Monday, September 29, 2008


Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
King James version
Point your kids in the right direction— when they're old they won't be lost.
The Message Bible
Proverbs 22:6

We learned all our Bible verses in the King James version. Then came Living Letters, NIV, Living Bible, and now the wonderful Message Bible.

When you turned to mom for advice, encouragement, consolation, help... She always said, "Pray about it." or quoted a Bible verse. Sometimes you just need a hug, or a wise word, or loving understanding. We never got that. It was so frustrating, yet we did not rebel. Why? It baffles me still. I remember being intensely frustrated. There were no answers or comfort.

Yet, I do pray about things and I continue to seek help in God's word. I know hundreds of Bible verses and God brings them to my mind when I most need them. I remember being told that it was no good unless you remember the reference. I don't remember many references, but with the Internet you can always find what you need, now.

They used to spank us... on our bottoms. We were rarely hit, almost never slapped. But, they did spank us in anger and frustration. The worst was when GJ was in 8th grade and Dad insisted she wear JA's dress from the year before to graduation. GJ cried and complained. He grabbed a paddle [NC and I had brought back from Kentucky camp the year before--thinking it was funny... Hello?] and whacked GJ. Now, GJ was a good child and almost perfect. He broke the paddle on her rear end. We were horrified. He was immediately sorry, but of course could never say it. GJ got her new dress, I think. NC readily volunteered to wear JA's dress two years later. It was never an issue when I graduated the year after that.

My dad never apologized. I wrote a song and played it on the piano for him. I could neither play nor sing, but, somehow, I did it. I now remember the words,

Some people always pick on me,
and never say they're sor-r-ree...

He chuckled and walked away.

I was the biggest challenge. I never obeyed the 11:00pm curfew. My high school boyfriend didn't even know I had a curfew. My dad really liked him, so he never yelled at him. In frustration, Dad moved the curfew up to 11:30pm. I came in around midnight, because I thought that was fair--that was the curfew of my friends. He would start flashing the porch light at 11:30pm. I would ignore it. He would yell when I came in, but I didn't care. It was an ongoing battle that I always won.

I got good grades, worked at the Kroger store and earned my own money, had a nice boyfriend, hung out with mainly church friends. I was a good kid, just more stubborn than the other 4 girls. He had met his match.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We lived outside most of the year, running around the neighborhood and doing simple things like sandlot baseball, climbing trees, riding bikes, hop-scotch, and jacks. I was never very good at jacks and double dutch totally escaped me. I could turn, so often volunteered to be a permanent turner.

Mostly I remember my late grade school and high school friendships that were away from the immediate neighborhood. But, as I press backward I remember Petey Popel. He was a year younger and my best friend before I was six and maybe just a bit after. His Dad drank beer. He kept it under the sink. It was Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sometimes he shocked me by giving Petey a swig. Once he offered it to me, and laughed at my shocked reaction. Petey had airplanes hanging from fishing line in his bedroom. He had a baby sister, Laura Jane. They moved because their rental house was too small for a 4-person family. We visited them once after.

During the polio epidemic of the early 50s, Marty and Bob Popel had a scary few days when the doctors suspected that Petey had contracted the disease. He was fine. He loved the drama. I prayed for Petey.

Spike and Mike were best friends and mostly had no time for us, but once in awhile deigned to play with the little kids. Daily they would run towards each other's houses yelling, "Ee-ock-ee! "Ee-ock-ee!" I loved it, but they forbid us to use their special language. Spike had an old tool shed in his backyard where one day Petey and I climbed through the window and played a game of "I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours. We bored very quickly, climbed out the window, and headed home.

After Spike moved, the Nordvall's moved in and we finally had another girl our age in the neighborhood. Doris' brothers were high school-aged and had girlfriends. We were fascinated. One day Doris showed me a lovely gold slim-line compact that one of the guys girlfriends had left at the Nordvall's. I coveted that compact. Stealing is a sin. I sinned. But, what could I do with it and not get caught? I gave it as a gift to Kathy Charvat. Her mother questioned such a nice gift, but I assured her that it was mine to give. Mrs. Nordvall called mom to see what I knew. I knew nothing. I never lied.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


We now see through a glass darkly, but then face to face...
A day to mourn and a day to reflect. A good friend's mother died rather suddenly. They have no faith and neither did she, so what to do? A very classy solution. They had a luncheon to celebrate her life. There were two short eulogies and lots of laughter and friendship.

