Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going to Lake Saint Louis

As soon as we eat a bowl of soup and sandwich, we will be packing to go to our daughter Mary Ellen's in Lake Saint Louis. We have been wanting to go up to visit with her and Brian, Trent, and Brianna, and this worked out well.

We have our annual reunion of the 1940's, 50's, and 60's Baptist Student Union members from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at Meadow Heights Baptist Church in Collinsville on Thursday and Friday. We have 94 registered thus far. Gerald has been busy running to the bank to deposit everyone's checks.

In fact, Gerald is in his office right now trying to get the database to print out the way he wants for a register. I tried for an hour or so to see if I could figure it out. However, I have not been able to figure out how database stuff works since two computer crashes back. I was proud when I conquered the first computer we had. I tried when we got a new one because I liked having our snail mail addresses to print out for Christmas cards. My handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. But I could never learn the new computer.

Six months or so ago, Gerald's cardiologist suggested some routine check-up tests at his office in Saint Louis. We were perturbed when we realized recently that these conflicted with our BSU reunion. Gerald was able to change them a bit, however, so he has the stress test tomorrow morning and appointment on Friday afternoon. So with price of gas like it is, maybe this conflict is a good thing.

We plead guilty to being prodigal in our use of gas for many years. We used to try to limit out trips to town from the farm to once a week. With cheap gas and a little more affluence than in our younger days, we relaxed our standards. (We also have had a need to travel to town more often as we helped with our grandson's transportation to school for a few years and other needs when he was younger.)

Nevertheless, we need to reign in our wasteful use of gasoline wherever possible. To keep making ourselves dependent on foreign oil is the most unpatriotic thing any of us can do right now perhaps. Patriotism during WWII was not judged by waving flags and patriotic talk, but rather how people abided by the rationing rules of tires and sugar. Making do and doing without and saving resources for our war effort were the true tests of patriotism. Black market users were shameful traitors. Now is the time for us to cut back on gas usage whenever possible. We need to make heros of our motorcycle riders and car pool folks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Touching Base with Tossie

Traveling north on highways through eastern Georgia, we stopped at a roadside stand of an orchard owner for directions, a bag of apples, and a jar of sugarless Muscatine jelly, which has added the sweet grape flavor to our breakfast toast here at Woodsong. I also couldn’t resist a paper bag of horehound candies, a treat my father used to bring home from Rixlebin Pharmacy in Jonesboro and our mother would have us cough to receive our piece.

We crossed the bridge at Ellijay and continued north into Tennessee, where we passed more villages reminding us of the Cherokee--Ducktown, Turtletown, and Tellico Plains. Somewhere along here we saw a sign pointing to White Path Springs, and I wished we had time to go I thought of the death and burial of the revered elder chief who at my age had to be left behind buried in the foreign soil of Hopkinsville, KY, with a make-shift wooden monument painted to look like marble. A tall pole with white linen flag was placed so the following detachments of displaced Cherokee could mourn his passing.

During this twilight drive, where out road ran through the southern part of the Cherokee National Forrest, I could certainly understand his people’s heartbreak at being forced to leave their homeland in these beautiful mountains. Soon it was dark and the winding road spiraled through the tall green trees. As the night darkened and the curving road was constant, we hoped we wouldn’t meet anyone. We begin to think about the need for a motel. Most of the time, there were no houses and no lodging in sight. Light rain started making the darkness lit by our headlights magically lovely but diminishing driving visibility. We passed the little town Mount Vernon with few houses, and once we enjoyed the delightful scene of small children playing outside in a lit church yard evidently after the evening service while their parents lingered and visited.

As the rain intensified, we were grateful we seldom met a car and were relieved when we found a motel in Madisonville and could pull off the road. After we secured a room by using the phone placed outside the locked office, we went next door for a sandwich before retiring. With the car backed up to our room, we unloaded our bags from the trunk under the cover of the large umbrella we had used for shade at the softball games. We were soon in bed and slept well until almost 6 the next morning.

On up the road, we called our friend Tossie from Shoneys, where we had a great breakfast and abundance of coffee. After driving through the rest of Tennessee, we passed Jellico and entered Kentucky and were soon at Williamsburg. This was our first visit with our long-time dear friend since she moved down from their mountain home and into town. That home on the mountain was one of my all-time favorite houses with two of my very favorite rooms—Chester’s large formal library where he studied and wrote and a dining room built to hold the antique table where wonderful meals and conversations took place. .

After Chester’s long illness and death, Tossie had donated Chester’s library to his alma mater Berea College. She had started giving away furniture before she went to American Samoa to work in a library there, but plans to sell came to a halt. She stayed on top of the mountain by herself for a few years after the Samoa adventure. We visited her there once more and enjoyed the new sunroom and watching the birds as well as eating with her friends at the dining room table. That visit on a drive around town, she even showed us the apartment she thought she might move into someday. However, we knew she had changed her plans. Instead she moved into a house next door to a friend, who had decided to completely redo a small house instead of tearing it down.

We found the yellow house without difficulty and Tossie was outside to greet us. She had once more moved her mother’s iris and mint to a bed in the front yard,. In the large back yard, she had beautiful trees. With plenty of privacy to play her piano as loud as she wants, the house seems just right for her: aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, practical, filled with antiques in use and mementoes of a life well lived. Soon we were hearing stories of how everything worked out perfectly as she gave away her furniture and sold the mountain home to a friend. I loved knowing the antique dining room table was still in place on top of the mountain.

