Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The stories she tells

I remember when grocery stores got carts, she says. Shopping was a lot more fun after that.

So what did you do before there were carts? I asked.

She looks puzzled, pauses, thinking back, then says she doesn’t know. Maybe, I suggested, the stores were smaller? Maybe there was a meat market and a vegetable market, maybe a bakery?

The suggestion of a bakery triggers more memories; there was a bakery just across the street and the man there saved day old bread for her mother.

“She made the best bread pudding,” she remembers. “Mom was a good cook.”

Cooking for a big family, day after day with very little money, must have been hard, we agreed. She says she used to hate having to cook daily herself, and she only had one husband and one son.

I never met my husband’s sister, she says, and she was coming to dinner. I didn’t know what to make so I bought a roast, a veal roast. Then I asked myself why I had done that. I didn’t know how to cook a veal roast. My husband told me just to cook it like any other roast, he liked my roast. So I did and it was the best thing I ever made. Roast veal and carrots and potatoes. It was so good. She never knew I didn’t know what I was doing.

We laughed.

She says it’s a lot easier now. She remembers when her dad and others cut ice out of the river, storing it in a shed covered with sawdust. It lasted until the middle of summer, in northern Minnesota, and was the only refrigeration they had.

She remembers riding the train from Minnesota to Detroit with her siblings and her mom, to join her dad in a town he had found work. She remembers being scared, and imagines her mom was too.

She remembers growing up in a large family who had very little money but had the only important thing that mattered; love. How they helped each other as they each grew and started families of their own, working in each others’ businesses, taking care of each others’ kids. Laughing together at the 4th of July picnics, gathering at Christmas, weddings, funerals.

The years flew by and now she’s ‘one hundred and one and a half’ as she likes to say. She’ll be one hundred and two in September. She doesn’t know where the time has gone. She doesn’t know how so many people she loves are gone.

But the memories and the stories remain — a century of memories stored in her mind.

Time has slowed for her now as she sits and waits for her next chapter. The days are long and fast, all at the same time. People visiting her are the highlight of her days.

She becomes animated as she talks about times long ago, she laughs and giggles and rolls her eyes. For a bit she forgets where she is, she forgets she’s over one hundred years old.

I ask her how old she feels.

She stops and thinks. Maybe in my eighties she replies. Yes…I was good in my eighties, and my head thinks I still am. It’s these darn legs that are over one hundred.

And then she laughs again and tells me another tale.

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WordPress Photo Challenge: Collage

When my brother and sister visited me a couple of weeks ago we picked pie cherries.

It’s a family tradition; we’ve picked cherries at this orchard since we were little kids. And just like years ago we managed to eat a fair amount of the tart jewels as we worked to fill freezer bags in preparation of pies to come.

A perfect summer day – in collage – from my family to yours.


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Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I’m looking at all the tributes to dads on this Father’s Day. They’re all over Facebook; lots and lots of pretty terrific dads out there. Of course you probably don’t know what Facebook is, I don’t think it was a thing back when you were on the computer. But I think you would have enjoyed it, kept in touch with a lot of your forward thinking friends. And your kids of course.

Speaking of which, we’re all doing pretty good lately. A couple of them are coming up to visit me next week, and I’ll be going south next month. Hopefully we’ll all be together at your lake house for at least a few days. I know you like it when we’re all there, just like the old days. I think the house likes it too.

And you should see our house and garden now. The remodeling is finally finished, you didn’t get to see the fireplace or the built-ins. The kitchen that was so new when you were here last is probably outdated now. I watch those television shows and wonder what a buyer would say when they walked in here. It’s certainly not a gut job, but it’s not white either. Buyers are so fickle! You’d laugh at the thought of someone ripping out perfectly good stuff and starting over because it wasn’t their taste. I think the same way, probably got it from you.

The kousa dogwood tree out front that you helped plant so many years ago is beautiful this year. It’s such a delicate pink and cream. And so many blossoms. I guess that’s because we had a warm winter. Or a wet spring. Or maybe both. You and mom would love it.

