Leavin’, on a jet plane…

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This morning someone I love flew home to her family and I miss her already. We said our goodbyes last night, five days after she arrived, and 40 years after we’d last seen each other.

Katie grew up in Michigan while my environment was the western Kansas landscape. She was a city girl, I was a country mouse trying to keep up and to figure out what made her so incredibly cool.

We were together only a handful of times over the years, but there was a bond that made us sisters as well as cousins. Life happened, of course. Katie birthed seven babies in eight years and added an eighth baby just for good measure, so she got a little too busy for letter-writing. I was preoccupied with the details of my own budding existence, so we gradually lost touch.

Enter Facebook: something I posted moved Katie to call me with the news that she was coming to Kansas to see my two sisters and me – and three days later she did. Four decades of involuntary separation melted away within seconds and we were sisters again. The hours flew by, as they do when we’re having fun, and it was over too soon. The memories are for keeps, though, so no crying – just plans for seeing each other again, sooner rather than later.

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Rita, Susan, Judy, and Katie

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The calm before the earthquake…

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Another beautiful Saturday morning in the neighborhood – Farmers Market is busy, #lfk is opening her arms to us as always, the sun’s shining, 67º and easy. Friends who are family have included us in their 3-Day Labor Day Blow-Out, so the day promises lazy fun around the pool and great food including BANANA PUDDING!!

The Official Saturday Breakfast that hasn’t diminished an iota in more than twelve years of Saturdays – always the best-tasting, most satisfying meal of the week – has been humbly savored. And now Kimmers is in his Happy Place, the one with the stove, putting together a big pot of beans & hotlinks for the Framily. The sun is in its heaven and all’s right with the world – we’d make every day look pretty much like this if it were in our power.

Turns out, and experience teaches us this, there’s bloody little we control, and there are watershed events as we roll through life that abruptly stop the momentum and make us take an accounting. Therefore, second, third, eleventh chances cannot be overrated, and spending vital chunks of the past week with my cherished baby sister has driven that point home as nothing else has in years. It’s never a bad idea to stop and take a look under our public face, down to the one we wear for our own use, and past that to the Real Us. A fresh face-off (see what I did there?) with mortality is an exquisite motivator to change what needs changing, fix what needs fixing, just DO it, now instead of someday.

To close out The Week That Was, we had an earthquake mere seconds after Kim took the sunrise picture. It was apparently 5.6 at its epicenter, 3.2 here, 235 miles northeast. Rattled things pretty energetically up here on the 4th floor…but after the earthshaking week behind us it was only an entertaining blip.

I hope your Labor Day celebrations will be earthshaking in all the best ways.

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Memorial Weekend…again

Went back to my 2014 remembrance post this morning, knowing that for too many people every weekend is memorial weekend.

It’s a typically perfect Memorial Day morning here, like so many from my childhood, when every year we could count on it to be raining or blistering hot and windstill, or freezing cold, or all of the above, in gusts, or maybe cool and clear after one of those rains. In Lawrence this morning it’s 79º headed for 82, sunny, blue skies, humidity has dropped from 89% when I went out at 7am to 60% five hours later, and it’s exquisitely beautiful out.

But life holds more than beauty  – especially for those who will never see any of it again – and cloudy skies take over sometimes.  By 2pm we’re supposed to be mostly under cloud cover here, which seems altogether fitting for the day.

In 2016 I reshare my family’s story out of gratefulness, and out of reverence for, and abhorrence of, unspeakable loss on all sides throughout the generations.

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First posted Memorial Weekend 2014 (with edits 5/30/2016 – a personalized haiku for anyone who’s bored enough to find them all – link provided below.)

My grandpa enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served at the front as an infantryman during WWI.  His six sons were all military men, Army, Navy, and Marines.  The three Marines, 18, 19, and 21 were in the Korean Conflict at the same time, in the same general location, under miserable conditions.  All seven Reese military personnel returned home intact in body and went on to raise thriving families of their own.  Many of my cousins have also served with honor in the military.  The only family member I’m aware of, without digging into the archives, who was directly lost to war, was my Aunt Bette’s husband, making her a teenage widow with a baby. The baby, my cousin Vickie, is standing in front of her mother and between our grandparents in the family portrait. My mama is top right in both the portrait and the thumbnail pics, somehow descriptive of her position in my life for all time. And kudos today to my Baby Aunt Barbara, lower right in both, who put this collage together.

