July 4

Questioning the recent misuse of the word patriot – for July 4th I share words from a few Americans who loved their country and made a difference, and who might not be so happy with current events.

Mark Twain “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” .

Theodore Roosevelt “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed; We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (in her 1845 Declaration of Rights and Sentiments) revised Thomas Jefferson’s words to read “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” She also wrote “A government is just only when the whole people share equally in its protection and advantages.

Happy 242th birthday United States, a work in progress, needing revisions, updates, and lots of fine tuning, but still viable with many good traits and good people. 🇺🇸

Have a Happy 4th!

Finding Hope

31 years ago I visited a German friend who lives in Nurnberg, a beautiful medieval town heavily bombed by allied forces in WWII. It had been targeted because Hitler had made it the home of his Nazi Party. The bombing had been called a “near perfect bombing”. The casualties were over 6,000 dead, 90% of the ancient city destroyed, the few historic buildings that remained heavily damaged.

After seeing evidence of the damage even decades later, and attending a Good Friday service in a famous church where art had been hurriedly stored away before the church was bombed (it was later rebuilt, as was most the city), I asked an older couple, friends of my friend, who were young folks during the war, if they were angry at Americans and others for the bombing and damage done to the city. Surprised by the question they answered no, they were embarrassed, and felt a sense of responsibility for what happened in their country, that Hitler came to power. They thought many, if not most, Germans felt that embarrassment.

Will there be a collective sense of responsibility in the United States by any group of citizens, or all of us, if our country continues on the racist, white supremacy, isolationist agenda of the current administration and those who support it? Those were my thoughts following recent Supreme Court rulings; the latest news on the detention camps; and so much more that is in the headlines.

Then I scrolled through my Facebook & Instagram feeds and saw photos of and read stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary and kind actions to help those who are impacted by government actions and the values that are currently sanctioned by the administration. I read of organizations whose activities and goals represent the values I have of honoring all who want to live their lives in safety, raise their children where they can grow, thrive, have meaningful lives and contribute to wherever they call home.

I have hope we will not be embarrassed, we will each say we did the best we could in resisting the destruction of those values. And I hope we do so in positive ways, with positive actions that do not mirror or in any way ‘feed’ the hatred.

May the activists “in the field” have strength and stamina in the elections and courts of law. May the angels volunteering and working to help families on the borders and in the detention camps be blessed. May we all help, however we can, those in communities impacted by economic devastation as government policies attempting to isolate and alienate us from the rest of the world through economic channels hurt those in this country. Also needing help are those whose health care, education, and jobs are taken from them due to funds being cut and channeled elsewhere. Those in our elected government who are resisting this agenda need our support and our votes. To those whose offering is prayers….may those prayers have power.

Where to you find hope? What actions can you take?

A mother’s love – Mother’s Day musings

Happy Mother’s Day to all mamas! 💜 Including mamas to be, grandmas & all women who offer nurturing and mama love to those who may not be their children. 💕

I know many remarkable moms of all ages and I am in awe of them all, especially those of my peers who I’ve watched go from young, often bewildered, overwhelmed (and tired!) moms with babes, facing the endless challenges of self-growth while growing children. Whose mothering has been driven by tender hearts and fierce determination to protect, nurture and steer their “kids” down their own unique paths of growth & independence. I’ve watched these women discover who they are as women and mothers as they mastered the most challenging and rewarding calling.

As a social worker I’ve also seen so called “bad” moms, women who could not find in themselves the strength or spirit to fulfill the job. As a counselor, I’ve heard many stories of women whose mothering fell short of what their children, now grown, needed. I’ve heard these stories from their grown children.

Motherhood is not all or nothing, it has many gradients. Some women’s lives take a turn down a different path after they become mothers and they are not able to be the moms they wanted to be.

There are all sorts of studies made and books written about what mothering is, defining motherhood, attempting to answer questions such as: is it learned or instinctual? I recently read some touching articles about women who, due to the circumstances of their lives, gave their new born, or yet to be born, babies up for adoption. In these stories it is clear their decision to do so was a decision of the heart, a decision guided by love.

When I listen to a woman talk with concern about her children, now old enough to make their own life choices, and wonder, as their mother, if she guided them right and taught them all they needed to know, the worry I hear is coming from the heart.

An older friend who has three children, all rather eccentric, with physical or emotional challenges, has said to me “at least none of my kids are in jail or doing drugs.” She had many challenges in her life while trying to be a mom, and wasn’t always “there” for them, but she always cared about them, loved them, and though their lives now are not easy, and this brings her sorrow, they are all good people. No one failed. Love was present.