Gerald showed his photo albums, and they reminisced about the Hawaiian children in the church where Chester served as pastor. Tossie was able to bring Gerald up-to-date news of the successes of some of the boys he had coached and driven around the island in the church van while the boys teasingly tried to get him lost. And, of course, we wanted updates on all her children and grandchildren, whose pictures were scattered around.

Since she had a long-scheduled check up with a doctor at Corbin that afternoon, we left behind the yellow house and had lunch in Corbin so we could use every minute talking until time for her appointment and our departure. She had the guest room ready in case we decided to accept her invitation to spend the night, but we were anxious to find if everything were okay after the 60-mile winds left-over from Ike had hit Southern Illinois the previous night.

Before we returned to Woodsong, we drove to the other farm to see if Brian’s corn crop was still standing and it was. Gerald was pleased that Bryce had done some more improvement on the ditch he and the highway people have been working on. Everything looked good there. As we drove up to our house and saw that our crop of sunflowers, which were still blooming beautifully when we left, were now all blown over and comically askew on the ground, we had to laugh. Unlike many homes in our area, our house’s electricity had not gone off, and we settled in for an evening of reading the accumulated newspapers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Eve of 9/11

Our son-in-law David is celebrating his birthday tonight. I hope their family party is peaceful. Last night was supposed to be, but someone drove out in front of his mother, who was out on an errand. So David was to and from the hospital and finally followed his dad home to help get his injured mother out of the truck and into their home with her broken foot. Her car and the other car were both totaled, and so were her plans to go to a wedding in Chicago and afterwards stay to visit and help her sister. David is to be best man at this friend’s wedding, and sometime he has to find time yet to acquire a buttercup yellow tie for that occasion since he didn’t get to shop for it as planned last evening. Life has a way of upsetting the best laid plans.

Certainly in 2001, things changed horribly for all America. In addition to the sorrow, fear entered our lives in a new way. David was in Virginia and was not allowed to leave and we worried about him. With Mary Ellen’s family in the Saint Louis area, I wondered if that city might be next. We were building this house, and the building workers listened not to music but to the account on the loud radio they had going; I put up a small flag in the dirt here. Friends from California were at a motel in Marion after our Anna-Jonesboro Class of 1951 reunion, and they came out and we sat for hours in horrified silence watching the television screen at Pondside Farm. Later they were stranded for hours in long lines in the Saint Louis airport trying to get back home while their daughters worried.

Area writers were invited to bring any 9/11 poem, essay, or special memory to Latta Java tomorrow night on this anniversary. One member emailed she could not be there but had thought of William Butler Yeats’ poem soon after the tragedy and returned to it throughout the time of trauma. She sent the link for us:

Another special memory of that day for me was to get an email telling of the birth of little Noah, a baby many in our community had been anticipating. To learn he was here safely was a joyful and comforting message of normalcy and hope. Under different circumstances, I would have been happy, of course. But on that day when the email arrived, I remember the odd mix of elation on top of the horror.

Tomorrow is also our granddaughter Erin’s birthday. At first I was fretful that her special day that meant so much to us was “ruined” in 2001, but I have come to feel that it can never be ruined. She is one of the good things associated with 9/11, and the terrorists could not take that gratefulness away from us.

One of the most impressive things that day and in the days following was the magnificent reaction of the people of New York. The people there disproved any notions we had that cities are cold and uncaring places. I hope that city knows that the thoughts and prayers of the nation are with them tomorrow.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Interspersed with following the threats of hurricanes and listening to the Republican National Convention, I had lunch with a friend on Monday even though the downtown coffee house and the restaurant across the street were closed in recognition of Labor Day. Since I was running late, we met up by telephone and found a new place, where we could not only eat but talk for four hours. There is nothing like a good talk with a friend to make life more interesting and more bearable.

Though younger than I am, this new friend and I both have the same experience of having already lost a good many dear friends. That comes with age and is one of the sad aspects of growing older. You watch your high school class grow smaller at each reunion. You find yourself with a shrinking circle, and you don’t necessarily have the drive and energy to be out and about making new friends. With added doctor appointments that come with age, you my not even have much time for interacting with old friends. .In retirement, you don’t have the work contacts to connect with daily.

When I first retired, I had two buddies I enjoyed meeting up with for breakfast. The fact that we ate breakfast at 10 a.m. was evidence of our compatibility. Within a couple of years, one moved upstate. Last spring the second one headed to the east coast to live with two daughters.

A year ago a very dear new writing friend, who had moved here from Washington, D. C., had to relocate. We too could talk for hours even though she was many years younger than I. She lives close enough to our town that theoretically we could still meet up, but both of us have busy lives and we don’t. When I go by the road to her subdivision as I frequently do when I drive to town, I always feel the pang of missing her. She was nearer my daughter’s age than mine, and I so wanted her to meet my daughter because I thought they would enjoy each other’s personalities. I knew Katherine would relish the stories about Deb’s previous life in the Capitol. With the move, that possibility faded.

It is a gift to be treasured. to have found another new friend with numerous common interests but also a fascinating lifetime of many different jobs, events, and places before she moved to our town. It is good to discuss politics but not have to agree although we often do. It is good to share private problems and know they will never be judged nor repeated. It is good to have someone so busy with a job and travels that she isn’t available much of the time. That may sound like a contradiction, but it means this person is not needy. It means she understand my busyness also. Because we can rarely get together, we have much to talk about and many stories to share.

We can keep up with each other with email just as I keep up with many old friends around the country by email. I cherish those far-away friendships, and email allows us to share our lives with a minimum of time and no gas expense. But it is also good to occasionally meet face-to-face and laugh and cry together over a cup of coffee or a four-hour lunch.