So thankful to have four of the original Reese Dynasty kids – Vic, Jerry, Barbara, and Roger – present and accounted for, on this Memorial Remembrance in the year 2016. Hugs and kisses all around, beloved.

Ongoing family is priceless. Feeling deeply thankful right about now.

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Okay, Constant Reader, the edits took on a life of their own, so don’t even try. If, however, you’d originally thought you might, for the haiku, throw me a subject and I’ll do it anyway!

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A throwback to other lifetimes…

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Once upon a time there lived a little farm girl with big dreams – and who knows where that comes from?

Her mother, grandmothers, a grandpa, her aunties, uncles, sisters and cousins were voracious readers so there was never a shortage of books at hand, all of which were free for the borrowing if you thought you were big enough. {Except for that one in the top of the closet – ZOWEE!}  So yeah, big dreams got planted – extra points and a high five for the sweet double entendre, thank you.

She thought she was smart – she was told as much in subtle ways by other smart people, by which we mean her sassiness was nurtured to an appalling degree, thanks, Fam.

Alas, however, a shocking number of pivotal, paramount, life-and-death aspects of life were still unexplored at a juncture when that information would have been so very helpful to our farm girl. Since she was lacking in skills acquired only through knowledge, we’re forced to conclude that she was not nearly as smart as she might have thought. Let’s just say mistakes were made. Or in the words of her farm grandma, “Too soon old…too late schmart.” Sorry, chicky.

The girl grew up, sort of, and did the thing she said she’d never do – she married a farmer. And then a lot happened: a son, a life, a love, beautiful times, ugly times, hard and dirty work, serious illnesses, deaths, near-deaths, caregiving, more deaths, colossal lifestyle adjustments…and she matured, which is not the same as growing up. Our girl continues to reject that as a viable option.

She tossed those beat up green Ropers out and hasn’t been behind the wheel of a tractor or combine for more than a dozen years – a lifetime ago; however, we’ve all heard the wisdom that says you can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. That’s truth right there, I don’t care who ya’ are. Here’s another one – you can’t take the dream out of the dreamer – and big dreamers win big.

 

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Honoring Throwback Thursday

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Casting a long shadow at five years old on a San Francisco street corner, little me in her plaid-lined high-waters and namesake tee, a gift from one of my sweet, hunky uncles. I still have that teeny-beany T-shirt tucked away in a box.

I vividly remember entertaining large-scale dreams early on as my wee pudding-brain started jelling – life as a farm girl was simplified down to its essence, but the world felt limitless and open to me, thanks to my mom and my grandmothers who dropped clues I couldn’t miss. The kernel of all those dreams somehow escaped with its life in spite of everything – adolescence didn’t kill it, marriage and family didn’t smother it, loss couldn’t force it to crawl into a hole and die – and now I get to live the remaining dreams on my own terms.  They no longer seem so big – being a published writer isn’t the point anymore, I simply have to write or expire. Having a summer place in Colorado and a winter spot in California sounds merely exhausting. Kim and I fully intended to own a sailboat, sooner rather than later, but we turned down a prime opportunity last year because…that ship has sailed. He’s Navy and a veteran SoCal sailor, but when you own a boat you never run out of work, which sounded heinous in the light of day. Besides, a nest-egg stretches only so far.

What I remember about this Cali trip with my parents, who’d schlepped me to half the states in the union by this time, is that my sister Susan, nine months old, wouldn’t have anything to do with us when we picked her up from Grandma & Grandpa’s house. Broke my widdle heart, but she got over it, after which I undoubtedly started distressing her again. Aw, I hope not.

