For Poppa

Today I saw a picture in the paper that made me laugh and tear up at the same time. It was a simple shot of two decorated mortar boards from a local college graduation ceremony. The right one said in bright colors, “My other degree is from Hogwarts!” The left one said “Thx Mom & Dad – ZTA.”

My husband laughed and said, “Those could be our girls!” A Harry Potter fan and a Zeta Tau Alpha!

I don’t remember if graduates decorated their mortar boards when I was school age, but by the time our oldest daughter graduated from Whitworth University in Spokane, I became very aware of it. She was excited and perplexed, trying to come up with the perfect thing to represent her sociology degree. Each degree area came up with their own special decor that they all agreed to use.

Shortly before her graduation, her grandfather went in for open heart surgery.

It was to repair a leaky valve in his heart. Open heart surgery always has risks, of course, but he was an amazingly fit and healthy 81-year-old and everyone thought this would just give him a new lease on life. This was a guy with an inexhaustible enthusiasm for life, his family and friends…and GOLF! He was a talented golfer and played nearly every day when he was home. We thought a guy with all that energy and joy would sail through this surgery and be with us for another decade or more!

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

The heart surgery was done, and he was in the process of walking around and coughing the fluid out of his lungs and all seemed to progress well, if slowly, and he even got moved to a rehabilitation facility.

That was when everything started going downhill. He gradually got worse and worse, and when presented with going back on a ventilator, Dad simply said’ “No.”

He was ready to go be with his Lord and the family got a last, magical day with him in hospice where he called everyone who wasn’t there and told them how much he loved them. Then he went to sleep and did not wake up. No more pain and he had done all he wanted to do that day.

Meanwhile, our daughter was taking her finals and preparing for a graduation that she had hoped her grandparents could attend. We had to tell her that they would not, and that Poppa was gone.

It was such a hard time for her, and although there was great joy in coming to the successful end of a four-year journey, it was a bittersweet time for all of us.

The graduating Sociology Majors had chosen simplicity in decorating their mortar boards and our daughter had decided to use the sociology term, “Verstehen”  in her design. “Verstehen refers to understanding the meaning of action from the actor’s point of view. It is “entering into the shoes of the other,” and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations. It also implies that unlike objects in the natural world human actors are not simply the product of the pulls and pushes of external forces. Individuals are seen to create the world by organizing their own understanding of it and giving it meaning. To do research on actors without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is to treat them like objects.”

She had decided to put a large R.A. on her mortar board, as well, since being a Residence Assistant for multiple years at Whitworth had been a highlight of her life.

MortarboardNow she added one more thing.

A filled golf bag with club and ball next to it, and the caption that simply said, “For Poppa.”

One for the Zip

Black DogWhen I was a little girl, we lived on a ranch in Blaine, Washington.

We had lived in Blaine for several years, but this was my first country living experience. We had Arabian horses, Jersey cattle, chickens, pigs, poodles, and whatever new species that took my mother’s fancy at the time!

We also had dogs; two, to be exact.  Zip was a black Labrador who had seen better days. He had few teeth remaining in his old black and gray head, but he had a heart that was immeasurable. He never met a human he didn’t like and he didn’t mind barking his lungs out to tell them so!

 

Our second dog was Lobo.  Lobo was reportedly at least half wolf and from looking at him, you would assume it was even more than half.  He was friendly to people he knew but he was also the real guard dog on the place and seemed well aware of it.

We always trusted the dogs to look after the place when we had to go somewhere. We were so far out in the country that not much was nearby and shopping for clothes was a special trip. Bellingham was just about the only place in driving distance with anything with a decent selection.

I remember my mom would allow me to play hooky once or twice a year (if I was making straight A’s) and go shopping with her at the Bon Marché department store in downtown Bellingham. It is one of my fondest memories!  Shopping, lunch at the luncheon counter of the Bon Marché and always a maple log pastry and Coke to finish our day… Heaven!

One bright, spring day we had gone as a family to do some household shopping and had a great time in the process. All the way home I sang songs and we played “out the car window” games to pass the time. I loved the way the wind would whip my voice away or make it vibrate if we went fast enough.

When we arrived at our house, there was a big surprise waiting for us. The front lawn of our house was a scene of utter chaos.

A huge, jagged hole had taken the place of our large plate-glass window. Glass was in shards and pieces all over the ground and picked up the rays of the setting sun like so many prisms. In addition, there in the middle of all of this wreckage, wrapped tightly in two strands of snapped barbed wire fencing from the side paddock, was a man we had never seen before. He moaned, “Get that mutt away from me…” and passed out.