From the luncheon we drove into Chicago so that I could take the South Shore to Michigan City, IN to meet JA and drive to her home for a few days. I was early for my train, so I sat in the sunshine in Millenium Park, read last Sunday's paper :) and people-watched. World-class people watching.

Death without hope of eternity is a very hollow experience. My friend is mourning without hope. She is mad at her mother for poor health choices... There are many unresolved family issues--nothing earth-shattering. There was always a vying for position and although the oldest, she generally lost. She doesn't lose well. She is an extremely beautiful and gifted woman who always has an opinion--took me years to realize she was right less than 50% of the time. She is a doer, a mover, a shaker, a fixer. She knows a bit or a lot about a lot. She is a good friend and resource. Her mother was much the same, thus their natural disaffinity...

When my mom died it was a death that I had mourned for much of my life. It was the final act of dying that ended the pain for her and for me... God graciously took her. She didn't suffer then, although her mental illness was a life-time of suffering. I needed mothering that I would not ever get.

Now, I have a very dear friend and we mother each other. It is a joy to be her friend. She is wise and truthful, creative and giving. I am blessed to have her in my life.

Never stop looking for what you need. Do not give up. Needs are many times filled in unexpected ways. We have both lost our mothers and we both never felt mothered. We are mothers and we know what we missed. We have each other.

Friday, September 26, 2008


There is a lovely Mississippi River town, Nauvoo, IL. Gas was very cheap for all my growing up years, so when we were in Bowen we took lots of Sunday afternoon rides in the car. Grandpa would sometimes drive over to Nauvoo and we would go to the park for a picnic, tour a museum or two, wade in the river, and once we road on the Addie Mae paddle-wheel boat.

When grandpa retired, they held his party at the Nauvoo Hotel. As classy as that part of the state got back then.

One Sunday afternoon as we headed home from our adventures--surely the trip included a cemetery visit or two as Grandma was fascinated. It was hot and Grandma was squirming in her seat. She was a large woman--impeccably dressed at all times. But, her bra was chafing... She reached around and inside, did a couple of quick turns, and slid it out the sleeve of her dress! I was shocked, appalled, and very impressed. Probably my first observance of a truly pragmatic decision.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


When I came back from errands today our neighbor had a very cute black pirate's chest, complete with skull and cross-bones, sitting on his saw horses on the driveway. Now, he intrigues us on several levels [more later].

I couldn't help myself, I rolled down my window and said "Great chest, what's if for?" He is making it for a friend's small son. Lucky boy. He told me that he used to make furniture all the time.

Seeing the pirate chest prompted me to remember the day Christopher Petruzzi found a pirate's chest filled with jewels behind my grandpa's carpenter's workshop. It was fantastic. Just too, too cool. I told Christopher that he'd better check with my grandpa because it was on his land. I had visions of claiming the prize... Grandpa later told me that Mr. Petruzzi set it up--asking grandpa ahead of time for permission to use the chest. Wonder how he even knew it was there? Maybe Christopher spotted in on a reconnaissance mission, reporting back to his dad.

Wasn't Bob Petruzzi just the best dad? He owned/worked in a night club so was around most days. Their yard was a playland, and if we were around we were always invited to play and to birthday parties.

I remember one of Christopher's birthday parties. They served the cake and ice cream and were busy filming the party. My ice cream was gonna melt, so I took a bite. One of the adults pointed at me and said, O, Look! How cute. That little girl started eating already. I was embarrassed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I have always loved the rain. I don't get tired of it. Maybe because I sunburn so easily? I don't remember rainy days when I was growing up; though I do remember snowy days. Funny. Those are imprinted on my memory maybe because of how much fun it was to be outside in the snow.

Anyway, I love the rain. I have never been afraid of thunder or lightening. The more the wind blows, the better I like it. Once I was in our playhouse in Bowen at grandpa and grandma's with my cousin. A tornado blew through and did some damage around town and out at the cemetery where my grandparents are now buried. It was exciting. Something to tell at show and tell about what I did this summer.