Incredibly, this photo was taken almost 64 years ago, which gives it the feel of belonging to someone else, and yet my DNA knows it’s from my lifetime. The hope on that little girl’s face, mixed with just a whiff of healthy skepticism, makes me happy this morning. Hope is hard to kill – it will die a thousand deaths before it reluctantly leaves us, and it has the power to keep us putting one foot in front of the other until things get better. The worst heartbreak is to give up too soon – don’t do that, okay?

 

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P.S.  Turns out I’d know me anywhere. Compare my relatively-new face on the left to my relatively-not-brand-new one in my profile pic to the right – a revelation that provides yet another ray of hope today, and I’ll take it!

 

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Yasss! Weekend!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but weekends even in retirement have their own aura – the barely-discernible pace slows, and the party mood amplifies. There are nights when we stay up past midnight and have not two vodka tonics but three, possibly more – are there no fences anymore whatsoever?  Makes me a little wistful …

I’m currently without adult supervision as Kimmers is out walking, taking advantage of the cool, crisp morning air while he stretches his legs and thinks his own thoughts. I’m doing things, too, of course.  I made the bed and…I made the bed. Because weekends are different in that they contain no residual guilt over the perks of voluntary unemployment. I’m happy as a big sunflower, sitting here in my own company, bedhead extraordinaire, coffee on endless spigot, playing my music, IM-ing my insolently profane girlfriends, and eating goldfish.  It’s a high all its own that rarely gets better. I didn’t say never, I’m neither stupid nor a fossil.

A fun thing I like to do on weekends is rummage through old photos, either in boxes or my online files. Some could embarrass friends or family, but is that not what social media is all about?  I’m sayin’!  I love this one…my cousin Bruce and me in our grubby training pants…he’s ready for a nap and I’m pretty sure I just tried eating a bug, the other two choices, of course, being Milk Dud or turd.  See more about my cousin here:  So Healthy It Makes Me Sick

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Enjoy your weekend to the max, boys and girls!  And if you have to work … gah, sucks to be you.

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So healthy it makes me sick …

We live, we learn – mostly we live.  So as it turns out, “twice-weekly PT sessions for six weeks” merely covered Phase 1. Six weeks ended Friday morning and now we try another month.  And then we “see.”  Not a problem – once I graduate, there goes 90% of my outside social life, so what would be the rush?

Health, though – such a ginormous issue in every direction.  Do we possess it?  Do we value it?  What value are other people placing on our health?  Do we take it entirely for granted, or do everything we can to maintain it?  Or realistically, somewhere between?  And if we lose it, can we get it back?

The past few months have shown us that my bones are in far better health than we knew.  And I’ve lost some pounds so my numbers are starting to improve — the dread NUMBERS that cause your extremely caring GP to make sad-panda eyes and counsel you to drop even more pounds and take scary-sounding drugs.  I’m just stumbling along for now, thanks, and trying to beat those numbers into submission by means of personal discipline and other words I avoid.

My preoccupation with health at the moment stems from learning that a cousin is going through a hellish experience.  He’s six weeks older than I am and we grew up more like siblings than cousins, our other siblings nicely stair-stepped or matched up in age, which made extended-family vacations oh so simple.  And now the skinny little boy in the photo is all grown up and overrun by adulthood, and he’s ill and in pain.  That hurts my heart. He’s a kind man who’s “been there” for everyone else.  And life couldn’t possibly get away this fast and our bodies metamorphose so quickly into whatever stage this is that feels suspiciously like a cocoon, while our 60’s-addled brains go right on scheming and dreaming and making plans like a boss.  Wow, whiplash!

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Here, in their natural habitat, are my cousin Bruce, his big sister Vickie on the left, our Aunt Bonnie, who was probably still a teenager, and wide-eyed me, wondering what it was all about, Alfie.  This was just the other day, I’m pretty sure — I remember the shingles on that house — they were a reddish-brown and felt funny under my fingertips.

Bruce will get well I think, and we’ll all go on.  But the knowledge that he’s dependent for now on a wheelchair and round-the-clock help from an only slightly younger brother brings it all home in kind of an in-your-face way.

I mean, today Patty Duke has left the building.  In recent days it’s been Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Pat Conroy, Garry Shandling, and a litany of others in my generation.  This isn’t going to stop, and I’m not ready for it.  Happen it will, though, that’s how this goes.

