Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pushing My Way In

(Meme from
One of my favorite quotes: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” - Anais

Most of the time, I suppose we create the drama in our own lives – it’s viability is based on our responses to what’s going on around us.

At times of emotional upheaval (which I’m experiencing in overload capacity, lately), I tend to look inward and ponder a plethora of questions about myself. Oftentimes, I look outward and challenge the behaviors of those around me. And sometimes, I mentally or verbally attack those whom I believe are unjustly hurting me; whether I’m actually their target or not.

My energies are probably best served looking inward, because I’m the only one I can truly change. I can make an impact, either positive or negative, on those around me; those who rub me like sandpaper and those who uplift and encourage me. But, we generally change who we are from the inside-out.

Granted, people who lose a lot of weight can respond to the new-found attention they may receive and alter their behavior. But, again, that’s all coming from the inside; their response to that perceived attention. If we were to be the victim of a car accident and lose our legs, that would alter what we can do, or at the very least, how we do it – but if it changes who we are, it’s because of internal responses to what we’ve been through. So literally, the accident can remove my legs, but my response can cripple me.
(photo from
Being transparent here; when I find myself the “victim” of insults or criticism, I tend to want to lash out verbally. And while I may not confront you to your face, my sin will gravitate toward the ugliness of gossip as I tell someone else how cruel you found it necessary to treat me.

I suppose it’s some perverted picture of self-protection, but, clearly it doesn’t actually do any self-protecting. It doesn’t protect anyone. It just passes the hurt along. Someone once said that if I kill you, you die once. If I gossip about you, I can kill you a million times over. Ouch!

In my moments of tenderness and vulnerability, when I ponder who I am and what I’m doing in this great big world, my purpose in being here and how I’m influenced by all of you around me, I find there’s healing that needs to take place on a buried level; I have to search it out.

Only God knows me well enough to navigate the waters of my internal being, so I turn to Him to be my guide, for my own heart can deceive me.

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” – 1 John 3:20 (KJV)

(photo from
I can turn to my friends for support, but only God knows me inside and out, and knows me better than I know myself. Sadly, I often turn to others, expecting them to “fix” me. I know better. I guess turning to others verbally, out-loud, somehow feels like I’m validating my pain. So, I have to ask myself, would I rather think I’m validating my pain, or step into the healing I so badly need?

There’s a song in Psalm 61, I sang it often in years gone by. But, like so many of those songs, I need to dig it out again. You may remember it, too? I’ll share the song version I learned, but the actual scripture is slightly different.

Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer.
From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
For Thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Thy presence forever, I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.
Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer.
From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
For Thou, O God, hast heard my cry, Thou hast given me the heritage of Your sons,
I will abide in Thy presence forever, I will trust in the covert of Your wings.
Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer.
From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

(photo from

Can you relate at all?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'm All Thumbs

(photo from
Watching the man beside me in church type so quickly with his thumbs amazed me as much as it does my grandson to watch me use all of my fingers to fly through words without looking, almost as quickly as I can talk. No wonder they don’t bother to offer classes in keyboarding to grade school and middle school children anymore. If they’re going to use their thumbs, it’s just a matter of practice to gain speed.

Is this a “bad” thing?

Well, to me, it’s not a good thing, but I’m still learning that my way isn’t always the only good way to do things! Others may actually come up with better ways of doing what needs to be done, in an even timelier manner. Ouch!

Just because something looks new or different to me doesn’t mean I should assume it’s inferior to what I consider normal.

Having just spent some time “back home”, accompanying my mother to mass every day, I repeatedly prayed the Lord’s prayer using the word “trespass” instead of “debt”. This brought to my remembrance the story of a young boy, who, in complete innocence prayed, “…forgive us our trash passing as we forgive those who pass trash against us…”

Ponder that.

This little boy’s understanding of his prayer could be “corrected” – but, he wasn’t “wrong”.

Who has “passed trash” our way; often piling it up quickly?