With his permission I share my husband Mike’s story, at least a summary of it. When he was 9, the oldest of three kids, Mike’s mother was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. (Given the time period this happened, it is unclear whether her hospitalization was appropriate).  Mike and his younger siblings were simply told was she was sick and in the hospital. During this time his father divorced his mom, eventually remarrying. When, after three years, his mom was released from the hospital, she was allowed to spend Sundays with Mike, his brother and sister.  These days together often involved time in Nature, perhaps on picnics together.  Later, as a young man, Mike lived with his Mom for 6 months when she moved to the east coast for a few years. They talked a lot about that time in her life, her thoughts about motherhood, her concerns for her children during and after her hospitalization. She felt guilt and had concerns about how her children were raised. Mike assured her they were all good people. (I can vouch for that!) As adults, and in time, they each established their own relationship with her. She was a woman whose life took her down an unexpected path, she was not the mother she, or others, expected her to be, but she never stopped caring about, and loving, in her own way, her children.  Mike attributes much of his own sensitivities, love and appreciation for Nature to his mom. He remembers the picnics with her and her love of the ocean.  Like all moms, she influenced who he became, in spite of her own struggles, of not ‘being there’ for her kids, and perhaps being seen by others as an unfit mother.  She loved her children, they all loved her in return. That is motherhood.
I’ve come to believe that unless there is deep mental pathology making mothering impossible due to disconnection and cruelty, most women who become mothers do the best they can, in whatever way they can, to care for their children. For some that may be sacrificing being in their children’s lives, but continuing to love them. Maybe the mind, or the body, does not fully sign up for the job, but the heart is always present.

Love to all mom’s for loving.

Related posts: Moms & herbs, Mother’s Garden, Mother’s Day & Cowbirds

Because my mom was a lover of flowers I chose some quintessential May flowers to post with this. Below is the Japanese Garden in Seattle.  Mom loved everything Japanese, the food, the art, and especially the gardens.

Arbor Day Giants

spring flowers

It’s a day to celebrate the trees.  If you plan to hug a tree, you might choose the majestic Big Leaf Maple, a native to the west coast. You would, however, have a challenge getting your arms around these gentle giants.  They are pollinating this week, covering everything in a fine yellow dust. The pollen settles on every surface and outlines the leaves of all the plants below its canopy as it settles into the thin lines caused by the veins of leaves. It is making me miserable with itchy nose and eyes, but it does not alter my love affair with them. I’ve never seen such heavy pollination from these grand trees as is going on this year. I pick up a lawn chair to sit in the warm sun and a yellow cloud rises from it!

Mature Maples can grow to 100 feet tall with a canopy spread to 50 feet. Their protecting branches are umbrellas in a spring rain and shade shelter on a hot summer day. I have measured leaves 12″ across. They are the largest North American maple tree.

Everyone loves Big Leaf Maples. The sapsucker is back for another year of nesting in the ones on the driveway near the house. All our resident woodpeckers dine on Maples regularly. Squirrels make them their homes and use them as their highway system. Covered with thick mosses of various colors and species, there are micro worlds on each tree, bugs living busy lives who never leave the tree. These mossy worlds are the 24 hour diners that attract all manner of birds and critters.

People too can dine on these big Maples. The blossoms of Big Leaf Maple are edible, you can add them to spring salads, and those whirly seed pods, called samaras, can be eaten, usually with the ‘wings’ removed and often cooked. Though dried they can provide winter nutrition, they are better and less bitter when greener. Native people would peel young maple shoots in the spring and eat the tender flesh.

Though the sugar content is low, you can make syrup from Big Leaf Maples. The US Forest Service has a 1972 brochure on how to do this. https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/rn181.pdf

fall color

Coastal tribes used Big Leaf Maple wood to make many functional items from boxes to dishes and pipes and paddles. The inner bark can be made into baskets and rope.  Maple wood is used commercially for furniture, interior trim wood, and musical instruments. Sadly, here locally, poachers have cut giant Maples off private land to sell for the prized wood.

Big Leaf Maples  die slowly, occasionally letting go of an old rotting branch. The giant limbs fall to the ground in wind storms or when their weight is too much for the tree to bear, where they continue to be a home and a food supply for many critters.

In the fall, if the weather is right, the huge leaves of this gentle giant of a tree turn bright yellow (if a wet fall, they turn more brown before falling) and carpet the ground, eventually rotting into the soil around its base, providing nutrients for the baby Maples that will grow from the those whirly, rotating seed pods as they too make their autumn descent.

These giant yellow trees are a beautiful contrast to the evergreen trees who are their neighbors throughout their coastal homelands.

Other tree posts:

Oak Lady of San Juan Island

For the Love of Trees

Jody and the Cottonwoods

Flutter Tree

 

“High Priest of Spring”

A poem for April, National Poetry month.

My dad was a man of business, but he had a romantic, poetic, creative side to himself which he didn’t really begin to nurture until his last years when he began to sketch, etc.

IMG_2366Every spring, as the wild bleeding hearts begin to bloom, turning the woods here into a fairyland, I think of this poem by him, found after his death. I posted it 6 years ago, but I still love to share it.

IMG_2372

Is it a good poem? I don’t know, but it shows his sensitive attention to and appreciation of the details of life unfolding on this shared land. It expresses his observation of life around him. Is that not what many poets write of?

