Friday, June 29, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Though I am rejoicing with the Supreme Court decision yesterday on health care, my heart is heavy. Here is the reason:

 Once upon a time in the middle 1920's an incredibly beautiful baby girl was born in rural Saskatchewan to an even more beautiful single mother of sixteen, still really a child herself. The mother, who had aspirations of being another Clara Bow in the movies, some how made her way with her baby to Seattle where she married a kindly but unromantic man eighteen years her senior but one she knew had a good job and a warm heart and would care for her precious little girl. 
As she expected, he was devoted to the child, and to another girl born a few years later.  The older child excelled in music and athletics and learning. Above is one of two photos I have the the children, taken about 1935. 
They bought a lovely four bedroom brick home overlooking the majesty of the Cascades, the Olympics and Mount Rainier. Still, her dream was to be a movie star or at least to travel widely and have adventures. Possessing both the looks and charisma to make most men drop in their tracks, she was miserable and depressed. After a while she could stand it no more and she left her children in his care to find her own fate in the world. Both children missed their mother, but made their own ways in the world. The older child, from a young age, insisted when she grew up she would marry and have ten children. Perhaps she pictured being the good mother which her own mother, though loving, never achieved; that she would in this way fill in the missing link in her own heart.
Since she too was beautiful, she married a handsome naval officer and bore not ten, but five children, three from a second marriage. Both marriages were a mistake, but though working full time she doted on her children, and they on her. She raised them to be healthy adults but with the exception of one, to be both emotionally and financially dependent on herself. The doormat was always out and the checkbook always available to bail them out of trouble, even though it meant her own sacrifice; her shoulder was always out to bear their burdens. 
Were they equipped to stand on their own two feet?  Did they know how to be productive citizens or to access the help of others? Did they know how to make intelligent decisions regarding work, spouses, and education?  Of course not. The good mother was always in their corner. Predictably when she died, each faced a troubling and unfair journey to face life alone. Each struggled and their struggles were peppered with failures; one died too young of lung cancer.
The “good mother” was my beloved big sister. This story, to be continued next week,  is about her middle child and how the family dysfunction continues to unwind generation after generation. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tribute to Bonnie the Elder

She was 86 and in my book no one deserves the kind of agony that comes with the last stages of ovarian cancer.  When Bonnie the elder, (for she referred to me as Bonnie, the younger, being 4 years her junior) died two weeks ago  I muttered “Thank God”. Of course it was just a cliché’, for unlike Bonnie the elder I am an atheist. For over fifty years I have challenged, envied and scorned her steadfast belief in a loving savior, but in the end I only had gratitude for the comfort it gave her.

Bonnie the elder’s Dad caused the family to move almost continuously. One year she went to seven different schools.  In addition when drunk, which was often, he verbally abused and beat her mother.  Bonnie stood it until about age 16 when she could stand it no more. She gave him hell and split the house.  Wandering the town she found a church door open.  She went into the darkened sanctuary and sobbed and sobbed.  After a while she felt a strong healing presence, which gave her comfort.  Though she had always sung in church choirs, she had not been a believer.  She never forgot the experience.  She was sure Jesus had his arms around her as I’m sure she still believed when the last hospice nurse to arrive compassionately administered two shots of morphine, ending the suffering for us all.

After her high school music teacher took her in, Bonnie found work in banks and clerical jobs until the day she was hired by the Hormel Girls, an all girls’ band and chorus of some note.  She travelled the country as one of their soprano soloists, selling Hormel ham along the way.  Her stories of these adventures go on and on.  I’ll relate a funny one. At some rural stop a fan gave her a chicken, a young hen. Bonnie loved it, and snuck it into every hotel room as she travelled.  Once in a hotel elevator, hidden under her coat, it started to cluck.  The other passengers looked around so Bonnie broke into a full throated musical hit, belting out the words to cover the increasing clucks of her hen. 

Years later when my miniature schnauzer had pups she bought one. Sonny was the light of her life and soon learned to sing, as well.  I call it singing, but it was more like uuh uuh uuhing, but in tempo with Bon. They spent every spare moment crooning together.  It was such a love match.  More recently she rescued a batch of baby raccoons born in her back yard. Its no wonder she left her small savings to the SPCA. 

