Thursday, February 26, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
My dad's birthday was this week. February 17, 1922, a baby boy, weighing 8 lbs. was born to my 20 yr. old grandmother, who had been deserted by her young husband. He left Arkansas to seek his fortune in Salt Lake City and later ended up in New York. In the old family Bible, I discovered my grandmother's attempt to erase the indelible ink birthdate of my father, who had been born in Feb. following her August wedding. She had confessed to my mother that she and her mother had attempted to bring on menstruation by various home "remedies". Of course it is apparent that in order to avoid the shame and embarrassment of a unwed pregnancy (especially in 1921), that they tried to abort the life of her unborn child. Fortunately, the attempt was not successful, and my lovely grandmother gave birth to a hearty, healthy, handsome boy who would be the best son a mother could have and he would be the only child she would ever bear, though she remarried when he was nine.
Letters in the old suitcase my grandmother left me, written by my dad when he spent four years in the South Pacific during World War II reveal a son always concerned and worried about his mother, because it always ended up just the two of them. He worried that she had to work when she had health problems, and that he was not there to help her.
Dad and me.
Many years later, when my grandmother died at age 77, it was the only time I recall ever seeing my father break down and weep. He wept quietly at the funeral home; he was a reserved person who was uncomfortable with public displays of grief. The last time we saw her at the funeral, he again wept and said "Mother was a beautiful woman". It took me back a little because I had never heard him say such a thing. I loved my grandmother. I still do. I don't condemn her for being afraid and probably ashamed for her predicament. She did not have an easy time; both her parents died before she was thirty years old, and she raised my dad pretty much by herself with no financial support from my grandfather, and little help from her brothers and former-in-laws. They did assist her some, and my dad grew up close to his cousins who were more like brothers and sisters. But I guess what I want to say is that sometimes we think we know what is best for ourselves. It's our own life, our own plans. We think we know what is best for ourself--our own life. But Holy Scripture tells us that we do not belong to ourselves, but were purchased by the blood of the Lamb. I especially consider this during this Season of Lent.
Dad and my eldest daughter.
Psalm 139 tells us that "You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb...I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there--you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began."
In 1989, my Dad (who joined a church for the first time in his life at the age of 67), sat next to me in a Bible class. It was January and Life Sunday, the day when people who profess pro-life, pray and march in support of their position. The Lutheran pastor read the above Psalm, and I heard a little gasp from my Dad sitting next to me. "Why that's predestination", he whispered. Now, I am the last person to say that I fully comprehend the doctrines of predestination and election, but I do believe that God is the Creator and Author of LIFE, and that our days are in His hands. With every fibre of my being I believe that life has intrinsic value which does not hinge upon being "wanted" or "planned". And I give thanks for the life of my dad, an unwanted child, who now lives with His heavenly Father, and through me and my children and grandchildren and even future grandchildren yet to be born. My dad's life taught me that we do not always know what is best for us. Our forgiven mistakes may result in our greatest joys and blessings.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I'd go out on the ocean
There will be no mother-in-law jokes in my home! I am blessed with two wonderful mothers: mine, who lives in my hometown, and my husband’s mother, whose home is now distant. My mother-in-law and I talk often because we love each other and because we want to stay connected, thanking God that we live in the age of telephones and e mails.
This New Years my mother-in-law treated her two daughters and me to a seven-day cruise in the Eastern Caribbean and, I mean to tell you, she treated us to first-class all the way.
We lost my father-in-law in August 2007, and it was from his insurance proceeds (and my mother-in-law's generosity therefrom) that we were able to do this. He was a self-described "Old Salt," a veteran of the US Navy and a lifelong lover of all things having to do with the sea and boats. We knew how pleased he would be that we were able to do this together because of the planning and provision he left for his wife. We connected this trip so much with him that his picture was displayed in our cabin, and we often spoke of how much we appreciated him for this opportunity.
I cannot tell you how much I needed this getway and how much I recommend cruising to anyone who wants to travel. It is a luxury lifestyle I have never experienced before. I plan to do it again!
My mother-in-law had arranged for two outside cabins, spacious with an outside wall of glass and an appropriately-furnished balcony for relaxing after a fun day ashore or for breakfast when we wanted to eat in privacy or for just sipping wine at night while the ship quietly slipped through the ocean. Every afternoon we would return to our cabin to find it freshly-straightened with a little towel animal creation sitting on the bed. At night there were chocolates on our pillows. Our every request was granted and many times little whims were taken care of without our asking.
We visited Grand Turk in the Bahamas, spending the afternoon shopping, but eschewing the gorgeous beach for more rest on our home-away-from home. As we neared the ship, we discovered on the pier a treat that greeted us upon each return from port: Rolled, iced, wet towels to soothe our shopping-tired faces, accompanied by our choice of cold lemonade or water. It seemed that this staff lived to serve our every desire, and they did it elegantly.
San Juan was quaint, and we enjoyed seeing the 16th century forts and sampling the local cuisine. We trekked all over that city on foot, since it seemed the usual trams were not running in observance of Three Kings' Day.
We toured the dungeon of one fort which still had the graffiti from the unfortunate prisoners there--drawings of galleons! San Juan, itself, was beautiful with colors on the buildings and the doors and flowers blooming everywhere and gorgeous blue-black stone streets.
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands was exotic, although we found the much-anticipated shopping disappointing. None of us were in the market for jewels. It seems that diamonds and fine jewelry are the mainstay of this commerce, and there were jewelry stores lining the shopping streets. We ended up with t-shirts as our souvenirs! We were, however, pleased with the conch chowder and the Caribbean-style crabcakes.
Our last day at a port was at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, a private island. One of my sisters-in-law and I soaked up some rays on that beach, hardly believing our good fortune.
But, now that I have regaled all the delights of the cruise, let me get to the best part of it all:
Being with my family in a way that allowed us to simply enjoy each other. We did not have a care in the world while we were there, able to talk to our hearts' content, and just enjoy one another. One afternoon we spent an hour on the balcony, sipping tea and coloring in color books. The relaxation was awesome. We spent time napping and, if you think that sounds like a waste, I assure you it was not. We were all tired from the world's woes, and the respite of this fantasy trip was just what we needed. And, an added bonus: it was a chick trip. We girls could relate and enjoy in a way that only women traveling together know. It restored me, and being with them lifted me up, readying me for the reality of the New Year.
So, no mother-in-law jokes in my house! To me she is no joking matter!! - C, 2/2/09
PS - In the interests of full disclosure, there was a 24 hour bout of illness for a couple of us! But it went by the wayside and was waaaaay overshadowed by the good!