We no longer have to waste our energy on denial, because we now sense and see things for what they really are. We don't stand in the rain anymore and pretend it isn't raining.
Whitfield, again. (Isn't he great!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


My Grandpa K was a world class gardener, and a generous man. He encouraged his neighbors to plant gardens on his rich bottom land along the creek that ran near the edge of his property. Mostly they were vegetable gardens, but some planted flowers and he had his own nursery of trees and prize-winning dahlias. We ate very well during summers and harvest season.

One summer NC and I were swinging from the hanging branches of the Willow tree that sprawled on the side lot by the house. We broke off branches and whipped each other. Grandpa was appalled that we had torn branches from a tree and verbally chastised us. He then found two quart Bell jars and filled them with a mix of sand, soil, and water--I think. He explained propagation as he reinforced these life lessons on the evils of vandalism and respect for life. He later planted those two seedling Willow trees on the far side of the creek and they grew to be fine Willows. I always claimed the larger as mine--NC's was a runt!

There was a spreading black walnut tree just up the rise. Mostly the nuts fell to the ground and became compost. But, sometimes we gathered the black walnuts and shelled them around the dining room table. Such work! And, for so little reward as I had no taste for black walnuts. Grandpa considered them a delicacy

He was a baker in his later years when his eyes failed him for carpentry. His favorites were Lazy Daisy Cake and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies--the recipe off the Quaker Oats box. At Christmas he would recreate the fruitcake of his youth--this is the one that originated the fruitcake legends... Unpalatable. You know, the same fruitcake has passed from person to person for years--each one re-gifting the despised fruitcake. There was also something called "hard sauce." Not memorable.

Grandma was a decent cook of plain food. When she felt fancy she would look up a recipe in "Meals from the Manse" a Methodist church-lady publication. We loved the egg-a-la-goldenrod--creamed eggs on buttered toast. Just a couple of years ago I realized that our pronunciation was very Midwestern and surely the recipe was for "Eggs Ala Goldenrod." Grandpa's Lazy Daisy Cake originated from the same cookbook.

They made us clean our plates. There was wheeping and wailing over creamed asparagus. And the biggest deceit--Oyster Stew. I hated the thought of those slimy, non-redemptive little shell fish. I kind of liked the neat round cardboard carton they were freshly packaged in at the butcher. They made a veritable festival of the Oyster Stew event. Grandma promised us that we didn't have to eat it, she would give us broth. I loved broth. Then, I made the mistake of going into the kitchen and saw that she dipped the broth out of the same pot as the Oyster Stew. HORRORS! Grandma lied to me! I exclaimed wildly and it took lots of talking by lots of relatives to convince me that I misunderstood. The jury is still out.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Wrigley Field

My husband loves the Cubs. My son loves the Cubs. My daughter loves the Cubs. They played baseball/softball with gusto every spring and summer. My mother-in-law watches baseball on television all throughout the season. There is a lot of baseball talk in our family.

My only real childhood memory of baseball is getting hit in the head and almost knocked out in a sandlot game. We had neighbors on the corner who let us play in their huge yard. I don't know if I was any good. No one ever said that I was. I was pretty young that day. I don't remember who all was playing, but the Cassidys were, because either Marty or Jim swung the bat back--I was catching--and caught me up-side the head. If I did pass out, no one took me to the emergency room. I remember a powerful headache and missing out on some family event.

Before we had kids I was CA's choice for companion at Cubs games. I am so much fun, because as a fair-complected freak I have to avoid the sun. Baseball games are usually sunny--preferably sunny. Once we sat in the bleachers before the bleachers were so very cool. Our tickets were $5. That was a long time ago. Once CA caught a fly ball. Once CA ripped his coolest Levi's reaching for a fly ball. CA is rather laid-back, but plug him into baseball, or any sport, and his mind is a fighter jet plane. He's almost totally left-brained and processes much mechanically, but add a ball to the equation and his mind and reflexes are razor sharp and faster than a speeding bullet, or jet!

