Posted in Daddy, family

Daddy’s Gift

One year ago today, my sister called me to tell me our Daddy had just passed away. I can’t relate what the next months felt like to me. It’s one of those things that is unique to everyone who goes through it.

It was a bit sudden, and my sister was driving over to get Mom from the rehab hospital where she’d been for a few months when it happened. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that helpless before. I never want to again.

old personal pic 1954
Daddy in 1954. How handsome!

This isn’t a sad post, though. This is actually about a gift Daddy gave me through something he did afterwards. What do you mean, “afterwards”? you might be asking. Well, let me tell you a true story.

A few days or so after Daddy died, Mom was in her room at the rehab place. She was sitting on her bed, eating her dinner, when she heard something out in the hall, like a knock or something drop to the floor. She looked up, and there was no one outside. Her gaze fell on something next to the bathroom door, however. A pair of black shoes with feet in them. Khaki pants, the legs going up to just past the knees, and then sort of fading away into a mist. She saw this for quite a few moments that evening, but no matter how many times she watched that spot in the days to come, she never saw it again.

Mom told me this about a week later, prefacing it with: “I’ve told some others about this, but they poo-poohed it. But I know what I saw.” After she told me, I asked her who she thought it might have been. “Your father, of course!” Mom sounded about as happy and relieved as she could, considering the circumstances. She did tell me at least one of the people who didn’t believe her, and I can see that. I think it might have not jived with what that lady believed. That’s fine – I know Mom did see what she saw, and I know it was Daddy.

How? Well, Mom never was one to watch things like Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures or anything. She never read books like that, and neither did Daddy. If this was a product of her imagination, she would have seen Daddy’s head, face, shoulders. She would have seen his whole body, perhaps. Her imagination would never have produced Daddy’s feet and calves. I know some people will still “poo-pooh” this, but I have complete faith in what Mom saw that evening.

Daddy gave me, through visiting Mom, the assurance that there really is life after this one. That we don’t just cease to exist. Sure, I believed that before, but to have this happen with my parents (and Mom would never, ever make up a story like this, either), just proved it to me even more.

And talk about love – Daddy hung around to wait for Mom, who followed him exactly nine weeks later.

While I am still hurting over not having them around and just a phone call away, I am so glad they are together again, and honestly grateful that Mom didn’t have to go through their birthdays (I am sandwiched between them in August) and the holidays without Daddy.

Dad and Syd 5th brthday
Daddy and me at Grandma’s house on my birthday, 1973
Posted in clothes, family

My “What I Got For Christmas” Post

I figured because we are taking down all the Christmas decorations this weekend, it was time for me to do this post. Especially since I’ve been wanting to write it for a couple weeks now!

December was very temperate, about which I certainly didn’t complain. It was so nice outside that Hims and I went to one of the shopping centers on the 22nd and spent a nice afternoon walking around in the sunshine. In November, I’d seen the mall maintenance putting together the Christmas tree they display in the park area in the center. I love how it looked finished!

2015 12 22 Greene

Yes, that’s me in front of it…

2015 12 22 Greene me CU

Of course, we had our own tree at home. Actually, this was the first year since 2011 that we had it up, for various reasons. It felt good to Continue reading “My “What I Got For Christmas” Post”

Posted in family, photos

Back Home Again!

I didn’t post anything about this before, but I went down to Oklahoma City over the weekend. That’s where I grew up, and my sister still lives there. It was wonderful to see her again, and be able to hang out and talk (we don’t seem to ever do that), but the whole trip just had this weird feeling to it because both Mom and Dad died earlier this year. Normally, Hims and I would have arrived at the hotel, slept for a few hours, then gone over to see my parents. The whole trip would have been a balancing act between visiting my parents and goofing off, showing him different places where I grew up and all. Instead, we were meeting my sister and her husband over at the house our parents lived in, going through things, deciding what I would take home with me this trip. (There is still more to go through in the house.)

I feel very fortunate that there is really nothing I wanted to tell my parents that I didn’t get to tell them. Even though it might have sounded silly sometimes, I would just pop off with “Dad, I want to let you know how much it meant to me that you took me out to see Halley’s Comet that one night. Thank you.” or “Mom, thank you so much for teaching me how to cross stitch when I was a kid. I love doing that now.” I miss them like mad and wish they were still here. So many times I think “I need to call Mom and Dad today” before I remember I never can again. Even so, I’m grateful I told them silly things like I did.

On the way home, I tried taking some photos. It’s hard to do from a moving car!

