I Still See Her

The people I am acquainted with at my church are not among my social friends, yet I look forward to seeing them week after week. We give each other a nod and occasionally exchange pleasantries.  Such is my church community. Some of the regulars shift  their attendance patterns and then I wonder where they are or if something has happened to them. 

One lady I saw regularly, not more than fifty-ish, with mid length salt and pepper grey hair, was always in her regular spot and I came into the church after she was settled, or we spoke briefly out in the parking lot. 

The last time I saw her I had parked my car in the lot outside Medical Building 4 at Parma Hospital and was on my way to some testing while she was leaving the building and was going to the parking lot.  We both smiled and greeted each other, then went on with our agendas.   I never saw her again, not at the church, nor anywhere else. Every time I go to that medical building for annual tests and lab work, I visualize her.   

The day before I went there, it was eighty humid degrees and sunny, but winter slapped us  in the face with a drop in temperature, strong breezes and cold rain this first day of autumn.  A tall gentleman offered me his arm as I made my way from the handicapped parking slots, which I thankfully accepted. He left me at the reception desk, fishing in my purse with cold hands for a mask.

On my way back to my car, a lovely young lady offered to help me and I raised my now wrapped left hand – the lab tech could not get the blood draw without trying  two different places on the left arm and hand, a second needle, then she put a wrap around the hand to hold the bandage in place. The  blood draw was difficult and left a good sized hematoma where what did come seeped under the skin across half of the hand.  What should have been a simple process  turned into an unpleasant business.

This is the time of the year when I try to schedule lunches with friends I don’t otherwise see, so we can catch up on each others events and then go into winter knowing we have at least touched base.

It was not my plan to start my autumn stock up from the stores, but when the twenty percent off of all things in the store showed up in my e-mail, I thought I should do that.  I liked the Wolfgang Puck tomato basil soup last time I bought it, but there was only one can left on the shelf.  I took a can of his chicken noodle too just to try it out.  The label said organic, free range and such.  That evening I opened it up and heated it in the microwave and it was so very delicious I wished I bought about six cans! 

Normally I try not to turn the heat on in the house until the first of October, but when the indoor temp dropped to 65 degrees and only rose one degree the next day, I said, I need to warm the place up and I dropped the thin summer jeans I had been wearing into the laundry chute, they will get folded up for the winter when they are washed.

A Loss to the World

Another sip of my coffee and the host of the tv show announced that there would be a special edition of their program , today the 8th of September 2022.  Queen Elizabeth II had just passed away.  I remained glued in place watching what seemed like an endless collection of Her Majesty’s fabulous and colorful hats and matching coats. Many of the photos I had never seen before including the charming little video of Paddington Bear having tea with her.

Hours had slipped away when I finally removed myself from the television screen.  The weight of this loss to the world stayed with me as my thoughts drifted to my own maternal grandmother. In recent months I found myself thinking about her more often, as a lady who spent her life working very hard.

She kept a large vegetable garden in which,  I always said no weed ever dared to grow. There was a large rain barrel behind the garage from which she watered the garden and the many flowers as well. She planted a thin twig of a tree that later produced enough plums to please the whole family. My mother canned them every summer and I would take a jar and a spoon to my room and just eat them.

Born and raised in Kosice, Slovakia, she came to America in the early 1900s, met and married my grandfather. Together they built a house which they filled with three children.  Quite the seamstress, she made clothing for all her family.  She worked as a domestic for the more well-off Clevelanders and she brought her only brother and all of their sisters who wanted to come over from Slovakia.

She hung strings of garlic bulbs in the garage and a few in the attic of the house. Every summer there were a trail of white alyssum growing in the gravel driveway.

She and my grandfather would gather mushrooms growing in a local park.  Not something I would ever risk doing.

They were within walking distance of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church and Benedictine High School. She attended Mass daily in her elder years, after Grandfather had passed, and one day on her way, some thugs hit her on the head and took off with her purse, which contained a few coins and an old Slovak prayer book. Her two sons and my father agreed it was time for her to give up the house, which broke her heart.

As I live day to day, I feel that I carry her with me. Often I wonder how she did it all.

