Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Red, White, and Blue and a little surprise

I cannot let another day go by without mentioning how very much I enjoyed the concert put on by the Mountain Home Symphony for this year's Red, White, and Blue festival, coined, Red, White, and Beautiful.

Indeed it was. 

We are very fortunate to have this dedicated group of musical performers to entertain us. I found this concert, held at Arkansas State University Mountain Home, held on the evening of June 23, to be extra special. It was even more than I had hoped because of a surprise not long before the rousing finale of The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I love music. Like so many others, listening to music has always had a soothing, calming effect on me. I decided to attend the concert when I first learned about it in the local paper. Since the death of my husband John, just two months ago, I felt some good inspiring, enthusiastic, marching tunes were just what I needed.

I had no idea how emotional it would be. 

I admit I was a little weepy during the first beautiful solo rendition of our national anthem. My patriotism always makes me a little emotional, especially given the nature of the politics of the day, but there is also something about a voice with the ability to make beautiful music. The human condition that allows such a thing confounds me. I have no musical talent, but am in awe of those who do. 

The concert was beautiful, as each individual instrument blended so perfectly with the others in the making of music. 

But then, in the program, of which I was unaware, the selection was Henry Mancini's Moon River. At that moment, I felt utter joy as I saw my life flash before my eyes. Moon River, originally written for the movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was Andy Williams' theme song and I have loved Andy Williams since I was 14 years old.

Just hearing the first few bars of this so-recognizable melody left me breathless.

As I closed my eyes I was transformed back into my early 20's. I was at Airie Crown Theater in Chicago. It was in the 1970's and my late husband John and I had first met and that was one of our first dates. He took me to see Andy Williams sing, backed by a full orchestra conducted by Henry Mancini. Of course, Moon River was prominently featured. That night was magical. 

Several years ago, when I attended his book signing, I was able to meet my idol, Andy Williams. I wrote about it at the time. (click here). I was able to tell Andy I was his biggest fan, and that I married my husband because he took me to hear Andy sing. That became a legend in our 46-year marriage. I had told John that so many times that we both actually believed it. 

I am grateful to the Mountain Home Symphony Orchestra for giving me the opportunity to relive this special moment in my life. But isn't that what music is all about? It has the power to transform us. It can bring us tremendous joy. And it can simply make us happy. So I offer my appreciation to every performer who is dedicated to making music. They did a splendid job. We, in this part of the country are so lucky to have them. And, I look forward to their next concert.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

I am a widow!

I've been called many things in my life, but one of the hardest names to deal with is the latest - widow! 

It has been nearly two months since my husband John passed away in my arms, as I was helping him from his wheelchair to his bed. John had been having difficulty breathing and was experiencing pain in the side of his abdomen. This had been going on for two days and I was alarmed. There have been so many instances like this, so I didn't anticipate his inability to snap back from it once again. 

I went into his room after he had a nap. I asked him how he was. 

"I feel good." I asked him if he was in pain. 

"No," he said. 

Those were the last words he spoke. 

He had slept in his chair and wanted to be in his bed, so he asked me to help him. During that process, he simply slumped to one side. I struggled to get him onto the bed and tried to wake him. This had happened before, several times, but this time, he didn't wake up.

John had experienced many health issues, some really serious, since he had a severe stroke eight years ago. We dealt with problems as they arose and with medical intervention, had always moved forward. Clearly his external deficit on the right side of his body left him without function. It caused countless other problems. But there were internal issues at play as well, that were not so apparent.

Suffice it to say, his condition was hard on both of us. Despite my exhaustion, complete mental fatigue, in addition to his frustration and depression, we still found ways to cope. We even found ways to laugh, an important component of our 46-year marriage. We knew one another and were compatible in all the ways that count. We laughed at the same things, were frustrated by the same things, and had a lifetime of memories, with friends, family, and so much more to draw upon. There was always something to talk about. We even enjoyed the same television shows.

For nearly a year, John was a Hospice patient, so a nurse and bath aide came to visit at least three times per week. These angels of mercy not only helped John, but they were invaluable to me. Since our moving to the Ozarks, nobody has ever visited us three times per week, or more, so we looked forward to seeing them. I was especially grateful because they relieved the heavy burden of responsibility for John's health care from my shoulders. 

I am so grateful to Allison and Liz for all they did for John and for me. I will always be appreciative. 

Each month, Hospice offered a 5-day respite, whereby John would spend 5-days at a local nursing home, leaving me with all that time to do whatever I wanted. I usually spent that time cleaning the house without interruption, playing my favorite music as loud as I wanted, and even singing, which I could never do in anyone else's company because I suck at it. John was always quick to point that out. More laughter! Sometimes I went out with friends, but usually, I just needed time to chill alone. 