We are ALL most definitely playing for time, boys and girls.  Make it count.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is the doctor in?

It was nipply out yesterday, but I defiantly sat in a sunny chair on the balcony for a while in my all-purpose jams, paw-print flip-flops, LFK bag-lady sweater and a field jacket. I know you have to get back on the bicycle at your first opportunity, but it isn’t the same without Miss Fireball.  She’s supposed to be out there with me, patrolling the perimeter and yipping at intruders, first and foremost all four-legged trespassers. Every balmy evening this spring and summer we’ll miss her dancing on two legs for cocktail hour treats and zipping around non-stop to see it ALL, while the warm evening hugged us and made the three of us oh so grateful to be in the world together. And Maddie gradually letting herself fall asleep on Kim’s chest or my lap, lulled by our voices and the after-sunset sounds of home. There’s a whole world to miss.

Wonder how long until I stop checking behind and under me before rolling back from my desk.  How long until I can unwrap a cheese stick or a chip bag without cringing that I pushed her feed-me button?  Or until I stop saving loud videos to watch later so as not to disturb her sweet sleep, always right here beside me. Maybe some fine evening me n’ Boo will be laughing over margaritas on Cielito’s patio and the stars will be out and the air will put its arms around us and we won’t cry, and we won’t look at each other and think “We should get back and check on the baby.”  Maybe some fine time that will happen.  Or not.

Thanks for listening, Doc, I’ll leave my 5¢ on the counter and show myself out …

 

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Maddie

 

 

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Maddie

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Fall, indeed, has fell.

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PROCLAMATION:

Be it known that on this 29th day of September, in the year 2015, I did don a sweatshirt for the first time since storing it last winter.  

Because while out running errands, in thin t-shirt, floppy shorts, and flip-flops, I came this close to freezing my buns off.  Pretty sure the temp was only in the high 60s, so …  And the breeze was chilly on the balcony, in the shade, so hey, sweatshirt weather, fall is here!

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Halfway up the block I had to peel out of it, but it happened!  It’s official, my favorite season is gracing us with its presence.  I’ll shed the flip-flops by first snow.

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The wagon, in its autumn sweetness, was a part of my farm for as long as I lived there and many years before.  I don’t know where it is now, other than in my heart, but I still love it.

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Various and sundry nonsense … everything about the season brings it to the surface …

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Well, THIS sucks …

A post from the archives.

We didn’t win the lottery AGAIN, which is crushing because PLANS — I was on a quest to revolutionize my wardrobe by way of that venerated institution, the Sundance catalog. Please don’t sue me, Robert Redford, for naming names — I obviously can’t afford that since we STILL DIDN’T WIN THE LOTTERY.

It’s all so disappointing because my first new outfit as a gazillionaire was going to be killer, starting with the jeans, which are $108 and still have PIECES OF ACTUAL DENIM clinging to each other! There’s a sweet top, a twee rumpled creation weighing less than an ounce and going for a very reasonable $198. There’s a distressed-leather peacoat that looks fab with the little top — it’s only $548. The shortie boots in the same shade as the jacket, complete with fringe and studs, are a must — they retail for $575. To nail the look I’ll need the slouch bag for $368 and a cool nubbly belt at $120. Then we get to the fun stuff — the jewelry. Three necklaces, layered, at $1190, $3400, and $1300 respectively; eight stacked wrist cuffs totaling $4800; seven rings for $1603; and the earrings, $285. And a perfectly darling may-or-may-not-keep-time watch for chump change of $98. The surgery to add 10″ to my height is probably going to run into actual money.

So for just the debut ensemble, not counting height-enhancement because who knows, I’m looking at approximately $15,000 with shipping. And realistically I couldn’t wear the outfit every day because it isn’t wedding and funeral appropriate, so it’s imperative that I buy out the catalog in its entirety, including the furniture. My dreams are all-encompassing.

Way to ruin my life, Powerball — Bob and I were going to be besties.

Plan B: Snag this $98 vintage bandanna scarf and accessorize my overalls.