As King Charles III spoke to the world about the death of his “darling mamma” I was tickled to hear his use of a Shakespeare line, slightly different from the version I remember, “Flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.”    

Fading Summer

As summer fades into autumn, after images of times shared with good people and wonderful meals we enjoyed bring smiles and comfortable memories to mind. In May the Word Lovers Retreat and the ride with Claudia, the book review we attended in August at the South Euclid Library.  

Mid August Connie organized a day trip to the downtown library, which I had not been to in many years followed by a sumptuous meal with assorted delectables, of which I think of the asparagus spears, fine green beans, subtle thin slices of cheese and pastrami like I have not had since I was last in Rome. The waiters carrying long skewers of meat to be sliced at each table and given to each patron as he or she wished.  One of them I found to be especially delicious. 

Connie had driven down to Hartville to purchase peaches driven there directly from Georgia. She was kind enough to offer each of us some of that bounty and I thought they may have been the best peaches I have ever eaten.

The usual business of errands, and appointments seem to have whittled the summer away, and now I am trying to meet with long time friends that I only seem to see once a year, before the snow flies.

This past Saturday I met Debbie for lunch in Parma. We had been neighbors in there when she was staying with her mom while waiting for her husband to come home from Desert Storm.  We rode the bus together downtown back then. They have since raised two children.  Last year I asked if she could use some extra Christmas ornaments since I had acquired so many over the years and neither of my children seemed to want them.  She said yes, then after lunch she came over and we spent about two hours sifting through boxes of them. She carted about two cartons of Halloween through Christmas decorations that she will share with her daughter, sister and sister-in-law and those things will be passed on in their families – so I am glad for the continuance.

She will have to come again since there are a few more boxes to look through.  We left our chairs in position to pick up where we left off.

She was also happy to have a large platter and a wide bowl with a rose design that turned up here once I settled in, having no idea which set of grandparents it may have come from as I have no childhood memory of them.

I’m still waiting to hear from three former Zumba friends, to agree on a time and place for our annual gathering.

Once I return from two short trips in  October, it is my hope to hunker down for what the Farmer’s Almanac says will be a hard cold winter.  Plenty of books to read, just need to stock the cupboards and freezer for the dreaded winter ahead.

Claes Oldenburg, Rest in Peace

As the noon news is updating viewers on who murdered whom during the night before, or screaming poster waving crowds shout about violations of their rights, at the bottom of the screen a narrow  black band slides soundlessly by with the real news of the day in simple sentences.  Last week, the one that caught my eye was “Claes Oldenburg, artist, dies at age 93.”

The first time I saw his work was when a handful of friends went to an art museum in Berkeley, California.  I had been feeling a little low because my then, fiance, did not wish to join the museum party, but stayed behind.  Once inside the museum, my spirits were picked up as I looked at The Baked Potato, about two feet long, with a pat of butter the size of my hand, mounted on a pedestal with a zipper to close or open the potato. 

By the time I got to the Electric Switch, which looked exactly like a normal electric switch on any wall, except that this one was so big, it took two hands to pull it up or down, I was buckling at the knees from laughter.  

I watched another lady come to the display looking unsure if this was supposed to be serious or not and I told her it was okay to laugh at  some art.

It just kept going like that – there was a giant typewriter eraser, which today would only puzzle anybody who may not  even know what a typewriter was.  Then there was a seven foot tall pair of scissors and the one upside down as the Washington Monument.  

His drawing was done with the precision of architectural rendering – flawless, but on a grand scale. 

It may have been at the Cleveland Museum of Art where I saw  a collection that included “Flat Drum Set” made of machine sewen pieces of red, blue and yellow vinyl (sewen by his wife!)

Then there is the well-known “FREE” stamp in downtown Cleveland.

I saw at least one of his large out of door mobiles at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

When my daughter was three months old, I rolled her in her stroller into a gallery in San Francisco and lifted her out to let her see up close a print of another of his mobiles. She gave a little chortle and we went on. 

So, Rest In Peace, Claes Oldenburg, and fill the heavens with more wonderful artwork touched by your sense of humor.

Gyotaku

Gyotaku, the ancient (around mid 1800s) technique of fish printing. Developed by fisherman to prove the size of their catch. It is a method of applying ink to the body of a fish and then putting paper onto it and doing a rubbing. They would either throw the fish back into the water or cook it and eat it.

My daughter sent me a tee shirt with a print of an octopus on it and when she pointed out that it was a print done in the Gyotaku method, I didn’t get it until I read about that in Wikipedia, which shed a whole new light on the shirt and a whole new admiration from me.

Since early childhood I had been drawing and studying art, and since her early childhood I had begun her art education by taking her to art galleries and museums and then providing her with plenty of newsprint paper to begin her own exploration of the art world, spreading paint all over the paper, creating large masterpieces which made good gift wrapping.  While I was mostly a painter of acryllic abstract work, I have always been interested in printmaking, but have not expanded into that field of making artworks.

I asked her if the animal was alive and squirming around when the printmaker did his print of the octopus, or on ice in the fish shop, but she has not responded yet. 

The quality of the print is excellent and there is no indication of movement by the animal and not even the tiniest smudge on the print. I also asked her if she saw the artist at work, something I would very much like to watch.

My questions are still out there in cyberspace for now, but I am intrigued with the octopus print.

Surprise Kindnesses

With the incredible number of people killing each other every day, to say nothing of the now all too common mass shootings, road rage, or folks who shoot a neighbor’s pet,  it may be difficult to realize that there really are many good people among us, whom we may not ever get acquainted with nor ever recognize again should they walk past us in a crowd. Some probably just spontaneously rise to an occasion to be helpful with no real forethought.

In the years since I have been hobbling along with a cane, as I walk to or from a store pushing, or soon to push, a grocery cart, I have encountered some of those good people.

One bright sunny afternoon as I was about to step onto the crosswalk heading from my car to the bank,  a young lady who had been standing in front of the bank with her little son, called out to me that I should not move, she was coming to help get me across and when she got to me, she circled her arm around me to help support me as we ambled through the crosswalk.  I told her I had just gotten shots of Cortisone in my knees and she asked me if I thought it was alright for her to have a sugary snack as she showed me a tiny bag of candies she had in her other hand. I laughed and said “Sure!” 

Arriving at the curb another good lady was standing in the doorway of the bank, probably getting a breath of air before going back to her desk. The first lady turned me over to her while she went back to her four-year old posted where she left him.  

Inside of the bank the second lady  ushered me to a chair along the row of tellers where she said the young man behind the counter would happily help me and if he did not he would have to answer to her.  He was laughing.. 

On his way out the door another gentleman, offered to push my chair closer to the counter, and I was amazed to meet yet another good person.

On another occasion, after getting all the bags into the trunk I was carefully trying to guide a 24 bottle shrink wrapped pack of bottles of water from the child seat of the grocery cart into the trunk without them landing on the ground.  I was on my third try when a young man parked opposite me stepped out of his car and asked if he could help.

 Greatly relieved, I said yes and in a heartbeat he heaved the package into the trunk and hauled the empty cart over to the carousal for carts.  Then he asked if I had anyone to help me with them when I got home.  I said I would cut the plastic open and take the bottles a few at a time out, and as I was thanking him, his mom came along and asked if I’d be okay and I thanked her as well and said she had a wonderful son.

Then there was Rudy, a man standing just outside the store, waiting for his sister. Rudy also walked with a cane, but he offered to help me get my groceries into my car if I wold bring my car up to the curb.  I said okay and headed off to my car as he stood with the cart.  In a minute or two he pushed the cart to catch up with me and offered me his arm as we walked.That is always helpful, so I took it and we walked on to my car.  When he finished I thanked him and said Good Bless and he nodded looking surprised and headed back to the front of the store.

One time as I was leaving the local post office, a gentleman offered me his arm as I negotiated the curb down to my car.

As I got to the entrance of a store, a gentleman asked me if I would need a cart when I got into the store and I said yes. He walked ahead of me, selected one and said “Take your time.” as I got through the automatic door. I did not see him again inside the store and I puzzled over him for awhile, wondering if he was from Iowa, or was another veteran, like myself, of the summer writing festivals, since I was wearing both one of the shirts and a sunhat with their logo on it. 