Better yet; who are we burying with the “trash” we pass along?  
(picture from

1 John 1:9 assures us that: “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” – in other words, He’s faithful to forgive us of all that we do to offend Him and to clean all that “trash” off of us.

But, the people around us, whether strangers or friends, can’t always see our heart, especially if we’re busy at the work of building safety walls around it. They many find it difficult or even impossible to forgive us for all the trash we pass their way.

It’s just as hard for us to see their hidden hearts, often making it unthinkable for us to forgive them for all the trash they pile up at the door of our heart, begging us to ask, “Why are they doing this to me??”

(photo from
Recall the Lord’s prayer says, “…forgive us as we forgive…”

That line could make this a scary prayer if we don’t have a very forgiving heart.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)

Notice, we’re not led to pray, “Lord, search my neighbor’s heart and point out their wicked ways….”

What does this have to do with typing with our thumbs?

Simply to say that for my heart to be set free and be healed of the piles of damage it’s sustained over the years, and in order for my life to change course, I may need to do some things differently. I may need to look at what’s going on around me from a different point of view; I may need to ask myself, “What is God’s take on this?” – and I may have to face the fact that His point of view may be quite different than mine, or even than what I think His should be. I want to line up with Him and do things the way He wants me to, even when it costs me; I may feel embarrassed, I will be humbled…. 

But, if I want to heal and grown I need to change my thinking. I need to get out of the rut of thinking that the way I’ve always seen things is the only way they can possibly be…..

What a startling revelation!
(Meme from
Pastor recently quoted a paraphrase of the Serenity Prayer, I loved it! It went something like this:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change
The courage to change the one I can
And the wisdom to know – it’s me


(Meme from

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rock Collecting

Rock Collecting
~Helen Williams! c 1989

(Luke 19:36-40)
          Way out under the old maple tree, Mrs. Randall saw three little boys.  She didn’t care if they got dirty. They weren’t her boys. But, she did mind that it was her dirt, and that it was her tree they were playing under. 

          She was an quirky lady, to say the least. She’d never had any children of her own, and she always seemed nervous when there were any around. But, if you’d ask her, she’d say she really liked kids, however, that when they were in her yard, she was always concerned that one of them would get hurt. Then, somehow, she’d be responsible. If you knew her, you’d make up your own mind as to whether she was lying, and really just didn’t like children at all, or whether she might be telling the truth. 

          She pulled her curtains together a little so the boys wouldn’t see her watching them. They sat there so content that she hated to disturb them. They weren’t hurting anything, and how would they get hurt just sitting there under the tree? They looked so happy it made her think back to when she could last remember being that happy. She could almost hear her friend Gladys laughing now. She smiled and reminisced about what it was that they were laughing so gaily about. She sat down and thought about it for a few minutes. Then recalled that the same boy they laughed over together that day was the same boy they fought over later. 

          She turned and looked out the window at the boys. They were still sitting there with smiles on their faces, drawing pictures in the dry dirt and arranging the stones in various ways. She thought, “If they were to get mad at each other over any silly little thing, one might throw a stone at the other...”
           She stood to walk over to the door and knew she had to chase them off. But, as she opened the door and looked out at them, she knew she was being ridiculous.  “Why, I’ll just mosey over there and see what they’re up to. If I make them a little nervous or anything, they’ll leave on their own accord. I don’t want anyone to have any occasion to think that I was being mean to them or anything.” 

          So off she leisurely walked, slowly meandering in their general direction. She stopped and picked some flowers and pretended to watch the clouds in the sky. All in vain, though. The boys hadn’t even noticed her there. Johnny, the older boy, she recognized. But, she wasn’t sure who the other boy was. He was asking Johnny a question about the stones, and she had to get a little closer to hear his answer. 

          “What’s so special about them there stones? Why do you have them over there instead of over here with the rest of the stones, Johnny?” he asked. “Well you see, there’s not really anything special about them, Joe, I just plan on taking them home with me. You see I have a collection of stones,” he answered. 

          “Well, if there’s nothing special about them, why do you want to take them home? Why would you want just plain old stones like those for your collection? Most people who collect stones probably pick out special stones, like because they like their color. Or because they’re shaped a certain way. Or maybe because there’s a fossil in it or something. Those are just plain old stones, who’d want them?”

          “Me,” replied Johnny. “I want just plain old stones for my collection. See I don’t think they have to look any certain way for what I want them for.”

          “Well, stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want them for,” insisted Joe.

          Mrs. Randall was wondering the same thing, by now. Johnny said, “You see, Larry Templeton’s mom was talking at us one day and she was explaining about some story that Larry had a question about and I had to sit there and listen while she was talking. Larry took down one of his stones from his collection and gave it to me so I could start my own collection.” Joe interrupted, “Like you needed one of his to start your own collection? There’s nothing special about them anyways.”

          “Hey Joe, don’t make fun. Out of all the people in the world, do you think that God only loves the special ones and sets them aside for His collection up there in heaven?” Joe started. “No, don’t be so stupid, He loves all of us, we all have an equal chance to get into His collection. Once you’re accepted, He calls you one of His saints." The littler, yet unnamed, boy was squirming at the tone in Johnny's voice.

        "Anyhow, that’s not why we collect the stones. I keep them because Larry does. He has a pretty big collection of them. He may get to see something really neat someday, and I want to see it, too, when it happens. Let’s see if I can tell you the story the right way. First she said to me, “What’s so special about a stone?” I said, “Nothin’.”  Then she said, “So what do you think it would have to praise God for?” I said, “Nothin’,” And then she said, “Someday we might just see them do just that.” I said, “What?” She said that in the Bible there’s a story where Jesus said that if we don’t cry out with songs and praise to God, that the very stones will do it. I asked, “How can stones praise God? What would they have to praise Him for, anyhow?” And she said, “With God all things are possible. If He wants the stones to praise Him, then they will. But, He’d rather have us praise Him, but He won’t make us do it. We have to want to do it ourselves.” I asked her if she ever saw anybody praise God, and she said that yes, people do it all the time. Then she said that if I want to see people doing it for real, that I could come to church with them that next Sunday. So then Larry handed me another stone and said that it would be great if I came to church with them. So I got to go. It was pretty neat, but I told Larry that if all those people keep praising God, that we’d never get to see any stones do it.  He laughed at me and said, “Well, you never know!”
             The younger boy was staring with amazement now, at both of the bigger boys.

         "I just wish I could remember the story that Larry was talking about with his mom in the first place. But, I’ve been going to church with him ever since. Seeing people do it is pretty neat, sometimes. No wonder God would rather have us do it. Sometimes I even do. Sometimes, I can’t help myself and I just have to.”
          Joe stared hard at him for a few minutes. He put his hand out and said, “Well, aren’t you going to give me a stone and take me to church with you?”

(photo from

          Mrs. Randall laughed and they heard her. “What’s so funny?” Joe blurted out. 
          “Oh, hi, Mrs. Randall,” Johnny said with a tone of dismay in his voice. 
        “Oh John, don’t let the fun go out of this conversation just because I showed up on the scene. I’ve been listening to your whole story and I think that it was absolutely wonderful,” she said.
         Joe blurted again, “Then what was so funny?  Don’t you think a stone can praise God, or what? Or do you think that we’re just some stupid little boys telling funny stories. Well, I got news for you, I believe Johnny and he’s gonna take me to church with him and prove it anyhow.”

          “Oh no, son, I believe John. I even go to his church. That’s probably why he looked so glum when he saw me standing here. Everyone at church thinks I don’t like children, and he probably thought I was going to chase you off.  Huh, John?” she said.

          “Well, weren’t you?” Johnny replied.

          Mrs. Randall paused for a minute and knew she had to tell the truth and said, “Well, to be honest with you, at first I was. I thought that maybe you and your little friends would get into a fight and maybe one of you might get hurt. So I thought that I should come out here and tell you to play somewhere else. But, I never thought I’d discover you telling him about God. When I was little, no one ever told me about God. A lot of people did things to hurt me. So I guess my thinking is a little warped. I assume that everyone is out to hurt kids, and that even other kids hurt you, too. But, really John, you’ve shown me something very special. You’re a very loving boy, even toward your little friends here. I guess I really shouldn’t be all that surprised, huh?”
        “Mrs. Randall, I know everyone thinks you’re mean. But, since you come to church and all that, I guess I always thought that you were hiding your niceness or something. ‘Cause if you know Jesus like the rest of the people at church, you have to have niceness in there somewhere, right?” said Johnny.

          Mrs. Randall felt very embarrassed to say the least. She looked up at the clouds in the sky and tried to blink away her tears. “John, I just have a lot of hurt inside of me. A lot of things that I acquired a long time ago.”

          Johnny interrupted her and asked, “Well, then don’t you just have to forgive the people that hurt you? Won’t Jesus take care of the rest? That’s what Mrs. Templeton says.”

         “Hey,” blurted out Joe, “hey, if you go to church, do you know the story Johnny was talking about before? The one where the stones are supposed to cry out praise to God if people don’t?”

          Mrs. Randall nodded her head and told them about Jesus coming into the city on the back of a donkey and the people all praising Him, and how that if they didn’t, the stones would have. “God deserves praise just because of Who He is. So even if He’s never done anything for those stones, even they couldn’t have held back their praise. And how much more we should praise Him for what He has done for us.”

     She looked back up at the clouds and blinked away a few more tears. Johnny noticed the tears and nudged Joe and nodded his head at the smaller boy, suggesting that they go home or play somewhere else now. They stood up and the littlest boy said, “Thank you for telling us the story. Do you want to start a stone collection, too? Johnny has lots of stones here, and after all, they come from your yard and...”
             John reached out and put a stone into her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He walked away taking Joe’s arm in his other hand. They got to the edge of her property and began to walk a little faster. Over their shoulders they could hear Mrs. Randall crying. Johnny turned to the other two and said, “Don’t worry, they’re happy tears. She’s crying out praises to her God.”

            All three of them grinned and squeezed their stones.

(photo from

(This is a story from a collection I wrote way back in the late 80s.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Before I Forget

(At his favorite eatery.)
It’s what I do. I write. It’s how I process.

So, here are a few of his favorite things; a peek into the last eight years of his life here with us for those who weren’t here to share in it with him, and some of his quirks, as well.

He came to live with us eight years ago. He showed up on our 29th wedding anniversary. What a surprise! It was sudden and totally unexpected.

I’ll jump around as thoughts hit me.

He loved to spend time in the mountains, who wouldn’t, right?

Early on in his stay with us, I would even take him to some of my hiking trails. Obviously we had to take it slow, and generally had a pup with us. He got worn out quickly, but felt accomplished when we got back into the car. I’ll admit, with lungs full of scar tissue, I was impressed; the altitude here didn’t seem to make his breathing any worse than I’d seen it in Florida.

As time went on, it was drives through the mountains, rather than walking on trails. He loved riding through the Garden of the Gods, up to Helen Hunt Falls and drives along Gold Camp Road; going through the tunnels up there. He had a terrific time on the trip up Pikes Peak via the Cog Railway; I’ve included a picture of him in the box car.

(Garden of the Gods; at the Kissing Camels.)
(Helen Hunt Falls.)
(A view from Gold Camp Road.)
(One of the tunnels on Gold Camp Road.)
One spring vacation he shared with us, we took him on a two week road trip. Dave’s brother Steve went with us, too. We went down to Goodyear, Arizona – where the Cleveland Indians have their spring training now, spent a few days there. Then we headed out to California for a few days; saw the glamour and the not so glamorous sides of Hollywood. Dave and Steve checked out Disney, while Gpa and I chilled at the hotel pool. We trekked back through the Grand Canyon, whereupon taking in his first vast, breathtaking views of the Canyon he declared, “Okay, so when do we get to stop for milkshakes?” We stopped in Vegas on the way back, spending the night at our daughter, Sandee’s place, even took in the Hoover Dam. It was a well rounded, nice, long trip.

