earth folks that you can sip a cup of coffee or iced tea with and forget what hour you started. But when the carafe runs empty it might be a clue to go back home.

The reason I think of cotton broadcloth as the fabric of friendships is that is so common. Common like the fabric of a chair cushion. One of my coffee friends made this cushion for me “to order.” Useful, practical and easy to wash if I should spill my coffee on it. No chair cushion is made of silk, or wool dress-pant material. While some soft fleeze might be nice, it’s just not practical. Coffee friendships are the every day type. People that help us see the usual as wothy, healthy, and we walk away with value in them and in ourselves.

Coffee cup cozy friends are hard to come by. This day and age people do such different types of lifestyles that finding the next door neighbor that becomes a life long friend is rare. When I think of this couple across the alley from us as we grew up, I wonder at the different viewpoints each of us as a family had of them.

All those years it was always ‘Perry and Vi.’ They never had any children. Viola suffered a cow kick as a youngster and that injury with it’s lasting scar tissue left her barren. They loved in a “boundaries” sort of way. The whole town seemed to understand them as salt of the earth, steady, loyal and honest people.

My mom always had the deepest respect for them. And she taught us that just because the couple demanded respect of their property by the neighborhood children, did not mean we should fear this couple. Perry’s lawn was immaculately clean. While this signaled the lack of children in their home, we were always welcome to sip lemonade on the back swing with them.

Fear was not part of my memory of this couple. Their love for each other seemed to radiate out ward to all of the “coffee” drop ins that were welcomed at their home. Many of these guests came from the church fellowship. this church ws on the corner across the street from their house.

Perry was the church custodian. I remember all of the boards that Perry was on besides church, with his work at the local farmers coop elevator also. And the funniest thing about his return home from all of his work was the way he cut the engine before coasting into the alley beside his back door. It was like a ball player sliding into home base. That sound still echoes in my head as the tires make the pebbles of gravel crackle underneath a silent engine.

Knowing that Viola was her name never stopped us from calling her just Vi. We knew tha they both came from rather large families, because the story time over lemonade, tea, or just a glass of water was endless. I always felt like I could not get enough of the past with them. From the humor to the sad, everything always had the same conclusion.

“The Lord has bee so good to us.”

Sometimes I remember questioning how they could say that with all the losses that they experienced.

Late after Perry’s death, I convinced my husband to stop by Vi’s house and see if she was home. Her face was radiant with recognition and her lips were full with God’s praise. She shared things like their favorite chairs in the living room. Their spot for Bible reading. Their times of prayer for those in the basket of Christmas cards. There was never a complaining tone or a hint of sadness as she praised God for all the good years she and Perry had together. The last Christmas letters that were hand written from her still had the same conclusion…

“The Lord has been so good to us.”

There is a verse in Psalms that seems to fit Vi and Perry’s confession of faith the most. I think of the Psalms as natural as breathing to them. Psalm 34 seems to me the one that I saw them live. “…The Lord’s praise shall be continually in my mouth…let us praise His name together… (8) Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”

While we wait for winter to finish it’s fury, maybe my complaining can take a vacation for the expectation of spring. The Lord has been good to us, we have jsut enough. The hot chocolate with marsh-mellows tastes good. I will trust Him as I continue to remember these beautiful people God has put in my path since childhood.

Threshold

The Framework of friendships

This third doorway of the series on “After” involves a phone call that I had with a good friend just the other day. She has asked me to keep her anonymous for her own security. Of course in today’s world, security is important so I have changed her name to Anne.

Friendships have many different shapes and forms in today’s world. Recently another friend of the family was discussing how he had to explain to his 13 year old son that just because you follow someone on a social media account, that does not make that someone your friend. We “be-friend,” we follow, we like and so forth, but it’s the old fashioned friendships that are real and true.

The frame work of a friendship takes many different shapes. Some are work relationships, some church, some school, some family and some are unexplainable. We have to dig around a bit to find the beginning of that connection. And after awhile, we realize all of the things that we have in common with one person or another are the slides that hinge our friendships. As if one is the door jamb and the other the door, the bond is built on these common experiences.