Last week as I got to the back of my car to open the trunk, a car pulled up next to mine and I thought that a bit odd since that was not a designated slot for a car.  As the door opened and a slim lady in green scrubs hopped out asking if she could put my groceries into the car for me. I said that would be wonderful and unlocked the trunk.  

After depositing the bags into the trunk, she spirited the cart away and I thanked her wishing someone would be there to help her when her turn comes, a long time from now.  She said she hopes so as she sped away. 

While I am always grateful for these unexpected gestures of helpful strangers, I am also awed.

Quieter Times

Times were quieter while I was growing up.  There were not hoards of people screaming about their rights and waving poster boards with messages scrawled with markers over their heads for any reason that suited any group of people.  

Although I am not sure when this method of communication began to be common, perhaps it was with the civil rights protests which began in Washington, D.C. back in the late 1960s. Some of my friends joined the throngs as the shouting and marching went on through the Capitol Mall. I listened to their stories over cups of tea in Dick Foy’s apartment or as Edna and I drove around town in her little green Triumph Spitfire convertible. I never felt compelled to participate.

It has been 22 years since my father passed on and I remember that we often sat and talked about life in general.  One of his observations was that this country would go down in history as the most violent of countries.  He had never even heard of or seen news reports of mass shootings.  

The violent loss of one child brings me to tears.  Such sick behavior would have infuriated my father.  We don’t need a war here, we are killing ourselves, foolishly and thoughtlessly.

It has long been my belief that had these killers and those who have nothing more constructive to do than join throngs demanding attention and self satisfaction, were not raised with a respect for themselves or others, nor a healthy understanding of right versus wrong.  

From early childhood I spent every spare moment drawing or studying the stamp collection my father passed down to me from his own childhood.  

There were neighborhood friends and school friends.  My parents were always glad to have us tearing around our fair sized yard playing childhood games.  We wore thin the front yard with games of tag and hide and seek, catching fire flies in our hands. 

My father never complained that he had to re-plant the front yard when it got too bad.  That was in his spare time, after his full time job at General Electric and his part time job repairing radios, televisions and record players for the neighborhood clients in his workshop in our basement.

Many years ago I read a book by Saul Bellows called Henderson, The Rain King in which the main character, Eugene Henderson, was constantly in pursuit of fulfilling his multiple appetites.  He almost went crazy with “I WANT! drumming through his head…. and I wonder if this is not a common thread running through our current society driving people to the edge and committing what would never have even occurred to earlier generations.

Homage to Terry

The local poetry community that I became a part of has been an enjoyable activity for me for about one year before Covid19 brought it all to a halt.  Some folks flocked to the zoom method of continuing on, but I did not do any zoom events.  

I especially liked the meetings at a bowling alley in Lakewood, which was something of a dive, with a comfortable atmosphere.  Like the Austin International Poetry Festival, the poetry readings became a new source of FaceBook friends, so we kept in touch by social media. Terry, a school teacher was gracious enough to host the readings at the bowling alley.  He did a great job. Perhaps standing in front of a classroom for many years made him a natural.

On FaceBook his posts were always lengthy and complex and while I did put my two cents worth in ocassionally, they were usually over my head and after a quick glance I moved along.

My guess was that Terry and his lovely wife, Karen were in their early forties. They have a teen aged son.  It came as a surprise to me when he announced that he would be having surgery on a brain tumor. I thought he was too young for such a radical medical event. 

He came through that and continued on as usual.  I try not to spend a lot of time rolling along on Facebook. Mainly I do try to wish happy birthday to all whom I should and to follow the various family notes that I feel like I should be aware of.  

I don’t know how long it had actually had been, but one day I realized there had been a distinct absence of those long and complex posts by Terry.  I messaged him and asked if he was okay. No response. Next step was to call Mary, the friend who first took me to Mahalls.  She was aware that something was out of sorts with Terry, but she was not sure of any details.

Months later there was a post on Facebook by Karen, Terry’s wife explaining that he was now in hospice and that she and their son were able to sit with him and she would read any of our messages or cards to him.  I had to let that settle in before I could compose my thoughts for him. 

When I was able to write to Terry the words came slowly, as they do when life brings difficulties of this depth.  Finally I put them into Messenger and Karen said she found his posts often over her head as well and that she would read my message to him.

