Friday, December 30, 2016

What a Way to Go!

 The crisp winter sun warmed a living room filled with grown nieces, nephews, greats and grands, and a tree brightly gleaming for an early Christmas with Aunt Pat’s family.  One by one the children opened their gifts with joyous shouts, the adults chimed in as gift by gift opened to surprises.  Pat laughed and continued to direct who would open the next gift.  We loved her skills at directing the chaos of Christmas,  a classroom, or a school filled with teachers, children, and parents.  Pat took charge.

Her golfing friends from Prairie Dunes lovingly nicknamed her Madam President and Lemmon Drop. When she'd hug someone she admired she might say with a giggle, "I bet you've never been squeezed by a lemon before."  She loved it when we teased her because she understand that we knew her deep down inside.  We knew she loved children; she loved life; she loved organizing people. Her commitment to Civic Duty in Hutchinson, Ks made a positive impact for many.

More than anything she loved to play golf and bring friends to Prairie Dunes.  As the sometimes self-appointed greeter for generations of people coming through the doors of her beloved golf course, Pat beamed with pride. She was never short on her opinions.  One of her proudest achievements in golf came when she won the Jeanine Washburn trophy in 2003 and 2009. It had been her idea to celebrate her friend, Jeanine, by creating a trophy for the Senior woman who played the best in the annual City Tournament.
Trudy, Pat, Letty, Doris, Manon, LeeAnn, Pat Lemmon 2003

Putting was her favorite part of playing golf, and she secretly carried on conversations with the original designer of Prairie Dunes, Perry Maxwell, about the dastardly breaks and nuances of the greens. When her golf ball rolled in the hole you could see her blue eyes sparkle in delight.  However, her golf ball sometimes went sideways instead of straight ahead, causing much laughter by those of us in her group. One time she hit the ball on the heel of the club causing the ball to eject behind her on the left side. In a heartbeat Trudy and I leaped skywards avoiding a sharp blow from the golf ball.  As we stood stunned Pat merely looked at us and asked, “Why were you standing there?”  Why explain that we thought standing behind someone and a few yards up was generally a safe place to be!  After stunned silence there was laughter, and with Lemmon Drop you could count on her high pitch laughter. 
Ike, Pat Lemmon, Sonja. Book Club dinner

At book club she regularly  had a point to make. When we heard her words, "Now I have something to say."  We all turned. She waited until the room was silent, then with her strict teacher/principal look she’d hold the book up for us to see and state her mind. We might have disputed her opinion from time to time, but we remained focused on her when she spoke.  Madam President knew how to control the situation.

That early December afternoon after kisses and hugs had gone round the room for thanks and love, her niece Susan stood up to bring in the fudge that Pat especially loved.  Within the moment, Pat Lemmon, my friend, a woman respected by thousands, closed her eyes and slumped in the chair. A massive ischemic stroke had closed her eyes forever. 

I wasn’t there but I can only imagine the beauty of her smile and the gentle touch from heaven above.  She never regained consciousness and died one week later. Oh, what a way to go. 

How ironic, that her death found a way to lift my spirits and belief in the almighty’s timing.  We are watching my mother-in-law travel the long painful road to heaven, and our hearts  break each day as we see her life slowly fading away.  “Why,'  I’ve cried to God so many times, “Why does my mother-in-law have to struggle and suffer this long slow aging process.”  After hearing that Pat Lemmon, was uplifted in such peace and glory, like The Little Match Girl, I realized the truth in these words from Ecclesiastes 3:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Thanks for the memories Madam President.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

On the Road to Grandma's House

Passing a black SUV on I-35 covered in dirty snow with wrapped gifts pressed against the back windows and children sleeping on pillows in the back seat sparked a memory of long ago arguments and pinching contests with my little sister; of my dad yodeling for endless miles of hilly dark roads; of empty coffee cans used for tinkling (no cafes or service stations stayed open on Christmas eve) on those long trips from Miami, Oklahoma to Wichita, Kansas to be with family for Christmas.  

Suddenly, my imagination tucked me into the back seat of a station wagon loaded with Christmas gifts and golf clubs, sitting next to my little sister where an imaginary line between us indicated our space on the cold vinyl seats.  Luckily, KGGF, the reliable AM radio station out of Coffeyville, Kansas played Christmas music and clips from old radio shows like Fibber McGee and Molly at Christmas keeping mom and dad happy and reflective of their own Christmases past.

When Roy Rogers sang "Jingle Bells" Jingle Bells sung by Roy Rogers dad began to yodel between each stanza, mother began to sing in flat notes, my voice rattled in sharps, and Jonya sat and stared until at last she joined with her cheerful but squeaky soprano voice.  The long dark road served and bounced us around in merriment.  