My husband decided to begin glueing my little writing table together for me. Of course the temperature outside made it a bit sketchy on the glue bonding. So he brought the drawer in the house to finish it. The idea that some construction project or machine part might be gracing my kitchen table has never really bothered me. He’s a bit like his dad in that respectt, and sometimes 72 degrees and some newspaper is the best atmosphere to detail some project. Eating with bar clamps and wood glue just has to be overlooked. The result will be worth it.

The framework of the drawer was in need of some help to be more sturdy. Weakness on the corners had made pulling the drawer out or pushing it back in quite a job for the strong. It reminded me of some things that Anne and I talked about on the phone the other day.

When I asked Anne if I could share her story with my readers, her first reaction was no. I understand, most elderly people have a desire to remain private. They do not want others to see them in their vulnerable state.

Age has a way of defining one’s weaknesses in a way that is much too real. My grandmother also suffered from the aging effects of osteoporosis and her physical weakness left her in debilitating pain. Anne has osteoporosis also. There are times when i see her that I worry about hugging her. What if, like a fragile rose or beautiful vase, just a hug is like a crushing grip. But we hug none-the-less. She is so loving and caring and I know that she needs that hug as much as I do.

Anne told me about her memory. How she wished there were things that she could forget. One of the things was the rattle snakes from the ranching years. We talked about strong minds. Ignoring the topic of the weak body. Her recollection of those years is both humorous and vivd. I asked her if the memories ever keep her away with nightmares. No, she said, thank goodness.

I never thought of Anne as “like my grandma” to me. She has always been a good friend even though there are many things she does not know about me. I know there are others that she is closer in thought with. These people that she sees each week at church or in Bible study. It has never bothered me that she has other friends that have suited her needs in other areas. I simply find the phone calls very refreshing. From the talk about the early years, to all of her boasting about the kids, and grandkids, I am just glad to visit with her once in a while.

Years ago, we knew Anne best in the “couple” format. Her love of her spouse and the way that they connected to our family through the many shared experiences makes me want to stay in tough. The framework of all those memories are like numbers in a dot-to-dot color book. Yet the dots continue on into the next page.

Not too long ago I realized that another couple who came along side Anne during the year or so before her husband’s passing,some how just faded out of her life. Anger seized me at their lack of “stick-to-it” -tiveness. I even held a grudge towards then for some time. I don’t understand how friends are so seasonal and disappear like an early spring snowfall. How could they just abandon her need fro friendships after his death. Their connection to him had been stronger than seeing her need after.

After.

My heart ached for her during those days. So many days were so alone. And to have friends that did not stick by after…. She never told me what happened. But I was happy that another couple from her church stepped in to fill the gap.

Doorways and frameworks that need repair rarely happen today. Friends come and go. But the one that sticks closer than a brother… I just hope that I never shut the door on my friendship with Anne. Even if she does not want me to share her stories about the long years of their happily married life. Anne is one of those strong minded, solid, gorilla-glue friends.

Another name for the door’s threshold piece is saddle. Many of our friendships are like that. We saddle the fence and try to ride out the differences that we have, never really taking the true tests of real relationships. Sometimes we have to actually pull the saddle out and put in on the horse and go for a long trail ride just to find out what really makes someone stick. I hope that my sharing won’t put a stop to our long talks. Each time we visit is a passage into another door panel that is like adding a lock rail to our friendship.

Memories. Written by myself in December of 1986, my senior year of high school

…Oh the memories

I could write all day

I could talk until dawn

But what is their use

If only to one day loose

…Oh, the memories

Today

I do not forget

They will not be

Forgotten these

Memories

That I have

Of you…

Mrs. Rust

Florence after Wilfred, maybe?

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Mrs. Rust came to my mind. All through the years there was always some neighbor lady that taught us respect, honor, and good behavior. This neighbor lady was one of them.

Here is the story of the stout little neighbor lady whose first name we never knew. Was it Florence (the nightingale)? Or maybe it was Freda or Minnie? And what was her husband’s name? Mr. Rust of course, though we never knew him, even if his name was Wilfred or Albert.

At the age of ten, our family moved from one end of the state to ther other. From the cold Siberian northland to the southern spring prairie lands. It did not take us long to get acquainted with our new neighbors. From learning about the school, to the 4-H leaders, to the local dairy supplier we soon had the new sand hills learned well.