2015 10 25 dawn 1
Dawn, north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
2015 10 25 fog 1
Early morning fog in the Oklahoma country.

I love the way the Oklahoma prarie looks in the morning. Especially when you have that nice, ethereal touch as the fog sits in the low areas and hovers over ponds and creeks.

Continue reading “Back Home Again!”

Posted in family, Mom

Mother’s Day Without Mom

This Mother’s Day has been a bit hard. Maybe more than a bit… My Mom passed away on April 29th, about a week and a half ago and nine weeks almost to the day after my Daddy passed.

She always smelled of My Sin by Lanvin when she dressed up, and that was when she went to school plays, piano recitals, and Christmas concerts, as well as having a nice dinner or going to a holiday Mass. She made us practice the piano: an hour for me and an hour for my sister (though I believe my sister’s time would be fudged since she wasn’t as advanced as I was, if you could call me “advanced”). She would watch “Dannysday” every morning at 11:30 with Danny Williams and a very young Mary Hart (from “Entertainment Tonight” fame), and she’d be knitting, or doing cross stitch or needlepoint, or sometimes she’d have the ironing board out in the living room and would be ironing clothes while my little sister and I were out in the backyard playing – and getting dirty, of course.

Even though she hated sewing, she used the skills her mother taught her to make clothing for the family in leaner years. Mom even taught me the basics of sewing, repeating to me what Grandma had told her: “Every young lady needs to know how to sew in case you need to mend clothing or make a dress”. Her patience began wearing thin trying to teach me, I think, just because she disliked the task so much! She knew how to cook, and between my Daddy and Mom we had good food in the kitchen.

I remember falling off my bicycle one afternoon, tumbling hard all the way off the thing. When I got up, both knees were scraped all the way across, bleeding quite a bit, with gravel stuck to the skin. An elbow was pretty well grated, too. I picked up my bike and hobbled home, hot tears stinging my eyes almost as badly as movement stung my knees and elbow. But I wasn’t crying because I’d been hurt – I was crying because the knees of the pants Mom had sewn for me were shredded even worse than my own knees, and I was worried about how she would react after admonishing me so many times to be careful playing in those clothes. Of course the eleven-year-old in me had no idea that when I stepped in the door, Mom’s instincts would kick in and she’d know instantly I was hurt without seeing me just yet. (Okay, that’s how it seemed to me, though.) Immediately she wrapped her warm arms around me, hurried me into the kitchen to get a good look at the damage, then had me sit there until she could run a warm bath for me. While she peeled off the pants, I sobbed that I was sorry that I ruined the pants, and she looked at me for an instant like I was crazy. “I don’t care about those pants. I care about you!” she told me. Things you don’t quite get when you’re a kid.

She attended Stephens College in Missouri for two years, then transferred to University of Oklahoma when her father died in July, 1950. Majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sociology, she began working for the Daily Oklahoman after she graduated. A few years later, she moved down to Houston, Texas, to work for the United Way, and there met my Daddy on a blind date. She used to laugh about the little Spider Dad drove!

“A young lady should always wear a slip” was one of the things she’d tell me that I just hated as a little girl. No one wore slips anymore! I think the battle over underthings raged from first grade through third, when I was finally allowed to NOT wear slips under my dresses. Dad, I believe, would softly walk away from the battlefield with a good-natured smile on his face about little girl problems that seemed as big as the world.

“A young lady should have a string of pearls, and should visit Europe (Florence, especially) if she can.” She went on a European trip with her roomate from college. West berlin, Rome, Venice, and Florence. She loved the Ufizzi, and would talk about her travels every so often. I loved hearing about them, and dreaming about going myself someday. Williamsburg, Virginia, is another place she loved, though she’d only “visited” it in books. I remember looking through those books all the time, imaging myself in Colonial America and in those photographs.

Mom was almost always the one to pick up the phone when I called. She would update me even on the smallest bits of news. Whenever I needed to talk, I could call my parents’ house and get one of them, and they would always listen. That’s one thing I will miss dearly.

So here is the first Mother’s Day without her, but the first of all the rest of the Mother’s Days she gets to spend again with her mother and her husband of over 50 years. I love you, Mom.

My Mommy in the 1960s, working at the United Way. Photo likely by Daddy.
My Mommy in the 1960s, working at the United Way. Photo likely by Daddy.
My parents' wedding reception, 1963.
My parents’ wedding reception, 1963.
Posted in Daddy, family, photos, Thursday Thankfuls

Thursday Thankfuls: Being My Daddy’s Daughter

For two months I didn’t write in this blog. I didn’t because there was a post that would need to be written first, and I couldn’t bring myself to write it.

Near the end of February, my Daddy passed away after coming down with pneumonia about five days before. He was only 77. Just a week before he’d told me on the phone that he’d be here for my wedding – he planned on living ’til he was at least 90.

I know this isn’t Thursday, but you’ll ignore that little faux pas, right? 🙂 Because I have always been thankful my Daddy is my Daddy, and that I’m his first-born daughter.

He played with chemistry sets with me, even while Mom gritted her teeth, wondering if we’d blow up the house or create noxious fumes that would make everyone sick. He helped me build my first model – the Lunar lander, and my second model – the B-29 Superfortress. (I loved that thing!) He had his big microscope and would set up my small microscope (a real one, not a kid’s toy) next to it and show me cells and things between the glass plates. He would set up the telescope in the backyard and show my little sister and me the moon and the planets in the Oklahoma skies, and repeatedly adjust the focus because the Earth never stands still.

One early, early morning in 1986, Daddy woke me up and got me into the car, curlers in my hair and all, and drove us out past Piedmont and into the country. I remember him getting out of the car and looking up, pointing into the sky and trying to get me out of the car. I stayed in my seat because it was cold and I was half-asleep, but I did see what he was pointing at – Halley’s Comet was overhead. We shared a love of space things, from the lunar landing in December, 1968 (I upstaged the astronauts by “discovering” my hands as a baby right then), to the Voyager launches, and the first Space Shuttle launch, as well as all sorts of science fiction shows. When I would babble on about extra-terrestrials as a kid, he would listen and tell me “I don’t see why not”.

I remember being around three years old in Minnesota, and standing in his basement darkroom. Plastic trays filled with developer chemicals and water were on the counter, exposed film and drying photographs hung neatly from a line overhead. Dad was focusing another photo on some paper with the machine that always looked to me like part of an elephant’s trunk. The chemicals made the room smell metallic in a way, but I loved it. When we moved to Oklahoma, he would set up his darkroom equipment in the kitchen at night, and pull a dining chair over so I could stand on the seat and help him swish the developing photos in the solutions with the huge rubber-tipped tongs. By this time I had already outgrown the small Kodak Instamatic camera I’d been given when I was five, and had my own Kodak to match my parents’ Konica cameras. It was heavy, but I loved it! He had his own camera shop for awhile – I can even point out where it was to this day, and then he had his own photography school for a couple years.

My Daddy was the only one who really understood why I wanted to live in Los Angeles, and why I had no qualms about moving to Ohio. He understood that I don’t just want to take little trips every now and then, but I want to live different places, experience different things. He lived all over the world in the 50s as part of the US Air Force Photography Corps. He jumped out of planes that were going down (and nearly got killed when his parachute didn’t want to open in Japan!) and saw all sorts of things. When he worked in Houston for a television station, he met The Beatles and filmed some of the last footage of President Kennedy, the day before he was killed.

So many things I never got to know about him, but so many things I did know, and that he understood about me. I was supposed to be born on his birthday, even, but decided to come exactly a week early – maybe that’s why we understood each other.

 

1940 1941 Daddy Babe Ruth
Daddy at about 3 years old with Babe Ruth in Hot Springs (or Little Rock), Arkansas. About 1941.

 

1955-56 Dad USAF_Crop
In the USAF, either 1955 or 1956. My Daddy was a flyboy! 🙂

 

old personal pic 1954
1954 in Little Rock, Arkansas. We both have the habit of carrying cameras with us!

 

Dad and Syd 5th brthday
At my maternal grandmother’s house in Oklahoma City on my 5th birthday (August 10, 1973), bringing me my cake. And yeah – I look a lot like him. 🙂

Posted in family, Thursday Thankfuls

Thursday Thankfuls: Letters

The past week got away from me – sorry! Because of that, I am doubling up on Thursday Thankfuls and Friday Photography. It’s not like I don’t have enough to be thankful about (or that there’s a dearth of photos in my stash, either)!

When I was little, Mom used to press home the importance of hand-written correspondence. Now, this was well before everyone had five email addresses and IMs and phones to text with at a moment’s notice. She made it clear that thank you notes were to be sent for gifts at Christmas and on birthdays and whenever else you might receive something. Even if you were going to see Grandma this weekend, you still wrote a small thank you to her for the sweater she gave you for Valentine’s Day. I hate to admit it, but my thank yous and just regular correspondence like that have fallen by the wayside as an adult, when a quick email or phone call “does the trick”. And that’s a shame.