My Aunt Della once bought me a little red 45 rpm record of Gene Autry singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer  It mattered not the time of year when I'd play the record and sing along. KGGF played many of the Gene Autry songs and we all joined in. The long hours on the highway didn't seem so long while we sang in the car.

But it was Bing Crosby singing   White Christmas  that seemed to bring our voices into harmony.  Even as children we knew our father had fought in the war and missed many a Christmas with his family.  My father had played golf with Bing Crosby in Southern California after the war, and that somehow made "White Christmas" and time in the Army real in our minds. 

Before long the old narrow highway pulled into Augusta and passed the stinky oil refinery. The smell woke us up out of our dreamy sleeping states, and mother often reminded us that in those glimmering blinking lights of the refinery lived the "tooth" fairies that carried away our tiny teeth and replaced them with a nickel or a dime.   

As we neared Grandma's house dad began to honk his special horn that "Mooed" making sure everyone was awake for hugs, kisses, and warm chocolate chip cookies when we arrived. 
Christmas 1953 

Merry Christmas  and Happy Hanukkah Dear Readers. May you all experience the magic of the holiday season, and sing a song.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Miracle at Glacier Bay

Grand Pacific Glacier on the right and Margerie Glacier ahead.

With our eyes glancing and gazing off mountainous peaks the Grand Pacific Glacier came into view.  Grey misty clouds covered the sun and blue skies that had awakened us early that morning, so now our sky became one with the snow covered peaks and glaciers. The sounds of cameras flashing interrupted our sense of solitude.  I wondered how we could so easily feel alone with these vast lands and ocean around us, while standing on a crowded deck with hundreds of other people eager to catch a glimpse of nature’s beauties.

The Norwegian Pearl turned toward the Margerie Glacier. In the valleys between the peaks she appeared as smooth as a NASCAR raceway, but closing in face to face she towered twenty-four stories high with jagged and daggered iced crevices.  The ranger’s voice explaining her raw strength and power to churn and eat her way through granite kept me glued to the voice on the intercom. Suddenly we heard a thunder booming sound. The water rings showed circles where the ice had fallen.

The next few minutes the great ice wall continued to break and shatter into the Glacier BayMargerie was calving and we were her witnesses.  Thunder booming and echoing tingled my senses as the grey misty breeze crossed over my shoulders.  The ranger’s voice shouted “What a grand way to sing Happy 100th Birthday to our National Parks today!” The calving continued with our screams of awe filling the air.

Then out of the misty skies my head and heart felt a new voice, one I’d not heard in many years.  “Isn’t that amazing? Finally. I always wanted to see a glacier and feel the cold of Alaska, and now I’m watching this beautiful moment with my daughter.” 

“Mother?” my voice whispered. I turned away from the glacier and searched the deck and the skies. “Mother?” my voice quivered with my heart beat.

“Remember how I loved to travel. When I was young I spent a summer in Estes Park working. I’ve never forgotten the smell of the pines or the gushing of the winds as they swept down the mountains bringing summer rains, but this is bigger than I could have imagined. Thank you.” I stood frozen in time.

“Oh, mother,” I cried as warm tears welled in my eyes, “I wish you could be here now. I wish you could see this. Why did you leave me? I’ve missed you every day.”

“I’m here now. I’m watching this only because you brought me in your heart.  I couldn’t be happier to share this moment with you.”
In a ghost of a moment so much like the one we’d experienced at her death, exactly twenty-seven years before, nearly to the hour, she floated away.  But she was not my seventy-six year old mother, nor the image of the forty year old mother I’d witnessed floating to heaven that day from St. Francis hospital.  Instead my mother who witnessed this miracle of nature at work appeared to a healthy teenager filled with spirit and a zeal for life. Her wavy long blond hair touched her shoulders and her face illuminated like the sun on a pale rose.  She wore a white long sleeve blouse with the sleeves rolled up, long dark pants and brown and white Buster Brown shoes. 

My mother, whose sudden death from sepsis, saved her granddaughter’s life and reunited a family, was with me.  Little did I realize that she’d never left me. I’ve carried her in my heart and in my head all of these years. 

It never occurred to me, when we booked our cruise the year before, that we’d be fortunate enough to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday at a National Park, and the only one on water.  What small blessings we receive from moments we never dreamed possible.

“Yes, mother, I am like you and your mother. I love to travel.  Thank you for giving me this zeal for life.”  God Bless….

For more views of calving or about Glacier Bay please check these links.

Calving at Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier