My new desk arrived this morning, earlier than I expected. I returned to the spare bedroom yesterday evening to continue my decluttering and organizing. I spent way too much time on a box full of old print photos all over twenty five years old.
None of the photos I found were taken before we moved back north from the Wichita area to the Kansas City area. Once we relocated, I switched from taking photos to taking video in VHS-C format, at least for the next ten or fifteen years, until both our kids were in college. So all the sports, concerts and family vacations are locked up on video tape that I haven’t converted to a more current digital media format.
I selected a dozen photos from the dozens I sifted through and snapped quick digital versions of them using my smartphone. I can scan these with our multifunction printer device once I get my new office setup this weekend. But for the purposes of this post, I felt this method would suffice.
My grandmother, Doris, often wished she could reconnect with her mother’s relatives in Europe in her latter years. But the ravages of two World Wars followed by the dropping of the Iron Curtain across most of eastern Europe made genealogical research nigh impossible.
I’d reached the fifteenth chapter, which began a shift of focus from the Western Front in August 1914 to the Eastern Front with the appropriate title ‘The Cossacks are Coming!’ About halfway through my commute, I recognized the name of my great-grandmother’s home town, formerly known as Stallupönen, but since reclaimed and renamed multiple times over the last century. Continue reading “Update from the Eastern Front”
September went into a tailspin about a week ago. I can’t remember the last time I actually received personal good news from family or friends. Death or dying and depression crowd around me, jostling for position and attention, blotting out my surroundings: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, crystal clear night skies bursting with twinkling stars, perfect weather any southern California native would drool over.
I woke up this morning after having tossed and turned and lost the skirmish with my sheet and pillows. Apollo couldn’t wait to jump up and greet me with a wagging tail and unconditional canine adoration. Roxy slept on, sprawled on the floor, oblivious to anything but her dreams of breakfast. I rubbed the crusty, dried sleep from my eyes, slipped on my reading glasses and woke up my Nook to see what had happened in the wider world while I pretended to sleep.
I soon read the sad, tragic news of the death of Sara Douglass (aka Sara Warneke). I discovered this astounding Aussie female fantasy writer a half dozen years ago and loved everything she wrote, especially Threshold, the first novel I found written by her. As I perused the various postings on Twitter and Facebook about her passing, I found her blog post from March 2010 she entitled “The Silence of the Dying.” I took a few minutes to read the entire post, after which I couldn’t help but shiver, especially after the seemingly prophetic nature of the most recent Doctor Who episode “Closing Time” wherein the Doctor seems to fall apart (emotionally) as he approaches the day of his death (flashback to the start of this season and the “Impossible Astronaut“). He even utters some dialog containing the words ‘silence’ and ‘dying.’
After reading Sara’s thoughts on how modern society sticks it’s head in the sand with respect to death (and the dying), I pondered my own situation. Part of my September tailspin centers on a sharp worsening in my health. Par for the medical course, I’m running the gauntlet of various tests, procedures and eventually a biopsy (scheduled for mid-October), all of which amounts to endless waiting for results and the accompanying anxiety. Just as Sara describes in her blog post, I prefer to keep silent, as I don’t want to appear ‘weak’ by complaining. Of course, at this stage of the ‘game’ I’m not in much pain or discomfort (not compared to what Sara or other cancer victims endure). And I must put up a good front for my husband, one of the chronically ill routinely maligned or ignored by modern day society. He needs me to be ‘strong’ and I will remain so as cheerfully as I can.
Normally, I look forward to the beginning of October and the advent of autumn with peace and joy in my heart. Of course, the fact that my birthday occurs the day after the first of October wouldn’t have anything to do with that would it? But this year, no birthday cake with sputtering scores of candles will great me. Instead, my husband and I will travel south, to his home town, to console and support his life-long friend and his wife in the sudden and unexpected loss of her mother, so soon after his mother’s death. Oh, and their dog died last week in the midst of all this family tragedy.
I am full of unanswered questions and troublesome, uncomfortable thoughts today, ones that I wish I had the courage to shout out on a street corner to the self-absorbed oblivious passersby. Rather than deprive a homeless person of their accustomed spot, I will jump up on my bloggity soap box instead.
From a Christian worldview, I can understand some of the silence surrounding death and dying. Jesus conquered the grave, therefore, it follows, that we can sweep this whole messy business of dying under the proverbial rug. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic). Yet, even Jesus wept (and raised Lazarus from the grave). Jesus also suffered, but not silently, and died, nearly alone, on a cross we nailed him to, at a crossroads dung heap outside Jerusalem. Two thousand years later, we’ve sanitized and compartmentalized dying, hiding it from ourselves so we can ignore the writing on our own walls.
I ask that you stop for a moment and spend time, yes, that very precious commodity you can never, ever get back, with a friend or family member who is dying. Don’t send flowers, or stuffed animals or Hallmark cards. Give them comfort. Don’t expect them to put you at ease about their situation. Embrace the truth. For you know, it’s not ‘if’ we’re going to die, it’s when. We’re all dying. And I, for one, will not go silently into the night.
I saw the waxing moon last night near Spica and Saturn. Twenty-two years ago, the moon was full while I labored to bring Rachelle into the world. Compared to her brother three years and four months earlier, childbirth the second time around was quick (but not painless). Terry and I got to the hospital room sometime between midnight and two o’clock, and by 6:24 a.m., we were the proud parents of a six pound twelve ounce baby girl. Later in the morning, I weighed her down with the longest name in our Mossy microcosm: Rachelle Gwendolynne. The first feature I remember from that day were the fingers on her hands … long and beautiful.
In 1990, just before (or after … ah the memory fades as I age) Rachelle’s birthday, we traveled from Wichita to Easton to see my mom and dad’s almost finished new home. My paternal grandparents were also visiting and wherever the Andreas gather, there you will find a multitude of cameras and the obligatory (and in some case less refined) posing for family snapshots:
Once Rachelle was old enough to walk, she participated in my brother’s wedding as flower girl (Derek was the ring boy):
I knew Rachelle would be a musical phenom from an early age (she was singing before she talked I swear), but she also excelled as an artist (both 2D and 3D). Here is her self-portrait for 2007, done as an art project her senior year in high school:
One of these June twelfths I hope to spend this most happy day with my daughter. One of these Junes she will actually be here, near me, rather than hiking the mountains of Colorado (June 2007, 2008, 2009) or half a world away in Germany (June 2010) or on a jet plane to Boston (June 2011). Perhaps twenty twelve will be the year I hug my daughter on June twelve and wish her a very Happy Birthday in person.
The first anniversary of my Grandmother’s passing is tomorrow, which also would have been her eighty-ninth birthday. I preserved an electronic copy of her obituary and my memories (compiled a couple of days before she died). I still have not had the courage to view the video I recorded of her memorial service held last June at Foxwood Springs chapel. I at least backed the raw video files up to a DVD though (something I should have done months and months ago).
All of Doris’ children are gathering in Ohio to attend her youngest granddaughter’s wedding this weekend. I shall miss them, as I miss her, and wish Katy and her groom abundant joy and prosperity in their new life together.
I can’t seem to shake this funk I’m in. All motivation for any activity has evaporated from me. I could blame it on the heat, but that would be a lie, since I’ve felt wonky from back in May when the lows at night were still in the 40s. I have many hobby and home projects I could be planning and prepping, but the minute I get home, I just wilt.
Terry tries to make me smile in many gracious and loving ways, and it helps me get through the evening. He makes fresh sun tea for me and greets me at the door with a tall glass of it. He grills and smokes the most amazing cuts of meat. He creates delectable appetizers, salads and side dishes, all ready and waiting for me the minute I get home. And even though he’s chronically ill, he manages to keep the house in tip-top shape, despite Apollo’s ability to shed three or four times his weight in fur.
I complained about cloudy skies, yet when the clouds disappear and the sun bakes the Midwest to a toasty 100 degrees in early June, I can’t be bothered to drag up the telescope and attempt to see the supernova in M51 (near Ursa Major). I can’t justify staying up late (and by late I mean past 9:30 p.m.), waiting for the sky to darken, since I must be up by 5:00 a.m.
I forgot to buy a birthday card for my daughter, who turns twenty-two this Sunday. Not that she’d be home to receive said card. She’s traveling, again, to Boston next week. In fact, she’s on a plane Sunday (her birthday). It’s been five or six years since Rachelle has actually been home (or even in the same state as me) to celebrate her birthday. She tends to travel routinely on her birthday. Last year, she turned twenty-one while studying abroad in Germany.