(Another view from the edge of Gold Camp Road.)
I once took him down to Texas to visit his son Norm and his family. Air travel with an older man can be hilarious, though, I’m sure it was frustrating at times. The night before we flew back to Colorado, we drove up to Dallas to spend the night before catching our flight out early the next morning. We didn’t want to be driving in the dark early morning hours. We stayed at a not-so-pricey-hotel, you know, the kind where you actually have to ask for the remote control for the television. We surely looked the odd couple, the desk clerk didn’t even ask. Fortunately, I’m still laughing about it. It was a strange thing to share a room with my father-in-law.

In the collection of pictures, you’ll see a few shots from the rodeo. He loved going every year he was able. Watching him laugh hysterically at the rodeo clowns was even funnier than the clowns themselves.

(At the rodeo.)

He had binoculars in his room, and with views like ours, I can see why he’d love to stare out the windows with them. One day he came to me and said, “That neighbor lady shouldn’t lay out in the sun like that, she’s too fat.” I shook my head and said, “Well, then just don’t look at her.” He laughed. But, I think he still watched her.

His favorite “restaurant” was the Golden Corral. Generally I think of buffets as a place for folks who like to fill their plates and go back for seconds, you know, big eaters. But, no, he’d fill his plate and eat a mere fraction of it. He loved being there, though, and “flirting” with the waitresses. He could never just leave a tip for them; he had to personally put it in their hands like it was the biggest tip they were going to get for the day. They got to know him and always greeted him when we walked in. They knew how he took his coffee and brought it to him with a smile.

He ate some strange food combinations. He loved his albacore tuna packed in oil, dumped in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and a huge dollop of salad dressing stirred in. You could smell it the minute you pulled in the driveway! (I exaggerate a wee bit, there.) His morning cup of coffee was a tad odd, too. He kept a small coffee cup in his room. Each morning, he’d carry it to the bathroom and put “hot” tap water into it, then add 3 spoons of instant coffee and at least 5 spoons of sugar, a squirt of Hershey chocolate syrup and top it off with some Coke. Mmmmm! Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?

(Another of the many mountain views.)

He had some strange “addictions” – or maybe a better word would be compulsions.

He was eccentric when it came to taping things to the walls in his room; maps, post cards, newspaper articles, notes with quotes he wrote to himself....posters he made for himself.

Glue was another compulsion. He glued most everything to his desk and dressers and sometimes to his highly coveted bookcases. From the stones he’d bring in every single time he went outside, to his pencil holders, his statues, his trinkets from the Goodwill Stores….all glued down with satisfaction. A week or so later, he’d decide it was time to move it all. He’d chisel everything off with a hammer and screwdriver, rearrange it and then glue it all back down, content that this time it was all where he’d keep it forever….until a week or two later. One day I suggested that was simply addicted to the smell of glue, to which he responded, “What? Glue doesn’t even have a smell!” He laughed at me as if I was a crazy one.

He saved hundreds of Wal-mart bags in his closet, along with empty bottles and jars and cut up Styrofoam and cut up cardboard, ceramic tiles and boards he found in our garage, etc. At any given time, his closet was also filled with moldy donuts and old moldy loaves of bread stashed away and forgotten about. I'd clean it out from time to time when he was in the shower or when Dave took him for a drive....

He left behind quite a mess to clean up when he moved into the nursing home.

Yeah - he could be pretty quirky.

(A view from the nursing room terrace.)
Oh, I think I mentioned he couldn’t hear. To communicate, we had to write everything down for him to read, which got even more frustrating toward the end, as his eye sight began to fail him, too. But, he loved the fancy reading glasses he’d picked out at Wal-mart. He was so proud of them; I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were women’s glasses with butterflies on the stems.

He read a lot, but more than he loved to read, he loved to collect books. I think he did it every where he ever lived. He was a full-blown bibliophile. In one of the pictures you can see some of the books behind him. It must have been a little painful to up and leave those book collections each time he thought the FBI or CIA was on to him and he had to leave town quickly.