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Getting Schooled

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Once upon a time there was a little red schoolhouse that was in fact a biggish red-brick edifice.  Until it was built sometime before 1920, at considerable cost for the times, the children of the local farming community attended classes in a drafty wood-frame building that kept the mothers stewing over its shortcomings.  Farming was booming, there was a homestead on nearly every quarter-section of land, and families were still moving into the area.  A bigger, safer, warmer, more forward-looking school was needed, and my grandmother, a teacher — although not in this building, which was three-quarters of a mile from our farm — was one of the motivating forces behind the cause.

The funds were raised and the school built.  Double-walled, with both facing and interior brick; a kitchen; wood flooring; full cement basement with a stage.  My siblings and I, in one of its later iterations, roller-skated in the basement, daring each other to take artistic leaps from the stage to the smooth cement floor three feet below.  My brain still knows whether or not anyone did, but the database is unfortunately down at present.  

My dad went from first through eighth grades here before attending high school in the small town six miles southwest.  My grandma took him, via horse and buggy, to his first day of first grade, and turned around a couple of hours later to find him standing in her kitchen.  The teacher had let the kids out for recess and my dad, having all he wanted of this “school stuff,” simply made a break for home.  He was bitterly disappointed to learn that attendance wasn’t optional, and despite being a thoroughly intelligent guy, formal education never became a favorite.

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As Murphy’s Law #11 states, “You get the most of what you need the least.”  So about the time the beautiful schoolhouse was nearing completion, the farming boom was starting to go bust.  The air was turning to dust, Wall Street was headed for instability, to put it lightly, and families stopped streaming into the neighborhood while others gave up the struggle and packed it in.  By the time the little six-year-old up there finished eighth grade in 1935, the student population had thinned considerably, finally making it impractical to keep the doors open, at which point the building became a community center, a polling place, the location for township meetings, and an ongoing setting for the Grange’s poetry readings, plays, and other literary endeavors, which sounds so quaint and genteel I can hardly stand it.  

In my lifetime it was the site of community Thanksgivings … mostly in the late 1950s, which were nearly as devastating as the Dirty ’30s and left people feeling tapped out at holiday time so they pooled their resources.  We also held big carry-in dinners for extended family, where all the old men brought fiddles and harmonicas and assorted other instruments for Frontier Karaoke while my grandma “chorded along” on the old upright piano.  

I haven’t seen that corner for a while so I don’t know what if anything is still standing.  Those few acres became part of the family farm, and my dad told the friends and neighbors who inquired that they could have what they needed.  He and my brother had started taking the building apart and cleaning all the brick, a project that came to an end following my brother’s unfortunate death,  and after that I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t care who did what with any of it.  He did, with tears in his eyes, bring me a load of brick my brother had cleaned so that I could have a cozy hearth built in my newly-remodeled farmhouse … meaning we still don’t know the end of the story.  An entirely different family, in another county, will keep it going forward. 

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It’s clear that bricks know the secret to longevity.  

 

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I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!!!

 

 

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First post on my Facebook feed this morning was a Happy Anniversary wish from our son John.  It’s our 11th … and both of us spaced it off completely, a first in that number of years.  We are, joyfully and officially, The Old Married Couple.  We’ve been cutting Hallmark short since about year five, our favorite flowers ever were the ones at our wedding, and neither of us needs chocolates, so nothing lost — it rained a bit ago and cooled off the oven that’s been raging outside our door, so we’ll probably walk the half-block to Cielito’s, our home away from home, and celebrate on their big patio with the best margaritas in town. 

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Eleven years ago today, we got married after the close of the morning church service, and then our pastor and friends served lunch to about 300 people.  Simple, beautiful, memorable, sweet, and fun.

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Happy.  So happy.

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Our glamour photo shoot — a gift from Kim for my birthday not long after our wedding.

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Yeah.  This guy.

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The newlyweds today.  A lot of changes can happen in eleven years’ time, but the basics stay the same, and that’s so cool.