I opted to stay home this weekend and not travel like the rest of my father’s family to Ohio for my youngest cousin’s wedding. My dad is on the road now, heading east, while his brother is on the road, heading west from Virginia. The impromptu Andrea family reunion will converge upon Ohio this evening and continue throughout the weekend.
Next week, my mom is scheduled for surgery, for which I’m taking a day off to transport her to and from the hospital. At least she has finally found a blood pressure medicine that has few side effects. The following day is my aunt’s birthday, another one I routinely forget but this year I will get a birthday card and I will send it to her. I even put it on my calendar with double reminders to text me on my cell phone.
And a week from this Sunday, is Father’s Day. I’ve reminded the ‘adult’ children to get their cards and gifts in the mail soon. I just hope my dad makes it back from Ohio in time to celebrate, not that we need an excuse to take him out to dinner.
My son and his wife are prepping for their interviews. More on that after the fact, as I don’t want to jinx anything.
I used the word (or contraction of two words to be precise) ‘can’t’ many times in this post, something I usually avoid vehemently. I strongly believe that ‘can’t’ never did anything. Perhaps if I purge ‘can’t’ from my system, I’ll also free myself from this funkiness.
We (Terry and I) were the proud parents of our number one son, Derek.
We lived with Terry’s dad, in a small ranch on 34th street just shy of the Big Ditch in north Wichita.
I worked for an insurance agency in downtown Wichita, Kansas.
Terry went into business for himself that spring, after Derek was born.
While searching for something, I stumbled upon our marriage license, ready and waiting for a Justice of the Peace to sign and declare us officially married on May 1st at the Sedgwick County Courthouse.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, . . .
Median Household Income (current dollars): $24,897
Cost of a first-class stamp: 22 cents
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in 1986 was: 93 cents
The Oprah Winfrey Show hits national television. (Not that I ever watch her show, but she is ‘iconic’ to our times).
The Academic American Encyclopedia is available on CD-ROM. It is the first reference work published in this medium.
Nintendo video games introduced in U.S.
The Voyager 2 probe passes Uranus in January, returning images and data on its moon, rings, atmosphere, interior, and magnetic field.
Halley’s comet yields information on return visit (April 10).
The Challenger exploded soon after launch in January, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
Chernobyl was making big headlines in the Spring of 1986.*
My family tree is full of veterans who served this great nation of ours. I can’t begin to list all of them, or even get their ranks and service times correct, since I don’t hold those records currently. My father is the genealogical guru at present for the family. Some day, I know, the torch will be passed to me, but I pray not any time soon.
My great-grandfather, Rev. John Hodge, served in the Army at Ft. Leavenworth in the 1920s (and probably the 1930s, but again, I’m not the expert on this information). I remember him as the pastor of the church I grew up in, the Easton United Methodist Church in Easton, Kansas.
Both of my paternal grandfathers served in the military. Daniel Dempsey, my father’s biological father, did, but I don’t remember what branch. I remember him as a bagpipe playing Shriner and all around musician and showman. My dad’s step-father, Ralph Andrea, served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and in the Air Force during the Korean War. He retired either as a Lt. Col. or a Col. I remember him as a fun grandpa hosting us for summer visits to St. Paul, Minnesota where he worked for 3M until he retired yet again.
My uncle (my dad’s brother) is a retired Air Force Colonel. He lives in Virginia, after a long stint in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He dabbles well in watercolors, writing and reading books I mooch, swap, trade and bargain buy for him like mini-Christmas gifts year round. One of his authorial projects include stories his dad told him of his war and military experiences. Someday, I hope to be an alpha reader for that project.
A couple of my mother’s brothers were Marines and one or two of my cousins (from among her five brothers and sisters’ offspring) also joined the military.
For many months I carpooled with a veteran of the Army, whose wife is also a veteran. Many of my fellow church members are either active and/or retired military, veterans one and all.
I even thought of joining the Air Force when I turned eighteen; my dream to be a fighter pilot. Sadly, that was impossible in 1982, since women were forbidden combat. My hat’s off to the women who blazed the trail without me.
My whole heart, my whole being thanks each and every veteran, whether I’ve met them or not. Your service is unequaled, your courage unmatched.