Yeah, that was another quirk, he was very convinced the law was after him, not that he’d ever done anything wrong (in his eyes). We live across the street from a trail that leads up the hill to an elementary school. Parents often drop off and pick up their children in front of our house. If a car waiting for a child had tinted windows, he was quite convinced it was the FBI keeping an eye on him. He had some hateful ideas about the vengeance he wanted to pour out on law enforcement officers he’d encountered over the years.  He slowed down on insisting he had an FBI record that had to contain volumes of files when I showed him on line that we could order a copy of their file on him for just fifteen dollars. “Well, they surely wouldn’t send the good stuff, anyways,” he pouted. I even printed out the form for him to fill out at one point, but he just tucked it into one of his many files.

He had files that would make a librarian shake her head. He filed newspaper articles and headlines and sometimes just words he cut out of the paper. His fingertips were always black with newspaper ink. His files included information on espionage, his favorite subject, on foreign countries and dignitaries from around the world.

One time he insisted on reading his address book to me. I patiently sat on the love seat as he pointed out each entry on each page. He had Tiffany’s (a jeweler in New York City) address and phone number. When I asked why, told me it was crucial to have important numbers like that, you never know when you might need to call them. Of course, he had FBI numbers out the wazoo, too.

One time I heard him yelling on the phone, so I picked up the other line to see who he was talking to that deserved the wrath of Vader. He'd called Focus on the Family and was screaming at some poor soul because Obama was president and he didn't like it. The frightened girl had no clue what he expected her to do about it! I just hung up the extension shaking my head.

He had dementia, you know, so sometimes he would say some very bizarre things. While in the nursing home he proudly told everyone there that his son was a police officer; bragging that he’s the mayor’s body guard. Yet, while living at our house for those first six years, he wouldn’t hesitate to declare that the only good cop was a dead cop, right to Dave’s face.

He loved his cheap, warm beer; kept it in the closet in his room. When he first went to live at the nursing home, he was thrilled to know they’d let him have his beer there. He went through about two 30 packs a month there in the beginning. Eventually, it dwindled down to one 30 pack lasting him almost two months, though he never realized it. He thought he was so sneaky keeping four or five cans hidden away in his drawer. Like no one knew? It made him grin to have this little secret I wasn’t supposed to let anyone else in on. No one cared that he had it there.

(Riding the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak.)
He told me some horrible stories of his past; death bed confessions when he thought he was dying at various points over the years; one that even begged me to ask him if he wanted to talk to the police about it. He declined, of course. Whenever he got the flu or a urinary tract infection he thought his was doomed for the grave and became serious. Once he got a dose or two of antibiotics in him, life was back to normal. If you’d ask him, he’d tell you that his only serious health concern was his runny sinuses.

A few years back, I took him to a few appointments with a psychologist, where he was diagnosed with “alcohol induced dementia”. Ultimately, it was that diagnosis that allowed a doctor at the hospital to later refer him to a nursing facility, whether that was his wish, or not. The psychologist didn’t quite measure up in my eyes, but, Gpa Donald made me laugh numerous times over his concerns that the doctor might find out he was a communist sympathizer. I think he was quite surprised, for a minute or two, to see how bad his memory had become in certain areas. But, minutes later, it didn’t bother him at all, because he didn’t remember his memory was that bad. I wonder if I’ll be like that, or God forbid, I already am!  Once he moved into the nursing home, he and I had a running joke that it wouldn’t be long until I moved into the room next to his.

He could be difficult at times, like all of us, but I don’t recall him complaining much; unless it was about politics.

(Prospect Lake, at Memorial Park.)
(Prospect Lake, at Memorial Park.)
From time to time he’d ask us to take him to get a passport. For some reason we never got around to it. He’d say, “Everyone should have a passport.” One day Dave asked him why it was so important. He replied, “You never know when you’re going to find yourself outside of the country.” How do you hold back laughing at a statement like that? It’s one of Dave’s favorite “Dad quotes”.