My dad loved the Cardinals. He loved and played baseball, but I do not remember him ever throwing a ball for me or suggesting catch. I was a girl and not worth the effort. He had 5 girls and never bothered. By the time he had a son he had almost forgotten his ball playing days. I remember going to Von Steuben Grade School for church team games. He played when I was small. He was Jake in high school and played baseball. His brothers were Jake, too, and they played baseball. Was he any good? He must have been, because if he wasn't good at something or got criticized, he always quit. I am sure of that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


In January 1995 I reflected on what changes I had made from 1994 and prior, I would never have remember all this if Í hadn't been blogging and looking through my recovery journal.
  • 10:00 - 10:30pm bedtime
  • walk AM and PM; 4 miles/day
  • cleaned up relationships
  • healthy prioritizing; knowing what's "deeply important
  • less hurried
  • back in college
  • keen awareness of personal goals
  • no longer shopping for entertainment
  • no more excessive sleeping
  • no dieting--awareness of healthy eating habits and exercise
  • realize the importance of "beauty & solitude" in my daily life
  • prioritizing times for personal grown--study and reading
  • managing family finances--trust myself with all the money because shopping is no longer entertainment, i.e. escape
  • keen awareness of important relationships to my life--the need for valuing and nurturing
  • long-term financial management goals set in place, with short-term disciplines
  • I don't give pieces of myself away indiscriminately
  • I no longer need to please everyone
  • realization that my job is not hard, but is worthy and fits my life right now
  • content with current house until college costs and empty nest motivate the change--and the choice will be a factor of the current finances and needs of that time
  • stepped-up savings and debt reduction to afford JE's college and also prepare for the next stage of our married life
  • not seeking to fill the empty places in my life with activity, travel, people, noise
  • awareness of separateness from parents lives and dysfunction
  • no longer feel the need to "fix" everything, i.e. control

Monday, September 8, 2008


And, from mid-November 1994.
  • find time to focus / center
  • don't do multiple things at once--just because I can doesn't mean I have to
  • stay out of wasteful, unproductive conversations
  • limit exposure to excessive negativity
  • don't spread petty frustrations
  • insist on exercise
  • prioritize personal devotional / growth
  • realistically evaluate home responsibilities--redistribute or revise
  • keep a tight hold on social commitments, excursions, even conversations that distract, confuse, and frustrate
  • pursue healthy, nurturing connections and relationships

"He is able more than able to accomplish what concerns me today...

If I could look through your eyes, I would see that I'm worthy...

I'm learnin' how to lean and depend on Jesus. He's my friend and He's my guide...

Little by little I've been learning to depend upon the Savior. I know He's gonna provide for my every need."

Willow Creek Community Church Ever Devoted CD (c) 1994, Rory Noland & Greg Ferguson

WOW! Such wisdom then and just as applicable now. A great reminder

Sunday, September 7, 2008


An entry from my journal November 7, 1994, a Monday...

A sad, difficult weekend... DM called very, very early Saturday A.M. His college girlfriend broke up with him within 24 hours of his arrival in France to visit her. He really seemed to be handling it well, but still he was very hurt, as we were for him. He was quite proactive... determined to make the trip and expense worthwhile. He had already had dinner with Frank--a French young man he met on the train from Avignon to Montpelier.

Talked with DM again this morning. JP doesn't want to proceed with the relationship because she doesn't feel he's the man God has for her long-term. Wants to remain friends. DM is cooperating--still hurt and rejected. Me, too!

I reassured him--he is the young man God created him to be--constantly evolving, but he can't change to suit JP or anyone. His heart is to please God. He's 22 years old and doing quite well--he's seeking and gaining godly maturity.

When he gets back to IL he'll have to refocus and re-establish his social life. The future is exciting.

I told him God might ask, "Can you continue to trust me now, even if I never tell you why?"And,
"When you ask for bread, will He give you stones instead?"

14 years later and so much is clear now. DM has continued to grow and to serve God in full-time ministry. He lives in Europe and has married a beautiful, intelligent, gifted, loving, sparkling young woman and has two gorgeous and vibrant little girls.