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Honeymoon Time

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My mom and dad went to Mexico for their honeymoon, and on their way back to Kansas they stopped in Albuquerque to see family for a few days.  The little boy in front is my third-cousin Gary, who was born with something amiss but was forever the sweetest guy in the world.  The young woman on the right side of the photo was either a friend of my mom’s or a relative — all I know about her is that she and my mom were besties, otherwise why the Twinkie outfits?  1946 and my mom was only 18 years old.  She and my dad had been married 49 years when she died of a sudden heart attack at 67.  It would be easy to think of life as an unfair process, but it’s just life — not wise to take it too personally. 

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Still savoring stories …

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Remember this photo from the other day?  My Great-aunt Nora, my grandmother, and my Great-aunt Ruth in the middle dressed in white.  Christmas 1917.

Now we have this — taken same day, same location, when Ruth’s daughter Myrl was around two years old and my Uncle Ed maybe seven or eight and already missing his right eye.  Until my dad came along several years later, they would be the only children of their family generation.  There were eleven years between the two brothers, so they didn’t become friends until they were adults.

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Ruth’s life took twists and turns from early on, and at no time did she adopt the quiet lifestyle of her two sisters.  She instead embraced the 1920s, transitioning quickly from the chaste white dress to flapper gear more suited to The Party, wherever it happened to be.  RuthA happy Ruth …

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My grandma, who lived past 95, told me endless stories about life in the late 1800s and on, but I don’t remember her going into detail about why Myrl was raised by her Aunt Nora instead of her mother.  There are bits and pieces we could combine in formulating answers, but as in all things there are nuances to be taken into account.  Fortunately I have an inside track and a fact or two at my disposal.  1) As far as I could discern, not having really known them until they were what I thought of as old, my grandma and Great-aunt Nora, having been raised in challenging circumstances brought about primarily by their alcoholic father, were straight-laced to the max.  2) I heard mention of drinking when Grandma did talk about Aunt Ruth’s life, which would probably have required the equivalent of endless come-to-Jesus talks, but their objections to her lifestyle tell us nothing about Ruth’s feelings or her capacity for maternalism.  My guess is that Grandma and Aunt Nora offered to keep Myrl at every opportunity and gradually made that a permanent arrangement, Nora thus getting the child she never had despite two marriages (more stories, kids), and Ruth getting what she, maybe, wanted in the first place, which was simply the freedom to be.  That’s the trouble with photographs … they can tell us only so much.  Ruth was the baby, spoiled and indulged by her older sisters, and she came along just as social mores were evolving ahead of the more devil-may-care attitudes of the Roaring 20s.  The comparative drudgery and boredom of her growing-up years no doubt quickly lost out and fell away in the face of NEW, FUN, HAPPY, EXCITING!  By the time I was conscious that I had a Great-aunt Ruth, she was older, ill, married to the last of a series of hard-drinking men, although Uncle Erv did treat her like she was made of glass.  Her laugh, which she never lost, sounded like that same glass breaking, and I instinctively loved her.  Life ended up costing her dearly … but that’s a story for another day.  

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Mesa, Arizona, in the late 1990s.  Me holding Merle’s dog Su-Ming, my dad, and feisty Merle, who at some point shed the old Myrl and moved on under her own terms.  She was a party girl like her mama, but smarter about it, turning the discovery that her husband was a serial cheater into a flush retirement.  By this time Uncle Ed had passed away, so Daddy and Merle were the only remaining direct connections to my grandparents and their era.  Merle loved to laugh, she loved people, she loved family, she loved her little dog … and everything was “Oh, kid!” followed by delighted laughter.  My favorite story was about the times a neighbor would pick her up from Aunt Nora’s house and then go get her mother.  As Aunt Ruth was walking to the car, dark-haired little Myrl would giggle and shout at her “You tan’t fit, Roofie, you got too big a BUTT!!”  

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There are a million ways to make life work and it’s a bonus to come from hardy people who knew about some of those ways.  I’m in their debt but that isn’t how they saw it — they were simply surviving, in the end doing as well as anybody at that and hanging onto a healthy sense of humor through it all.  They’d be genuinely happy to know they left a mark.

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