He told me stories of horseback riding in California, and working in swampy areas in Florida, with a watchful eye looking out for alligators. He bragged about skydiving, he was close to 60 when he did that, if I’m not mistaken. He told me of the thrills of living in dangerous neighborhoods in Cleveland and Tampa, bar fights and mafia connections, scandalous women and jealous husbands.

He also told me of escaping death on the railroad tracks as a teenage boy when his father’s car stalled on the tracks one night when he’d stayed out at the roller rink later than he was supposed to.

He must have had a million cousins; he had stories about each one of them, too. I recall being crossed between amusement and annoyance one day at the retelling of some of the stories and said, “You know, for having one aunt on your mother’s side (who legally adopted him and raised him, an only child) and no aunts or uncles on your father’s side, you sure have a lot of cousins.” He must not have understood me, because he just laughed.

(The view from a trail at Palmer Park.)
For those of you who don’t know, his mother died in childbirth, so his mother’s sister raised him, never allowing him to meet, or even see a picture of his father. She blamed his father for her sister’s death. Her sister was told she shouldn’t ever have children, and since Gpa’s father got her pregnant, he was “the bad guy who killed her sister”.

His father remarried and had three more sons before dying quite young from heart issues caused from being exposed to mustard gas during World War I. I found the one remaining son via the internet and was able to get pictures of them and one of their father, too. Gpa Donald cried when he saw his father’s face. He shook his head and said, “He was a good looking man.” His father was an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent, or rather, an agent for the forerunner of that agency. He tracked down illegal stills in the hills of Kentucky after the war.

(A view from the nursing home terrace.)
Of course, he told us of surviving two years of undiagnosed TB and the nurses in Hillsborough County that got him healthy again. This was the primary reason he wanted his body donated to science when he passed, he thought they could learn why he survived the TB and could help others. Interesting side note about nurses, the prettier they were (at least the ones that took care of him while I was with him) the more he seemed able to hear them. Hmmm….. Guess I just wasn’t pretty enough; I always had to write notes. Not a problem!

Something to make us happy; though he never liked the idea of living in a nursing care facility, he repeatedly bragged that if you had to be in one, his was the best. He liked the food, the staff, the accommodations, his roommate, the views from the terrace, the big screen televisions and the dogs that the staff brought in daily, especially the tiny ones. He got a kick out of them each day, almost as if it was a new pleasure each time he saw them. He loved the fish tank there, the bird cage outside his room and deer that came up to the doors and window most every day.

So many times he’d point out another resident and twirl his finger by his head and laugh, telling me, “His mind is gone, he’s crazy.” I’d chuckle and write down, “You think maybe he thinks the same thing about you?” He’d throw his head back and laugh, “Yeah, he probably does.”

He was quick to point out the residents he thought were going downhill fast and give me his commentary on it, making up his own version of what was going on in their lives. Because he couldn’t hear what was going on, he had his own little world created around everyone there.

(Another beautiful mountain view. The Rockies rock!)
Before he moved to the nursing home, there were times he seemed to be going through a second childhood. He wanted to go everywhere I went, following me around closely like a puppy, or even a small boy wanting to hide behind his mother’s apron.

I visit folks in the hospital or who are shut-ins, sometimes he’d sit in the car and wait for me, other times he’d come in and people-watch from the waiting rooms. He loved to people watch.

But, in this phase of what I considered to be a second boyhood, he had a hospital stay for severe internal bleeding. While at the hospital, he insisted that I stay there with him, sleeping on the couch-like bed next to him every night. When occasionally I’d awaken from the few winks I could catch (hospitals are noisy places to try and sleep), he’d be peeking at me to make sure I was still there.

He loved to go to base. In this town there are five military bases and he saw three of them; Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy. We frequent Peterson the most, so he saw more of that than the others. He seemed to feel important after getting his hair cut at the base barber shops. He’d “sneak” copies of the base newspapers to send to his friend at a Russian radio station, like anything being made public in the base newspaper was going to be news to those folks. He didn’t get much mail while living with us, but the lady at that radio station was faithful to write to him. I have her letters in a box.