You’d both love the birds here too. You should see the huge woodpecker on the oriole feeder right now, stealing all the oranges I just put out. He’s really pretty. So are the orioles, of course, who often share the feeder with other hungry birds. Sometimes I go out to Kensington, one of your favorite parks, and let the birds land on my hand. I often think about how you would enjoy doing that. Mom too.

Hey! Have you noticed that Katie and I camped a lot last summer? We’re planning on doing some this summer too. Can’t believe it’s already the middle of June. I guess if we’re going we should get to it. Katie says she’s glad you taught me all about camping, because she just loves to be out there in the woods, and she sure loves sleeping in her tent. Remember the old heavy green army tent the whole family used to sleep in? Well, tents today are a lot different! And they don’t smell so much either, which is a good thing.

Speaking of Katie, you didn’t get to meet her. You remember Bonnie, right? The sheltie-girl without the tail? Well, Katie is sort of like her but on steroids. She’s wound like a top, and definitely over the top, but I bet you’d enjoy her antics.

And did you see that your third child has grandchildren now? You would have loved these little kids, they’re so cute! And fun in small doses, you know? You could have played with them on weekends and then enjoyed the peace of the lake after they went back home. I’m sorry you didn’t get to experience that. But I figure you’re smiling now anyway.

There’s not a lot of news, dad. We’re all doing fine, partly because of the way you and mom raised us. We’re thankful for what we have, but we sure do miss the two of you.

I was thinking about what picture of you to use for this Father’s Day post, realizing that I don’t have any recent ones, that there won’t be any new photos ever again and that made me sad. So I guess I’ll just use a few of those I’ve already posted, sort of a celebration of your life.

But gee, I wish I could take a photo with you today.


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Pictures for my mom

My mom was an artist, she painted and crafted, and back when we were kids she ran a ceramics store and tried to instill in her students bravery to try new things.

I’ve often thought of her during this trip. I’ll shoot something and automatically think ‘mom will like that one.’ Most of these images don’t make it into a blog, because they’re not part of a story. These are just individual shots, not related to each other, that I liked.

Turns out there’s quite a few.

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You’ll notice there’s not a single shot of Katie-girl, and that’s intentional. She gets plenty of blog time, and though she’s certainly beautiful this time it’s all about other pretty things.

I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them. Though that would be hard to do, because I really really enjoyed being in the moment and capturing these beautiful places and things.

And after all, since mom was right there with me, I guess she’s already seen them. That makes me smile.


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Reflections

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Sitting here in the house that dad built I can’t help but keep one eye, sometimes both eyes, on the water.

Sure the lake level is low, as it is every winter, making it difficult to enjoy this huge lake, but just our little part right here is beautiful.

And it’s always changing. The light moves and twinkles and shifts and the water ruffles and calms.

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I have lots of time to sit and reflect as the sun goes down and the shadows lengthen across the slew.

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I wish my parents were here. But the house is still filled with their presence. Not the same of course, as having them physically here.

But not as sad as it was in the beginning.

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Lots of good memories flit through my mind as I watch the water shift in the changing light.

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We’re lucky they left us this place. I think they’re glad we come to visit.

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But I bet they miss us all too.

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I fall over when I put on my socks

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I don’t know how many of you have hit milestone birthdays. You know…the big three oh. Or forty when things on your body start moving south. Perhaps fifty, which they say is the new forty. Or…oh no….sixty?!

I was good up till this year, never really felt old. Thought I had escaped all those ‘old people’ ailments. Thought I was different, maybe had better genes.

Or something.

But last spring I turned sixty. That seems like a really big number. I remember my parents when they were sixty and they were old. And now I feel old too, because all sorts of things are happening to me.

I used to be able to stand up and get dressed. I stood on one foot regularly, putting on pants or socks. Now I sway precariously as I try to get a sock on my foot and I don’t even try putting on pants the old way. I sit first.