Her charismatic spirit never left her. My life has been so enriched by Bonnie senior all these years I guess I should feel nothing but gratitude.  But I can’t help feeling anger and loss.  Her imprint will always be on me, a rich patina of laughter, caring and love. The way she looked on her 80th (shown below) captures her charisma..  Bye, Bon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

At Almost 97

I can't decide what is most to cherish: her lilting English voice, her ever cheerful disposition, or her incredible memory which puts mine to shame.  She claims she does not remember England which she left at age 4, but every so often such memories pop up.
I was thrilled to have cousin Dollie (really Doris Blanche, the latter after my mom,) and her son, Ed from Vancouver visit me last week from Vancouver.  Her outlook is fresh and contemporary. We discussed everything from her childhood memories growing up in Moosejaw, Sask. to working in the cannery as a teen in Vancouver, to women and powerlessness. "I never once saw my husband's paycheck" she comments. She feels deeply but never dwells on the death of an adult son and daughter from lung cancer.  We played a tape of WW1 songs and I sang along, her voice far clearer than mine. Here we are around my kitchen table.  Though Ed drinks only tea, Dollie loves to slup coffee with me and enjoys a glass of white wine before bed. When asked what she wanted to do while in California, she requested only  shrimp cocktail at Fisherman's Wharf and gambling at Crystal Bay. We spent a long while looking at photograph albums her son assembled of the family memories, among them photos and records about her grandparents. My g.grandfather William John was already deceased when I was young but  I can remember my great granny Emily from childhood because I loved to take naps with her and stroke her baby soft cheeks. This tiny little lady had 18 children, but only six lived to adulthood.
We talked nightly about the everything from my mother's eccentricities to the economy, health insurance, and mutual distaste of Republicans. She can hold her own in any discussion.  I look beseechingly at my little finger and bless that  somewhere I have a teeny dab of her genes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jumping with Joy June

Late with my blog this week because my almost 97 year old cousin is visiting.  More on that next week.  Yesterday two trusted Guatemalans razed an eyesore for me and I am ecstatic.  My hot tub has been broken for years and I've fretted at how to remove it. At times wood rats made their nest in it. Santos said "I can do it" and sure enough, he and a helper accomplished the challenge. Visiting cousin Ed began by taking apart the sides. Then the workers started, first sawing the thick plastic with an electric saw and then dismantling the whole edifice to earlier soothing soaking days.
Within an hour they were loading and tethering it to Santos' truck while I held my hands in a prayerful position hoping it would balance while they scurried to the Davis St Dump.
Yes, they made it ($87.00 for two cubic yards) and were back in time for a 12:30 lunch.
Kodi has been puzzled and sniffing around but I am toasting my good fortune with pomegranate juice while trying to figure out what plants or figurines I might put there.
My gratitude overflows, but maybe not as much as Santos' truck.  After lunch they raked and weed-eated the whole perimeter of the cyclone fence for fire safety and the coming annual inspection.  Gracias, good men.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Comings And Goings On Cathy Lane

Sometime in the fifties a cover of Sunset Magazine sported a picture of a Monterey Pine with the title "Tree of the Year" and encouraged everyone to cultivate them. Thousands were planted in my area including the wide median on the divided five mile drive on the crest of the hill leading to my place. No one looked ahead to consider their life span of just about fifty years nor could they foresee the infestation of the pine bark beetle which is slowly killing all of them. The one shown here in my driveway will be mulch by tonight, will improve my neighbor's view and will hit my pocketbook deeply for 2M. I hope no birds have nests in it today. It would have made a mess if it hit my carport or the utility lines.  This will be the 12th forest giant I have winced at removing in the last dozen years.
I must say I miss them all.  
Yesterday my freshmen sorority roommates brought lunch and we mused over 64 years of memories.  These days we talk easily about our arthritis, trusts, refinancing, need for hearing aids, high blood pressure, books we are reading, etc. Each time we meet its like picking up a loose thread and weaving another chapter.  Shirley and I are regretting our old dogs are getting older and more infirm and Dolores is wondering when her second cataract surgery will heal.  Shirley and I notice that Dolores' hair is turning a gorgeous white while ours are still mousey mixed with washed out white.  Here they are posing around a painting I just finished of the matillja poppies in bloom in my front yard now.
There is little wind today so I just snapped this photo. In a few minutes I'll be bringing Kodi in to shelter him from the noise of six men and several trucks sawing and grinding all day in the driveway. Since he got sick last October some changes have happened in his brain. Now to get him to come in I have to say "Sit" and he bounds in.  But if I say "Kodi, come" he instead stands immobile sometimes barking and looking at me if I have lost my marbles.  Life goes on! Happy June. .