The most difficult part was that sand involves sand burs. And sand burs means a lot of flat tires. Thank goodness for our father, their was still a local filling station at the time. But I am sure he patched a fair share of tubes during those days. Bike tires were not the durable mountain bike options that we have today. I remember well the banana seat, two girls, one gallon milk jars and someone always walking one or the other bicycle.

During those days my little brother was not in school yet. So my mother had her hands full with three daughters, stomachs to fill, my little brother, and in the winter a wood stove to fill. During the summer the garden was a top priority along with about fifty chickens to butcher.

And across the dirt expanse we called a street, lived Mrs. Rust. For some reason my mind thinks of her as the bird lady. I don’t know if she fed the birds or not. My memory fails me on that one. But knowing how much our family all looks forward to the return of the Robin Redbreast, putting her in the framework of that spring search seems appropriate. The bird with is rusty shirt would be a great symbol of who Mrs. Rust was for me.

We all have the memory of looking for my brother Wade during those days. One of us girls would search the sandbox, the toy box, the bedrooms, or the strawberry patch. The winner was the one who went over to Mrs. Rust’s house to find him sleeping on her sofa after sharing a snack with her. “Well, that was easy,” my mother would say after Mrs. Rust would say, “Yes, he’s here.” I wonder if he found her house an escape from three older sisters that were all too bossy.

In those days, we did not have a television. My mother and father were both avid readers. And there was the radio of course. Who needed to watch tv when you could read it in a book. I remember getting lost in books. We read books or we found some way to entertain ourselves with real live play!

All of my growing up years, we had to find a neighbor to go to if some school assignment was to watch some television show. While we lived across the street from Mrs. Rust, I was too young for such homework assignments. Though we also had friends homes to attend to such television viewing, it was easiest to just walk over to Florence’s house after school for a little tv time.

Mrs. Rust always accommodated our need for a little screen time. Those days of watching Flipper and Gilligan’s Island were good memories for me. I do not remember any other thing about her house. I do not even remember the snacks or what the house smelled like. I remember our home well, and the view of her house from our porch swing.

Wade’s memories of Mrs. Rust are vague. At age six going towards eight, memories are not as strong. My mother had few memories also. Except that in the seventies, no first name was necessary.

We never knew her first name. While today children are taught to preclude a first name with Ms. or Mister, back then it was always Mister or Misses followed by the surname. Out of respect and honor, we always answered with a “Yes, ma’am” or “no, sir.”

We only lived across from Mrs. Rust for two years. It never occurred to me at my tender age that she may have been lonely. Considering the absence of her Mister was not a thought of mine either. Today my heart is more in tune to such thoughts.

Why would I think of her as a bird lady? So many older people take to watching the birds. I think it’s because the birds come and go alot like visitors, family, or the sunshine. While they look forward to family time and coffee with others, the birds are there at the feeders almost year round. Except for the robins.

Robin redbreast is somewhat of a common bird. In our area it signals the season change quite pleasantly. Our family has an unspoken challenge of who sees the robin first. It seems the volley is between my mother and my second daughter most. It is the pride of the observation that prompts the phone call “I saw a Robin today!”

Many elderly couples take to going south like the robins through the winter. While I was contemplating our families remembrances of Mrs. Rust, how we had moved from north to south to become her neighbor, Robin Redbreast would not leave my mind.

So many elderly women live alone, watching the birds feed at their tubes filled with seed. One time a bird in the nest outside our window cooed for days to get the male to come back to the nest. That lonely call, made me think of the widow who has lost her love of many years.

Then I found this song. It really does speak for itself. Hopefully this is the saddest story I have to tell. Many of the other women on my list, led fulfilled lives in their days alone. And some were quite funny.

Song by Sonya Kitchell. “Robin in the Snow.”

Empty vessels

Before part II

Getting ready to get ready is not my forte. Cleaning out a work space to make it my own sometimes requires help. Or maybe, when it comes to cleaning anything that might break, I need lots of help. So we emptied the room and then it has been my Monday morning chore to put back only those things which are necessary.

While cleaning out the library of it’s stores of stuff, we found a whole stash of vases. Each one of these vessels actually held some treasure. Some were candles, some little what-nots, some flower petals, some dried rose buds, and ribbons. What treasures! Except for the inconvenience of actually remembering where all of those things came from. After time goes by, we amazed ourselves at the lack of actual treasure the items had become.