My Mom has been in a rehabilitation hospital for about two months now, recovering from a stroke she had the day after Thanksgiving. The first couple days I was unsure if she would make it, but I’m grateful she did. Unfortunately, the phone in her room doesn’t seem to ring when someone calls, so I’ve only been able to speak with her a few times since she’s been there. I do, however, have the address of the hospital!

Yes, the many, many mini-lectures I received growing up are still in my head, and thankfully so – I write little letters to Mom each week, and just sent my parents a card for Valentine’s Day. To brighten up her room, I ordered some non-Valentine’s-Day flowers for her yesterday, and they should be delivered sometime today. Dad told me a few weeks ago that Mom loves getting my little letters, and I’m happy to know that. It’s another thing she instilled in me that I’m very thankful for.

The things you realize when you’re an adult, huh?

(And yes, I have been in contact with the hospital and trying to get the phone situation fixed, though that won’t keep me from sending her letters. Yesterday I was promised that maintenance will go and look at it. Hims wonders if they have long distance calls blocked from coming in by mistake, which is another thing I will ask them to check if this isn’t resolved soon.)

 

 

Posted in crafts, cross stitch, family, needlepoint, photos, Thursday Thankfuls

Thursday Thankfuls: Mom and Needlework

I’m sure this is probably a Thing somewhere, but since I haven’t seen it I’ll pretend I came up with it!

It’s Thursday, so why not write about something I’m thankful for? For this first one, of course things like “a safe place to live” and “food in the pantry” come to mind. While I am super grateful for things like that, another thing popped into my mind: needlework.

Growing up, I remember my Mom always seemed to have some project or other in her hands as she watched television. She did knitting every so often, but it seems the creative passion was reserved for needlepoint and cross-stitch. I was about nine or ten years old when she decided she needed more peace and quiet than my sister and I were giving her during the summer days, and she bought us both a sampler. It was the alphabet, numbers, and a few pictures printed in blue ink on white cotton fabric, both sisters receiving identical kits. I think my sister, who was around six or seven, got bored and abandoned her project halfway through the capital B. I stuck with mine for a week or so, finishing probably 45% of it before the summer sun and lawn sprinklers on a hot day coaxed me away from my stitching.

1969 - Mom working on what will become a needlepoint cushion for the dining chairs in Minnesota. The beagle is Pixie, and the cat in the chair is Caesar.
1969 – Mom working on what will become a needlepoint cushion for the dining chairs in Minnesota. The beagle is Pixie, and the cat in the chair is Caesar.

In 1991, I moved out to California with a bunch of friends. As the U-Haul was getting ready to pull away from the curb in front of my parents’ house, Mom held up her hand for us to wait, went inside, and a few minutes later came running out to the passenger side of the truck with an old shoebox and a couple magazines. These she passed up to me: “Something to keep you occupied on your drive!” she explained. Upon opening the box, I found dozens of skeins of embroidery floss, some envelopes of Aida cloth of different colors, an old pair of fabric shears, and that the magazines were some of her old cross stitch magazines.

I stitched my first thing since 1976 on that trip out to Los Angeles: a little picture cobbled together from bits and pieces of a sampler in one of the magazines. A few years later I took on the entire sampler, and to everyone’s astonishment I finished it!

My first completed sampler, circa 1994. Please excuse the awful creases!
My first completed sampler, circa 1994. Please excuse the awful creases!

Through the years, cross stitch has helped keep me relatively sane. It’s been a good, quiet creative outlet, and the stitch counting that goes along with it tends to soothe my nerves. (Okay, unless I screw up the stitches – THEN everything’s irritating!) It’s also something I can now turn around and give back to my Mom – and my Dad – in the form of a gift. A couple years ago I was able to stitch a project in honor of their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Hearing the happy tears in my Mom’s voice and the smiles in my Dad’s felt simply amazing.

That’s another thing: this is something my Mom has given to me. Something she learned, and something her mother and aunt learned. It gives me a connection to her and our family’s past that is unique to us – even though millions of people can stitch. My Mom is the only one with whom I have had that experience, and that in itself is priceless.

I love this skill, something I wouldn’t have if not for my Mom, her patience, and her sudden idea to hand over a good portion of her “stitching stash” to me as I left to go to California. Thank you, Mom!