I used to be able to read signs way down the road. Now I need to wear my glasses to see the television across the room. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have to wear glasses to pass the DMV eye test next time I need to renew my drivers license.

I used to run marathons. Not fast, but I got five of them done. Now I have trouble running for more than a couple minutes at a time. On a treadmill.

And apparently I have an impinged rotator cuff. I don’t know what I did to impinge it but I went to four weeks of physical therapy to make my shoulder stronger. It’s stronger but still impinged, which I am reminded of every night when I reach back to pull the blanket over me as I settle into bed.

I used to cross country ski to get through the winters. Now I hope to head somewhere warmer for the worst of the cold season. I guess that makes me a snowbird wanna be.

And surely that makes me old.

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A New Year Begins

It’s 4:30 a.m. and Katie the dog wants to go out. Just like every morning, her timing is meticulously accurate. I shake the sleep from my eyes as she shakes the tags on her collar and together we stumble to the front door where she prances impatiently as I don shoes and coat and gloves.

And then we step out into the blackness that is early morning.

Deep silence surrounds us. No cars out on the freeway, no stirring in the neighborhood. Only the far away wail of a train intrudes on the thick blanket of quiet. I whisper to her, unwilling to pierce the silence myself, to find a good spot as we wander the yard.

Almost directly overhead is the big dipper, sitting upside down, spilling good wishes down upon us. Orion’s belt has long since gone to bed. “Hi Dad,” I whisper. “Here’s to a New Year. Another one starting without you and mom.”

And then I pause, a bit of happiness floating from me up to him. “Well, not really without you…I feel you right here. See you tomorrow morning…say hi to Mom”

Katie and I head silently back to the house. At the front porch she stands on her back legs asking to be picked up. I do, picking up her awkwardly lopsided bobble-headed cone encased self and give her a tight hug and a kiss.

“Happy New Year baby-girl, Happy New Year.”

Happy New Year mama!

Happy New Year mama!


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Imagine

Imagine you’ve lived on your own for over 100 years. Sure the only reason you could is because people helped along the way, but you had your own space. You had your own things around you, things that reminded you of places and people you’ve loved.

And then imagine the day comes that you can’t live alone anymore and you find yourself in a cramped and overheated space with strange sounds and sights, strangers in and out of your small space, other people determining when you sleep and when you are awake, what you eat, when you shower.

You are depressed.

Your things are gone, your space is gone, your pet is gone, your friends are far away. Only your family and your memories remain.

Your family tries to make it better but there is no better here. They remind you to get out of bed and move your feet and legs but you don’t want to. They try to entertain you when they visit but the visits are never frequent enough even when they occur every day. And they can’t change the reality.

You are tired.

You can’t see very much, can’t hear anything when your hearing aid is away being repaired. Your roommates change but are similarly confused and wandering.

You are scared.

There are noises in the hall that you can’t identify. You can’t tell when people are headed into your room or when they are just passing by.

You are dependent on strangers.

You used to be independent. You like to tell people that you always did things for yourself. You tell people you don’t like to be a burden. That you like to make your own decisions.

But you are allowed so few decisions now.

You recognize that your time is short. And you’re not sure if that isn’t a good thing. Because you can’t imagine your life moving forward like this forever.

You never imagined life ending this way. Or that the gift of living to be 101 could be so hard.

Just never imagined.


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12 years ago today.

Dad's favorite place to be was on a boat.

Dad’s favorite place to be — on a boat.

I wasn’t going to write about this. That today is another anniversary of the semitruck crash that took our remaining parent.

Big brother

Big brother

But today I seem to be blocked and unable to write about anything else.

One of my favorite of his childhood pictures.

One of my favorites of his childhood pictures.

And so I will mark the day so that I can move forward. Not move on, because that implies that I leave him behind, but forward.

Young man growing up to be a dad.

Young man growing up to be a dad.

Today I am moving forward with him, and mom, always with me.

Merry Christmas you two.

Merry Christmas you two.