He’d call me for the strangest things, sometimes when I was right here in the house with him. One day I got a call, which I always let go to voicemail, then listened to it, because if I answered and tried to converse with him, it was more confusing for him, and this particular call he made, thinking that I was out and about somewhere. He insisted that I come home right away, that he needed me. Well, fortunately, I was in my room, just next to his, and I went to his room to ask what the emergency was. He was surprised to see me so quickly, but relieved. His back itched and he needed me to rub lotion on it. I’m glad I didn’t hurry home for that one.

(Prospect Lake, at Memorial Park.)
Then there was the day he called me to tell me that he’d gotten some blood on the bathroom floor and that I needed to come home and clean it up for him. How bad could it be, right? So, I didn’t hurry. But, when I did get home, it looked like he’d butchered a rabbit in there! Good grief! He had high blood pressure that, at that point he was still refusing meds for, and one of the varicose veins in his ankle burst and squirt all over the place like a fire hose. It happened two more times before he’d relent and start taking the medication, which fixed the problem quickly.

He was a huge dog fan, but he loved all animals. As a matter of fact, the few photo albums he had probably contain more pictures of animals than family members.

(You'll find them everywhere out here.)
One thing that never ceased to amaze me was, that despite his deafness (I’d taken him to an audiologist for testing, yes, he really was deaf and beyond the help of a hearing aid), he could somehow walk down from his bedroom and comment on the conversation that Dave and I were having in the kitchen. Hmmm. How do you not laugh at that?

I’d heard many stories about him before he came to live with us. My biggest take-away is what a forgiving heart my husband Dave has been blessed with. One day I was talking to God about that. I asked, “God, how can Dave just forgive his father for all the things I’ve heard about over the years?”  I felt like God said to me, “Oh – so you only want him to be quick to forgive you?  Aha, point well taken.

Did I always enjoy having him live here with us? No. He was paranoid and delusional, and not a clean man. But, I honestly have to admit that God taught me a lot by bringing him into my life. He showed me that in and of myself, no, I’m not always such a loving person, but that through Him, love was so much easier.

I’d like to say that I can love most anyone, now. But, no, Lord – that’s not a challenge!

(On the terrace at the nursing home.)
I’ll miss sitting on the terrace at the nursing home with him, watching for deer, enjoying the sunshine and the breezes, talking about anything that came into our heads, listening to him insist that he could walk “…if he wanted to…” trying not to let my unbelieving smile be too obvious. I’ll miss the staff at the nursing home, too. I may just go visit from time to time.

Perhaps I should have kept all those notebooks I filled with my end of our conversations. They’d show every aspect of his humor and his stubbornness, his frustrations and mine, and every little petty thing we talked about along the way. I never left the nursing home without telling him that we love him. He’d just nod his head, sometimes focusing on the floor instead of me. One day I asked why he never said it back. He just said, sadly, “I haven’t said that to anyone in a long time.” To break the tension that created, with a big grin, I wrote, “But, you know you love me.” He smiled and bobbed his head.

It seemed his passing was eminent so many times from when he first arrived in this altitude with bad lungs, to his hospital stays where it looked as though it’d be impossible for him to recover, to the urinary tract infections that enhanced his dementia, noticeably – until the day the nurse called to say he’d told them he was ready to go and he passed less than two days later. Now that he’s gone, it somehow feels unreal.

(A view from the nursing home terrace.)
I know this was sporadic, but, there are countless more stories to share, both good and bad. (I can only imagine the stories my children will tell about me!) But, it would take a book to hold his tales and this is no place for a book. Perhaps I will write a “chapter two” in the upcoming days.

I’m sure those who knew him have plenty of stories to share as well. Perhaps over time we’ll see some of them show up on Facebook.

Good-bye, Gpa Donald. I’m sure we’ll see you again before we know it.
April 23, 1931 – January 3, 2015

~Helen Williams, daughter-in-law   1/4/2015