I closed out with a heavy heart and wishing Karen and their son courage and strength.

Noise Pollution

Mowers, power saws and motorcycles have all begun to roar into action with the absence of snow.  So much noise pollution from the perspective of someone trying to focus on morning prayers or quiet reading time. 

It is easier to play free bejeweled video game, so I often slip into that mode, which is fun, but leaves the more contemplative tasks pushed back on the agenda.

One neighbor thoroughly mows front and back lawns and as he is putting his equipment back into the garage or shed, it seems to be a signal for the next one to begin and so on down both the main street my house faces but also the cul de sac  off to the side of my home. Thus the constant drone of motorized equipment rumbles throughout the neighborhood from what is after breakfast for some through all remaining daylight.

Perish the thought that two or three neighbors should be running their machines at the same time. That might cause the planet to shake.  

Of course I too, have a lawn which requires attention and trimming, lest the city threaten to do it at outrageous cost. My lawncare father and son team arrive here as their schedules allow, anytime from eight a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday to some weekday that suits them.  I never complain because they are dependable and that is very important to me.  They do a good job and their prices are acceptable. 

Sometimes when there is a storm, or even just a downpour, not only is there the pleasant summer scent of after rain, there is a brief silence of mowers, saws and motorcycles. 

Green Fluffiness

From May the 6th through the 8th, the community of writers who gather at the Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in Lakeside in early spring and late fall convened again after the years of Covid 19 kept us apart.  Claudia gathered folks last fall too, but I was not convinced that it was safe yet and some folks that I hoped to see did not come this time either.  

I signed up and paid but was a little concerned about the somewhat strenuous drive on the wildly busy highway 90 as it leads into highway 2.  As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, Claudia asked if I was sure I wanted to make that drive myself, or did I want to go with her.  Without hesitation I said I think I better go with you.  

The directions to her house were good and though the day was cold and very rainy, we set off at the time she said she wanted to leave as Paul, her husband, handed her bags of food for the dinner and breakfasts we would enjoy at the house.  

We chatted all the way and I was able to take many pictures as we crossed over Sandusky Bay, which I have never been able to do when my white knuckles grasped the wheel and my eyes stayed on the road in previous years.

We pulled into the short drive behind the house and she found the key and unlocked the door so we could settle in.  No one else arrived yet and the house felt comfortable and dry after dodging raindrops.  There is an interesting sense of emptiness and quiet in the house we’ve all been to so many times.

Claudia did a walk around check of the house before heading off to the local grocery store.  I settled into my room and laid down to get a nap.

Later as others began to arrive we visited and caught up each others lives.  Beth, Claudia’s sister came to help with cooking and kitchen chores.  She brought her box of beads and made some bracelets and sold a few.

The dinner, chicken marsala, was wonderful and I think most of us qualified for the clean plate club.  

Friday nights are usually our late nights as we sit in the gathering room drinking wine, laughing and talking until we file off one by one to the beds.

I remembered to bring and take a tylenol p.m. as my first night away from home usually finds me tossing and turning most of the night.  So, while I zonked out, others were spooked by the strong winds whistling, causing creaking and groaning noises outside the century house.

Thankfully morning brought sunshine and a quieter day, not warmer, but at least dry. We arranged ourselves, notebooks or laptops set as our guest speaker, Abby, from the South Euclid Library, did two consecutive presentations. 

There is always a little spare time to do what we like, some head straight out and up the street to a group of shops, mainly Marilyn’s to select one treasure or another.  Lisa bought a very lovely elegant white wrap that she wore to dinner.

There is always a discussion about where to go for dinner, but we usually end up at the Canoe Club, which is very nice.  There is actually a full sized canoe mounted on a wall.  There are always a handful of folks who go elsewhere.

After dinner we settle back in the gathering room where we usually do a reading where we take turns reading from our current works.  Then there is more talking and laughing and an earlier bed time.

After another great breakfast on Sunday some take early leave of the group while other’s stay tuned for last minute sharing of words of wisdom and promises to keep in touch.

It always feels like I have absorbed much new information and touched base with great people I do not see elsewhere.  I am content for the time being.