Me and My Mom

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In one way or another, my mother has been with me every day of my 76 years, yet she never gave me the chance to say goodbye. On a beautiful Spring Monday in April, much like today, she mowed the yard, took a shower, fixed dinner, and while she washed the dishes and Dad dried, she just fell to the floor and died. Just like that.

I had seen her Sunday in the parking lot of the Presbyterian church when she and Dad met us to drop off the kids – they often wanted to have them  for the weekend, and that made all of us happy. I never dreamed it would be the last time I would see her smile or her beautiful face or kiss her goodbye. Or thank her for being the most incredible Mother. I’ve often thought of the shock and pain we all felt at the time, but now that I’m beyond her 72 years, I’m grateful that she never suffered; just simply left us as she would have wished. There’s always been some comfort in that.

Yet as Mother’s Day approaches – I still miss her.

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Bill’s Boots

passingwindagain

I have referred previously to Bill’s boots. Susie was my seventh grade English teacher and Homeroom czarina.  I admit, I was probably an acquired taste for her husband Bill, but over the years, Bill became as much a mentor and friend to me as his dear wife.  As we progressed in life, the relationship changed and grew, the difference in our ages became less important.  The low point was probably a day in about 1963 or 1964 when he got really angry with me for throwing snowballs at him while he was standing on a ladder changing light bulbs on the used car lot.  There are a lot of good memories, but the one that, while ironic, will always remain with me, was the day that I walked into Susie’s kitchen for my occasional Saturday morning cup of coffee.  Bill poked me in the gut and said, “Johnny, you need…

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I am a simple man . . .

I consider this essay a tribute to my husband, Bill – written by an old friend he valued and admired.

passingwindagain

redwingboots

I am a simple man.  I probably owe an apology to both Graham Nash and Ricky Van Shelton, who recorded different songs under this title. Van Shelton’s lyrics probably have more immediate parallels in my life, but the Graham Nash song from the Songs for Beginners album (Crosby Stills & Nash) reaches out and speaks occasionally as well.  I don’t spend alot of time on me.  My haircut is pretty much the same as when Leo the barber cut my hair for 50 cents and a 25 cent tip in the 50’s.  It was on East Wisconsin Avenue, on the north side, so it was on the far reaches of my range. (park your bike in the alley, not on the sidewalk) I took a sabbatical from haircuts in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but that was political.   It was my sister’s bike.  It was the reason I…

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Closed for the Summer

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Just before Labor Day, I took my Boston sister, Anne, to my favorite place to while away some time in the Northwoods. In fact, Chucky Lou’s Last Dance is the inspiration for the title of my blog. It may be the last big tourist weekend of the summer, but unlike the malls and city shops, the proprietors in our out of the way places operate on their own time. Though disappointed to find the Closed for the Season sign, I like the fact that there is an independent spirit about the shop as well as unexpected treasures within.

It was a beautiful drive, a perfect setting to take a picture we’ll remember – and always, the anticipation of being together and returning next summer…

Ladies Keep Their Legs Together

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…or so I was admonished by my maternal grandmother, Edith. My grandfather, Charles, was a Presbyterian minister, which probably prompted her reaction to my backyard pose at 12 or so. Some time after that, my mother invited me to sit on the porch with her, and I anticipated the topic she wished to address. SEX. I remember the motion of the glider, the smell of its plastic cover and the hum of the streetcar as it passed our house. But I also remember trying to be serious because I already knew more than what she thought I should know about SEX. And that brings me to today – about 63 years, a few boy friends – all followed by one great marriage.

Last night I watched the Emmy Awards, and after it was over I watched The Normal Heart on HBO, a well documented movie about AIDS. The night before I caught up on two episodes of Ray Donovan, and they had some explicit scenes. I also like Sons of Anarchy that has some but less of it. Next Valentine’s Day, Fifty Shades of Grey will probably gross millions, and even some of the historical novels I’ve read this summer contain shades as dark as those. Even my 97 year old Aunt Mary liked a little ‘romance’ as she viewed it, in her reading. Cleavage and the most minimal bikinis are all over the place, and schools have to define in detail what’s acceptable attire.

So, flashback to my high school days when TV was hardly allowed to expose a thing, in pool class boys swam nude (true fact in Waukesha, Wisconsin), reading Lolita was deemed scandalous and the closest I got to porn was a flasher trying to entertain me in his window as I walked past. It seems we’ve come full circle, and so many things are tolerated that never were – but after all these years, what do I honestly say to my granddaughters in this climate about having sex?

Its wonderful beyond words. BUT, know when it’s right and when it’s not; try to be sure it’s love not lust and be safe always.

#15/100: Saddle Up

Red's Wrap

Some people who were walking on the trail stopped to watch us slowly ride by, my daughter, granddaughter and me, on our rented horses following Amanda, our guide. They waved at us and told us to have a good time but gave the appearance of finding three women and a 10-year old girl on horses on a horse trail in a part of San Diego County layered with riding stables as something unusual and worth watching.

And immediately, it flashed in my mind that I should somehow tell my granddaughter that this is what makes life the richest – being watched rather than being the watcher. Being on the horse instead of hanging back and thinking that riding a horse is something that only other people do. And maybe I didn’t even have to tell her this. She’d gotten on her horse with no fuss even though she was scared…

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A memo from my friend Thoreau

A sequel to writing in cursive:

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Many years ago, a friend gave me a little book of quotations from Thoreau.  She signed it: “Since Walden seems to be your Bible, I thought you would enjoy,  Love, BH”. My friend was very Catholic, and if I had been, things probably would have worked out. I wouldn’t say it was my Bible, I think that would risk hell and damnation.  It was my conservative evangelical upbringing  – just that Thoreau and to some extent Emerson, always resonated with me. she and I went different directions, but remain friends to this day.  I am happy with my path and I know she is happy with hers.   Thoreau has always given me a path to walk, (not run).  I have been to Walden.  Living among the beautiful lakes of Southeastern Wisconsin, the pond was unimpressive in comparison, but you could feel the solitude, which I have always craved.  Every once…

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