We called the police and they came out to take a report from us and from the man. He took awhile to become coherent; he was so high on drugs that it was hard to communicate, but here is his story as it was related to us by the police.

You see, it seems that this gentleman had the bright idea to bring his dope across the border to sell in Blaine. Canada’s money was not worth as much as ours at that time and he would make more profit off the same amount of stuff by selling it in the U.S.

He slipped across the border in the woods across from our house and came down the path to “H” Street. When he got to the street he saw our house and realized that we would probably have a phone he could “borrow” to call his local connection.  He walked into our front yard and that’s where his troubles began.

Zip came around the corner of the house and saw a new playmate.

You see, Zip had lost all of his teeth from playing fetch with the boys who used to live on the ranch before we bought it. They would throw rocks and Zip would retrieve them and bring them back. He thought it was great fun!  Zip was a big dog, with a very big and intimidating bark, and when he started barking hello at this guy who was both high and feeling a little paranoid, there was a misunderstanding.

The guy thought Zip was protecting the property and he was afraid, so… he picked up a rock and threw it at him. Well, you can imagine what Zip did… he picked it up!  Then he trotted back to the guy and dropped it at his feet, barking madly with joy all the while!

The guy panicked and threw the rock again, only this time he hit the plate-glass window to the living room and glass shattered everywhere.  Zip ran, jumped through, picked up the rock and again, delivered it to the guy. The police could only suppose what was going through this would-be trespasser’s mind between the drugs and fear. After all anonymity was no longer an option now! Someone was going to notice he had been there and this hulking, black dog might even kill him.

Wolf DogAs he struggled with conflicting urges to run in spite of the fact the dog might catch him, or maybe to dive through that broken window himself, Lobo came around the side of the house.

The guy said he took one look at the wolf headed his way and that was it! He was outta there!

The final police report noted the depth of the barbs wrapped around the suspect’s legs. They hypothesized that he must have been going at fairly high speed to completely snap the two strands of old barbed wire which had wrapped around his legs just like a big, thorny tourniquet. The police laughed and said they couldn’t have done better “crook catching” themselves and Zip’s reward was a long game of fetch with the officers who patted his head and told him he was “welcome to visit the station anytime.”

Zip, our hero!

 

Story Circle Network

Hallo-Wasp

Wicked QueenThe story prompt this week from my Story Circle was “Bees,” and although I have been stung and don’t react well to it, my most memorable story about stinging insects is actually about wasps.

The weather had turned cold very suddenly one day, as weather is likely to do in Central Texas when winter approaches.  The days had become just a little cooler over the past week, but we were still enduring over eighty degree weather nearly every day and the calendar had reached October’s end.

October was the hallowed month of my childhood.

I spent most of my younger years in Northwest Washington where October meant brisk mornings and cool evenings.  It meant the changing of the leaves as the days grew ever chillier, and the approach of one of my favorite holidays; Halloween!

While most children longed for Christmas, I thought that was a great holiday, but nothing beat Halloween.

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Ice Princess

flowersShe walked into the meeting, perfectly groomed, perfectly attired and seemingly as cool and collected a woman as I have ever seen.

I immediately felt on my guard and watched her closely. She was my only real competition in the room; I knew it instinctively.

The meeting progressed, and as we discussed a marketing technique that the group wanted my input on, I made a general statement about the aging of America and how it affected this campaign.

She looked up sharply, and proceeded to coldly and analytically tear my statement apart.

It was on.

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Our May Basket

LorenaThis story was chosen as the “Story of the Month” for August 2011 by the Story Circle Network. You can learn more about SCN by clicking their logo at the bottom of this page.

In May I always think of my grandmother, Lorena May Standish Baskett. She was born in May of 1915, and although we did not become friends until 1964 or so, when I was in second grade, she was a major force in my life during our brief time together.

I had named her “Nana” when I was a toddler, and the name stuck. She was always Nana to me and I remember being somewhat shocked when I learned she actually had another name.

When I was in second grade, my mother left her second husband and we drove across country from Kansas to Washington State. I still remember flashes from that journey. The red Mustang 2+2 that I thought was the most beautiful car ever, the multi-colored patchwork quilt that my half-sister and I laid on and used for warmth when it got cool, and the way the countryside whirred past.

I don’t really remember my mother very much on that trip and I don’t know why. I guess I was too busy spinning fantasies about meeting my grandmother for the first time (that I knew of, anyway) and what she would be like.

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