Empty vessels are meant to be filled, right?

Empty. That’s how my days have felt for so long now, that having a purpose of sorts makes me wonder many things. For instance, why do we keep these things past their time of remembrance? Why do we keep flowers past life? The empty pursuit of holding on to the things of the memory appals me when I have to throw away the dusty sneezy dead stuff inside. I have decided not to keep dead flowers around anymore. Or even plastic ones that collect dust. Too much to clean.

Vessels and books filled the shelves. It was amazing how many boxes, containers, plastic totes, and jars that I found. Most of them we threw away. I even found some small jars. My mother-in-me told me not to throw them away. Myself-in-me finally won. Keeping things “just because” had overwhelmed the library shelves. I could not even clean the room because of them. Let alone find the book that I had been looking for these last few months. (Found it.)

Imagining that book covers were once empty vessels until someone organized all those words was fun. I tried to imagine which vessel in the room would best exemplify the book “Little Women.” There was a little music box filled with hair clips, favorite rocks, and other goodies. All the years my children were home seemed summed up in that little box and the book. Though we are in a different era, my girls are so much of who I am. The book titles all tell a story of who we are and who we have become.

There is a saying that comes to mind frequently: Who we are depends partly on the people we spend time with, the books we read, and the beliefs that we hold. I am who I am because of my children and all these books in this library.

I do not know what the book After will look like. I do not know if it will one day be on someone’s bookshelf, telling the story of who they are. It is yet an empty vessel waiting for the words to be organized.

After

The last word of that so common phrase “Happily Ever After” receives so very little attention. Few people seek to hear the romance in the heart of a widow. Yt she is the “Same Girl” that she once was, just filled with memories and heart ache. Twila Paris put this poem into song years ago.

“She’s still the same girl running down that hill

“She’s still the same girl with her shining smile

“Listen to her story, and your heart will glow

“She’s still the same girl, and she needs you so.”

Link to the video and song is found below. I discovered this song on Mother’s Day years ago shortly after my grandfather passed away.

On Valentine’s Day this year while the world was feeling sorry for the singles, I spent my lonely hours of the day in prayer for the lonely hearts of the aged. All through the years my connection to widows has taught me more than I could tell in one writing. These are the stories of all those whom I found friendships and kinships with through the years. Today I share the beginning to the tales.

When we got married nearly 28 years ago I was truly a princess bride. I believed in Happily Ever After. Once upon a time I thought my role as a wife, mother and teacher-mom, and church pianist was all that there was to my life and calling. I nevert really considered that one day there would be an After.

I was one of those Happily married women. I am still a happily married woman. I also believe that we are one of those Ever couples. You know, the kind that’s married 59 years and no one ever sees them alone, they go everywhere together. We also are not one of those couples with the secret closet that once opened buries all future hopes of love, joy, and peace. Happily Ever After describes me and my dear loved one.

I am also one of those moms that is once a mother always, ever a mother. And now happily I am in the Happily After Grandmother days. My parents are again, and time marches on. Now what?

What about this After thing? After those days of mothering, of trying to straighten wrinkles, smooth out the gray lines and put on the new hoodies, now what? After those days of constant busy and happily fussing ever rushing about, is there really an After?

What am I to do in this ever silent hallway that my children, now happily married, once called home? How do I continue on in the emptimess waiting for the love of my lifeto come home from his long day? How do I fill these ever long, forever boring hours waiting for the After to begin?

As I wait for the days to burst anew with some grand vision or scheme, it finally came to me. Suddenly, I remembered… While I was once waiting for my Happily Ever After I met women in their After. First there was one woman adn then another through the years that came to my mind. Women in the “After ” of life whose friendships filled me with kinship and a sisterly, motherly, grandmotherly bond that could not be met by anyone else.

After. These are their stories.

James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” NLT.

Maybe all these years I did not really understand what my true calling in this world was until now. All through the years I have had a lonely heart connection with many widows. I hope to convey their silent years into the words that will help others understand their hearts the way that I have. When I spent time with a widow woman or man, I always felt so blessed. Some never knew anything about me. But listening to her stories filled me with such contentment. Hearing about his wounds always brought about humor somehow. The strength that they shared with me is undeniable. And now their strength to carry on can be yours. Just listen…