What a ride! If JP had hesitated to end the relationship, we might have all missed out on all the adventures that God has taken us on--so many trips to Europe. Experiencing and living in new cultures. The foods and markets and cities of Europe. The love and joy of doing family in two languages--finding ways to communicate without just words. We will just hang on and let God continue to take us over mountains and through valleys and across fields of sunshine and harvest. We will remember to thank Him when we are in the valley of the shadow of death and feeling there is no sunshine, only sorrow.

Friday, September 5, 2008


The personal power that comes from principle-centered living is the power of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, and actions of others or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit other people.
7 Habits by Stephen Covey

I quoted that excerpt in my healing journal on August 9, 1994. That was the summer I began to see things as they ARE instead of what I was told they should BE.

By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental paradigm of effective living. It is the center that puts all other centers in perspective.

The reason 7 Habits resonated so, so deeply with me is that I got it! My center was my salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ. I have known since I was small that He is my center. Talk about timeless, unchanging...

Correct principles function with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength.

HAPPINESS: The fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.

HABIT: The intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Colby College

Home on this earth is being all levels of our awareness or consciousness in our own unique fashion.

We have a choice.

We can remove the blocks (blinders) to realizing our Higher Power by:

  • experiencing (living in the NOW)
  • remembering
  • forgiving
  • surrendering
    Whitfield, pg. 137

Writing this blog has opened up my mind and hopefully my heart to what came before. The writing classes I took 1994 - 1998 cracked the vault a bit, but there is still much hidden and not remembered. The key word is "choice." I have choices. I am not a victim, I choose my reality. I write my own story; create my own reality. Living in the now is a very beautiful thing. I thought it would be too scary, but it is energizing and freeing.

I will tell a story that I don't like to think about, because it is laced with fleeing and quitting. I was a good student in high school and would have been a better student had I not worked at night instead of studying. I did study, but usually the minimum. I was tired. I still made the honor roll and got A's and B's. I could have been a high honor roll student. No one noticed or encouraged. Although, it would have been unacceptable to fail or even be mediocre.

My counselor in high school called me down and offered me the opportunity to go to a fine college--Colby College--on a scholarship. She was an alumnus and she would lead me through the process. I didn't know any better. I shied away thinking I should go to a Christian college. So... I looked for one I could afford and settled on Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, IL. It was still more than I could afford, but they had a Kroger store and I knew I could work there.

It was unacceptable in the culture we lived in--upper class church and upper class school [lower class neighborhood!] that I not go to college. My friends that mattered at the time were going to college.

There were no college visits. No parental support offered or expected. I just packed up on the appointed day and my boyfriend [future husband] drove the one-hour trip to drop me off. This was orientation week--lots of meetings and doctrinal brainwashing. It didn't take very many days for me to realize that my view and the college's on eternal security and God's grace were WAY different.

One morning the President of the college spoke to the incoming freshmen. He said that his door was open, and we were to come to him with any concerns or questions. So, I headed to his door that afternoon. It wasn't open. He didn't see me, but another executive did. I voiced my concerns and quickly surmised that I wouldn't change their stand on these or any other issues. This was the Church of Christ, after all. How could they be wrong? I was a Presbyterian and eternally secure in my knowledge of my Lord preparing a place for me in heaven where I would without a doubt go when I died. No matter how many sins I commit in this life--I am forgiven. I only need to confess my sins and I am forgiven. That is the way of the cross.

I called home and said come and get me. So, that weekend Dad and CA drove down to retrieve me. I was forlorn. I had failed. Would I have to go to the brand new junior college and be humiliated? I cried and I prayed. CA was gentle and kind. He took me to see The Sound of Music. Later that afternoon I heard him talking to NC and they both said that they wouldn't have given up; they would have stuck it out at least for a semester at that college. I was furious at CA and told him so. I would tolerate no disloyalty. We both learned something through that experience. I was learning to trust, but this was a bit of a set-back. In the 42 years of our relationship he has never betrayed my trust--maybe little things--but CA I trust with my whole heart.