John would call me in the mornings and sometimes throughout the day. We would talk about the latest goings on in the political world, people I'd heard from, what was going on with our two kids and their families, and of course, the weather which we old people often obsess over. I told him when he was at respite and he'd call me, it was like having a boyfriend. On the last day, I was always anxious for him to come home, only to begin the often painful cycle again.

I make no excuses, but must admit that respite was a lifeline for me. Caring for him, monitoring his medications, vital signs, and trying to keep him as healthy as I could was exhausting. At the same time, I cared for our aging cat family, did all the chores, and tried keeping up with everything to run a household. It was especially hard when I got sick. And, I seemed to be sick often. Constant worry and wondering what to do if something happened to him or to me, caused constant anxiety. The responsibility was often times more than I could cope with.

Today, I find myself thinking about all that has happened, not just in the last eight years, but the years when we were so happy here, exploring new places and enjoying the beauty of our surroundings. We both loved it here, and although we miss our friends and family back home, we loved where we live.

The last eight years were dark days for sure. And although I miss my life partner and companion, I wouldn't want to revisit all that we went through again. 

So now I sadly wear my new title. It is hard to say it out loud. I am a widow!

The wounds are still fresh, but I know I will be OK. I've always been resilient. I'm proud to have survived those dark days. And, my heart is full as I feel the love of friends, family, and everyone around me who have been so helpful. I know I have leaned on so many. That is not something I'm comfortable doing, but they have kept me standing.

One of my favorite words is 'understanding.' 

I now practice that on myself as I try to sort out the often conflicting emotions I now feel. I am looking through a lens of awareness and hopefulness where once there was neither. I will always miss John. And, I will always talk to him, as if he is still here. I may not verbalize those words, but they are there, even if only in my head where only I can hear them. I have finally come to the realization that he isn't just at respite and is not coming home again. But he left me with so many thoughts, so many memories, two beautiful children, and a lifetime of laughter. Who can ask for anything more? I'll be OK.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Age is just a number; we deserve better

Old doesn't mean no longer useful
There are so many troubling things happening these days, not the least of which is my own advancing age.

Gone are the days when the wisdom of age meant something. 

There will be another presidential election next year. President Joe Biden has decided to run again. I am saddened that despite his successful tenure so far with a long list of accomplishments, there is little enthusiasm for his candidacy. I have great respect for the office of the presidency. I would expect the leader of our country--the same country that is supposed to honor freedom and democracy--to be supported on principal. President Biden is working to make life better for all Americans. His accomplishments are many, unlike the train-wreck that is the disgraced, twice-impeached, indicted, and allegedly criminal 45th President who claims to want to run again. He used the highest office in the land to enrich himself and his family, to make deals that would line his pockets. He worked only for himself and didn't care who he hurt along the way. 

It seems more often than not, that seniors are treated as inferior by the younger generations. American culture doesn't seem to revere its elderly as in other countries.

Maybe part of it is because the days of spinning tales around a fire to impress and entertain the kiddos with stories of long ago no longer happen much in today's families, my own included. It is rare to break bread during leisurely Sunday suppers or even holidays with the extended family gathered around a big table. So few of us live like the close-knit Reagan clan in the long-running TV drama, "Blue Bloods." Perhaps technology is to blame, as it has supplanted the ability to simply talk to one another and to air our differences. 

Since I have reached Medicare recipient status, I've noticed a kind of stigma surrounding my generation. I don't understand why the younger generation disrespects us "boomers," but I'm terrified that our entire country could hang in the balance over the issue of age.

I get why younger voters may prefer one of their own to occupy the White House, but that appears not to be an option, at least not this time. I assure you, your time is coming. Changes happen slowly however, over time. And timing is everything. The election for the next President will be crucial, and in fact dire. It would behoove everyone to realize how high the stakes are. A repeat of 2016-2020 would be a disaster of which we may not be able to drag ourselves out. We do not need a replay of some of the worst years this country has ever known.

I'm tired of hearing that Joe Biden is too old to seek the office he now holds. Don't we abhor discrimination? Isn't age a discrimination just like that of race, religion, gender, and sexual preference?

This election will be so very important, especially given Biden's apparent opponent. 

Biden has proven to be far superior to that lout who thinks cognitive ability is based on remembering five simple words an hour after he first recited and memorized them. Biden is a proven leader who has the ability to remember far more than five words. In fact, he remembers his days in the Senate, can recall his work as Vice President, remembers his visits with countless world leaders for whom he shares a mutual respect. He juggles the problems of our country and our world with relative ease because he is experienced at doing so. He has worked with the best our country has to offer. He has dealt with the world's worst. And he has done it all with grace, dignity, and good humor. He has the ability to continue on the path to which he began. No, he isn't perfect. I don't agree with everything he has done. No one could fit that bill. But, I am politically aware enough to know that Joe Biden is far superior to the former guy, who has no grace, no dignity, and no good humor. Biden is not afraid to change his mind. Nor is he afraid to fight for what he believes in.

Character, wisdom, and experience have to count for something. Age has nothing to do with it.

For whatever reason, Generations X, Y, and Z seem to have it in for us "boomers." They make jokes at our expense. They blame us for the shape of the world, the planet, and the country. Many have no respect at all for the life we've lived, the battles we've waged and won. You must remember that we were once your age. 

I can attest that during the early years of my own life, I was among many who tried to make the world a better place for the next generation. But that battle continues. There is always more work to be done.

Personally, I'm at a place in my life where I could care less if someone likes me or not. Of course, I prefer the former, but I can accept the latter. But to this end, as we head toward another election cycle, can't we get just a little bit excited? Can't we be a little more supportive? Joe Biden snatched this country out of the hands of a mad man who caused so much damage and would do it again.

I wish the news media, of which I generally hold in high regard, would put a stop to reporting Biden's age every time they mention his name. There are far more things to report about Biden than how old he is.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Nothing better than spring in the Ozarks

While running some errands yesterday I couldn't help but notice the hills and hollows in the distance. There is no question that emerging leaves on the trees have colored the landscape a special shade of green reminiscent of the "spring green crayon" I remember from my earliest days a long time ago. Gosh, when was the last time I saw one of those? 

The redbuds are in their final phase of blooming; flowering dogwoods are abundant. Lilacs and other spring plants and bushes add to the beauty of the close and distant views. And then there is the scent. A sweet smell rides the gentle breezes that bear witness to perfect temperatures in a perfect time of year. 

And, the hummingbirds have returned.

Who doesn’t love a spring day? I wonder if I can stand another winter.

While we had a fairly mild one, there was a day that stretched my tolerance. It was a crazy snow storm, one that brought eight or so inches of the wettest snow I have ever seen. The power went out because of the weight of the heavy snow on branches unable to bear the weight. I couldn't start the wood stove in our all-electric house, because the fire wood was so wet, not to mention old, so it started getting pretty chilly inside. Every time I tried to start a fire, it just kept going out. Our dear friends brought some dry firewood to help us out. I finally got a really nice fire going. The temperature started to improve, but a short time later, smoke started billowing out of the stove pipe and the back of the stove. The house started filling with smoke. I didn’t know what to do, so I closed the flu and rearranged the logs inside so the fire would go out. Our eyes burned and throat hurt. Just then, thankfully, the power came back on. I turned on the whole house fan, opened some windows, retrieved a fan from the sun porch, and turned on the ceiling fan as fast as it would go. Finally, the smoke cleared. We called the chimney guys who said it wasn’t a chimney fire, the chimney was fully open, and so it must have been the heavy snow on the roof that blocked the smoke’s escape.

That was at the end of January and I am just getting over the cough.

Last fall was beautiful; it was colorful despite the record hot temperatures last summer. The fall was heavenly. In fact, I almost thought fall could take over springtime as my favorite season. This has never happened to me before. I always considered fall as just a prelude to winter, of which I am not fond. 

But now that spring is here, there is no contest. I remember all the things I love about this season of new life. The activities of spring are exhausting and exhilarating. The promise of gardening and tidying up property, deep cleaning inside and out; it is lots of work. But it is good work--the kind of work that makes you feel really good about yourself. Even taking a shower takes on a new dimension. Showers are just more enjoyable as hot water soothes aching muscles. Soap mingles with dirt encrusted arms and legs and then swirls down the drain. When done, you feel like a new person.

A walk in the yard always reveals surprises, like the first daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, and crocus. Shoots from last year's flowers emerge, anxious to begin their new life cycles, frogs and birds sing their springtime songs. I just inventoried a bluebird nest and discovered five tiny blue eggs. I can't wait to see them grow. Until we moved to Arkansas, I hadn't seen a bluebird at my house since I was a little girl playing in empty lots in the city. There were plenty of them back then, even in an urban setting. Hummingbird sightings were very rare as well. That is not so in the Natural State. Making hummingbird food is a weekly chore added to an every-growing list. But, it is one I relish.

I haven't begun the vegetable garden yet, but that is on my list of things to do very soon. I planted a couple of tuberous begonias I ordered in the dead of winter. I can't wait to see them. I now have a begonia garden in front of the porch, enhanced with a few annual begonias I picked up at the grocery store. Planting, plants, and flowers just makes me happy.

There is nothing like spring in the Ozarks. This is the season for life anew, not to mention joy and pleasure. And, there is no place like my own backyard.


Thursday, March 30, 2023

Happy Spring

Happy Spring!

I need to figure out how I barely noticed my favorite season sneak into my calendar.

Normally, I start counting down the days to spring in early winter. In fact, that may be one of my only Christmas traditions. But this year, I feel as though I didn't even see it coming.

Where does the time go? When anyone says the older you get the faster time seems to fly by, believe it!

It seems that in my youth, time seemingly stood still. As a little girl I recall how it was often difficult to find ways to fill all those daylight hours. That is certainly not the case these days. Are days still only 24 hours long? It certainly doesn't seem like it.

As a child, it wasn't uncommon to sleep a full eight hours every night. That rarely happens these days; I'm lucky to sleep six, and then it is usually not without a break or two. So the days should feel longer to me, right? They do not! 

When I was little, I remember having so much time on my hands that I often complained of being bored, having nothing to do. Perhaps it just takes longer to do things now because I can honestly say I haven't been bored in 60 years at least. My days are full with a variety of activities and projects--many of which never seem to get done though it isn't for a lack of trying.

Now that spring is here, there are so many things to do outside. The weather hasn't been very cooperative, with cold temperatures and lots of rain and storms. But, even from inside the house it is nice to contemplate working in the yard, starting with tidying up the winter landscape. We have had a few open-window days yet we still need the furnace for evenings. Heck there was just a freeze warning this week. I love open windows when we can let the outside in. The house seemed to relish the new sounds and smells wafting through the rooms. A gentle breeze seemingly blows the winter doldrums away. At least that is how I see it.

I am especially anxious for the trees to get their leaves again. This is always my favorite thing; you can almost watch tiny green buds grow into leaves that turn the landscape a beautiful shade of yellow-green. It is almost iridescent. Almost like magic, the yard surrounding the house will be hugged by the growing branches, laden with new leaves. When the tree skeletons fill in the entire yard appears smaller, compacted, and more intimate.

There are already flowering trees and some early spring flowers. But I want more. 

I've put out hummingbird feeders in anticipation of our annual visitors, due anytime now.

I'm pleased to see Bluebirds nesting in boxes in the front yard. 

Spring is truly a wondrous time. I'm glad I finally noticed it.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

I will always remember Bill Hood


Sadly, I just learned that a man, with whom I have held much regard, has died. 

I crossed paths with Bill Hood, sometime in the late 1980's and early 1990's. He was formerly the Director of American Airlines. As such, we were on the same side of the debate on whether or not to build a third airport, some 40 miles south of Chicago. We certainly came from different places, but our goals were the same--halting the construction of a major international airport at Peotone. Some of our reasons were very different, but some were also the same.

I didn't know him very well--hardly at all--really, but I knew he was someone I'd never forget. I admired his dedication to the cause for which I was so passionate. I recognized that he was a good and principled man who believed in doing the right thing and fighting for what he believed in.

I will never forget when he called one day to ask if I would give him a tour of the airport site. I was very excited at the chance to plead my case to someone who might actually have some say in the project. Up until that point, everyone who was anyone supported the project.

In truth I suppose I never really got over the fact that a representative of a world-renown airline could have anything in common with a housewife and young mother from the small town of Beecher, Illinois. Our initial meeting was prior to my writing for a local newspaper. Our paths crossed often at the countless meetings we attended, as I continued to write about the proposed airport until I retired and moved out of state in 2005. 

On the day we met, he picked me up at a local restaurant and we drove around the nearly 7 square miles of rich farmland nestled among the farm towns of Beecher, Peotone, Monee, and Crete. I didn't hold anything back as I told him everything I knew about the area where I lived for many years. I believed with all my heart that the airport was a foolish idea. I showed Bill an airport just didn't fit in the fertile farmland of Will County. I showed him the topography,  as we talked about the many creeks and streams. told him about where the land flooded when it rained and how quickly the water soaked into the ground afterward, something that doesn't happen with tons of concrete and asphalt. I talked about wetlands, recharging the aquifers that supplied well water to the rural areas, potential pollution, urban sprawl, as well as the working farm economy that would be completely displaced. I introduced him to the farmers I knew and other advocates of retaining some of the best agricultural land left in the Chicago area.

He didn't interrupt and I knew he completely understood.

Back in those early days, I was always impressed with some of the good people I met, especially those that understood what a folly the airport would be. 

Bill and I have remained Facebook friends through the years. We didn't interact often, but each time he commented on a post or wished me a Happy Birthday, I was reminded of how much he impressed me way back in those early days. 

I will never forget all he did to aid our cause. I wish I had known him better. I will always think fondly of him. 

I offer my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.  

Thursday, December 8, 2022