Two days after arriving back from this misadventure, my Christian college of first choice called to say they had an opening and I was off to Bible college. I had a fun roommate and lots of friends. The classes were absolutely challenging and the competition unbelievably tough. These Christian kids were SMART. I was just an hour from CA's college and we liked that. But, ultimately I wasn't cut out for a Christian college. I wanted more academics and I had no money. I left at the semester, got a full-time job and went to the junior college part-time until getting married after CA's junior year in college. It was the Viet Nam era and CA faced either the Navy or the draft. We wanted to have one full year together before he entered the military for an uncertain future. He was 21 and I just barely 20 on the day we married.

For years I felt shame in running away from school #1 and not sticking it out at school #2. During counseling 27 years later I realized that I did the best I could. I was so busy getting my basic needs met... I was so very young and on my own with no financial resources... Where were my parents in all this? I remember mom wanting me to stay at the Bible College #2 and offering to get a job to support me. I didn't believe or trust her. She was incapable and I knew it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


[Love] is an energy that is manifested by a commitment and a will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's total growth, which includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

Higher Levels of Love: p.133

  • caring through conflict
  • forgiveness
  • trust
  • commitment to growth in ourself and in a loved one
  • unconditional empathy and acceptance
  • pure peaceful BEING
Whitfield is the very best thing that came out of my counseling sessions with JF... A close second would be making the list of "What Children Need from Their Parents..."

I think that I put the skin on love after devouring Whitfield. It began with my parents, who did love me, and then my God the Father and Jesus my salvation. And, at 20 years old I was certainly "in love" with my young husband. From the moment of birth and before, I loved our son and daughter. But during this period in my life, I learned to define love and to practice love and to celebrate love of myself and of others. My heart began to grow.

I recognized that I had much growing to accomplish--I had learned years earlier that I was a "kid under construction" and not a finished product--signed, sealed, and delivered. I began to set goals for growth and to pray for growth in my loved ones. I adopted Paul's prayer for the Philippians as my prayer for my family...

My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.
Philippians 1:9
Life Application Bible

And, Whitfield yet again, Love is what God uses to heal us.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


We grew up with:
  • Don't cross your eyes or they will get stuck that way.

  • Don't step on a crack or you will break your mother's back [my mom didn't need any more problems].

  • Keep your knees together--we always wore dresses--and, not bad advice at any age!

  • Little pictures have big ears.

  • Children should be seen and not heard.

  • Using the word "hate" is a sin.

  • Saying "gee" was an abbreviation for Jesus, and a sin.

  • Same for "golly" or "gol."

  • Grandma said "pshaw" instead of words she couldn't even imagine.

  • Mind your manners.

  • Don't speak unless spoken to--didn't they know that you don't end a sentence with a preposition. Sometimes it is just necessary 'cause it takes too long to reword the sentence.

And then, there were the longer cautionary tales:

When Aunt MK was a little girl she had a new tricycle and begged and begged to go out after dinner to ride it. Finally grandma gave in and away MK went, only to take a spill and knock out her two front [permanent] teeth. The moral to this story was, "Don't beg after being told 'no' or bad things will surely happen.

Monday, September 1, 2008


We loved going to our dad's parents house. Usually we would go two-by-two for a week each summer. Grandma was a wonderful cook--homemade soft rolls, chocolate cream pie... everything she made was so good. And, she had a cookie jar. She made sun tea and Koolaid. She planned ahead and tried to dazzle us.

We would play pinochle at night on the back screened porch, and sometimes in the backyard if grandpa had sprayed for mosquitoes and it was too hot inside. We weren't allowed to play cards at home. Mom would dig out and discard all the playing cards grandma would send home with us.

Grandpa worked as a foreman at a seed company. That's a place that gathers, cleans, bags, and stores seed corn and soybeans and other stuff. There were warehouses with cotton bags stacked as high as a house and higher. They had conveyor belts and after hours grandpa would send us up the conveyor and back down again. When we were brave enough he wouldn't stop the belt and we would drop onto the bags. Then we would run, jump, hide and let our imaginations run wild. We would whoop and laugh until grandpa had enough. Then he would put nickels into the Coca Cola ice chest and and treat us each to a cold one.

Our days with grandma were simple and unique. We would walk into town--two or three short blocks--pick up the mail at the post office and visit Meacums Market for a few provisions. Sometimes grandma would drop an article off at the Bowen Chronicle. Something gossipy or about the Methodist church ladies, or just a blurb that announced that Oren and Dessie had out-of-town guests visiting. If she was in the mood to visit a friend, she would let us wander into the Dry Goods Store. They had the neatest stuff. Chinese finger pulls, clickers, paddle balls, and the best--bean shooters for those spare beans we had stuffed into our pockets at the seedhouse. No one ever lost an eye, but we were warned, repeatedly... I don't think grandpa and grandma worried about it, but every other adult felt the need to admonish.

Grandpa came home for lunch most days and grandma did a full meal. Some days we packed a lunch and hiked out to the Y for a picnic. Not the YMCA or the YWCA. The Y was a place were the 2-lane highway divided forming a Y shape. Kind of like a rest stop with a picnic table. My sisters and I tried to take a picnic to the Y last summer, but the highway has been "improved," and there is no Y. We found a picnic table next to the Methodist Church.

Afternoons we laid around and read our Augusta Public Library books and eavesdropped on grandma's telephone calls. They had a wooden crank phone and a party line. There were ears burning in Bowen as grandma and her friends never let anything slide by. I remember one day NC and I must have been particularly obnoxious because grandma sent us outside and locked the door so that we couldn't get in. Eventually she came to the door all combed and polished with fresh lipstick and a suggestion of something fun we could do.

Sometimes we walked along the railroad tracks and worried about trains. Grandma must have known train service was scarce. We climbed the fire escape at the old high school and talked many time about climbing the water tower that shadowed the backyard.

Sometimes there was a county fair and we would ride the Ferris wheel. Grandma was terrified, but we could usually talk her into it. Grandpa ran the concession stand at the local baseball field and was usually good for at least one treat per game.

One time we got to ride a hay wagon and help with the harvest. If they could find someone with a horse, we got to ride. Grandma loved cemeteries so many weekends we drifted from town to town and read the funny epitaphs. The Eastman's were from southwest-central Illinois. Grandpa drove us by their mansion. They were the original Eastman Kodak people.

Grandma would take us visiting. It was boring, but she liked to show us off. Marion and Isol lived next door and Isol's sister Viola lived in the most falling down unpainted house I had ever seen. I don't know whether she was poor or just complacent. They were from Scandinavia. I don't remember their stories. Marion died when I was quite small. He is just a shadow in my memory

Isol's house was even tinier than grandpa and grandma's. She had a voracious weeping willow that bordered grandma's front yard. Grandma hated that tree. She would sneak around and trim its branches when she knew Isol was away.

Grandpa built the first treehouse in an apple tree in the side yard when JA and GJ were about 8 and 9. AJ, a boy cousin, was visiting from Missouri or Arizona. It was a wooden box with no lid. Just big enough for three small children. Later he took a reclaimed wooden door and fit it across an almost horizontal branch on the apple tree. We spent hours and days in those treehouses. I don't remember sleeping out there. Still later grandpa built a playhouse with small salesmen's samples for windows and a Dutch door. He used it for storage in the winter, but it was ours the rest of the time.

There was always a bag or tire swing, and later grandpa made several platform swings. We rode on the trike years later than was age appropriate. There was a scooter and a wagon and we burned up the one long sidewalk.

I just barely remember having to go out to the barn for the toilet facilities. I hated outhouses. I was still very young when they added an indoor bathroom. The barn became the two-story garage. Grandpa worked on and displayed his vast butterfly collection in the loft. And, after grandma's sudden death in 1971, he hooked a hose up to his car and killed himself in that garage.

We were shocked, yet not surprised. He couldn't live without her. My parents had brought him along when they visited my Navy officer husband and I in Norfolk earlier that summer. There was a palatable cloud of black grief that hung over grandpa. His usual dry wit and quick sense of humor had completely evaporated. He wasn't my grandpa.

They buried him before they even called me in Virginia to tell me he died. He waited until his Social Security check came, cashed it, and left the money on his dresser in their bedroom. It was a very hot August and he had been dead for a couple of days. The mortician gave dad a cleaner and he scrubbed down the garage floor trying to eradicate the smell of death.