It’s a delight to see this side of him, and sad we never walked the land together in the spring. He was all about business and “projects” when he was here. But he must have had his private moments with “the High Priest of Spring.”

dad's golden pond032

Dad was a Nature lover, very active in Sierra Club & supporter of Nature Conservancy. I call this his “On Golden Pond” picture.

Happy Birthday Mom

Picking a bouquet of wintered over pansies yesterday, I thought of my mom, whose birthday is today. She was born 4/3/21, a date easy to remember!  Pansies were the first of many shared favorites. With her encouragement, I planted them as my first childhood gardening experience. I’ve written of mom and her love of growing flowers before, it’s a memory that makes me smile. It was a part of her that lasted until almost the end of her life, as other parts of her fell away.

I got out these favorite photos of her. One, which I never saw until I cleaned out my folks house, is her as a young, confident woman in 1942, post engagement, but two years before marrying my dad.

The other is us at Rialto Beach just after her 90th birthday. When I realized Alzheimer’s was going to take away her enjoyment of things she loved, I asked where she’d like to take a trip. She loved to travel, and traveled both internationally and throughout the U.S. with my dad and on her own after his death. Without hesitation she said “the seashore”. We made two trips to the ocean, one to Mt Rainer, and one to Anacortes.

The first trip was so much fun, she had not been to the ocean in years. She sat pointing to rocks on the beach with her cane for Mike to pick up. The three of us watched the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen at the coast.

I’ve written several times about my mom lately. After she died I was so worn out from the challenges of her care the last years of her life, and I had to immediately face my own challenges with breast cancer, a mastectomy, and so on. I felt little grief, just a sadness and relief.  Over the years I occasionally sort through remaining photos and memorabilia from her life and, as I mentioned in my last post, it has both brought alive a woman I did not know, pre-motherhood, as well as reminding me of who she was pre-dementia. These are not sad memories. On the contrary, they give me back my mom, the fullness of her life, the multi-faceted person she was.

My heart goes out to anyone witnessing a loved one going through any form of dementia. Keep alive memories of who they were/are regardless of how the disease is changing them. Remember always the person you’ve loved and shared life with as you adjust to this new person they are becoming, the changes that are happening, too often too fast.  I felt I was constantly establishing a relationship with someone new, yet I’d see my mom’s spirit shine through in little glimmers.

Here’s some pansies for you mom.

(header photo: Mom at LaPush, ocean trip #2, waving to us on the beach. She was soooo happy sitting and watching the ocean.)

 

International Women’s Day

A powerful experience for me of shifting perspective has been reading my mother’s letters and diaries as well as going through piles of old photos. Old photos are not just pictures of old people, old photos are, for the most part, pictures of young, vibrant people who were our parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, great grandparents, other relatives, and their friends. Though I might have known them (some I didn’t) and/or heard their stories, when I see the stories the pictures tell, or read my mother’s writings, I meet young people, especially young women, who I did not know because who they were then is not necessarily who they were during my time with them. In other words, before our parents became parents, they had lives! And even after they became parents, how many of us, as young children, were that observant of our parents and other “older” relatives to see who they truly were…complex, amazing people who had more going on than their relationship with us.  My parents told us stories of their lives when they were younger, but to read those stories not from the perspective of a parent recalling and telling a story, but in the present, in the first person, is a very different perspective.

Two of the ‘next generations’ of women in my family, my niece Kira & her daughter Natalia. They are as awesome as their foremothers!

On this International Women’s Day I think of all the amazing women in my life, my heart is especially touched by the young women I know – raising families, farming, teaching, going to school, following their dreams in a world that too often feels hostile and unsupportive. And I am reminded of the generations that came before my own, the young women a century ago, more or less, who were also following dreams, or perhaps NOT following their dreams because there was no support for them to do so in a crazy world where women’s status was much different than today. (yes, I know women’s status in so many places and in so many ways has not changed). They too were living in a world that seemed to be falling apart with economic decline and war, whether WWI or WWII.  There was racism, bigotry, drugs, the whole package, the same though different.

The economic depression and her parents eventual divorce was hard on my mom and her family, there were days food was scarce. She would tell us these stories, but the letters and diaries, written at the time, never mention it, they are the writings of a young woman, they sound like a teenager of any era, (except perhaps for the phrases and expressions used!) and later, like a woman in love and planning her future with her best friend and husband.

mom on the beach with her 3 ‘kids’.

Women in their 20s and 30s today are not likely thinking about their great grandparents stories, for my peers and I are the grandparents, great Aunts, ‘older’ women of their world, and we have our own stories! I hope we will also share the stories of those who came before us not as stories of ‘old people’ but stories of young women who thrived, worked hard, grew strong and laid the trails that became the roads, that still need to be made into super highways for women going forward. My mother worked full time while raising three children, and in spite of the term “latch-key” kid that was used at the time for children of working moms, I never felt neglected or alone because of her work life.  Her mother had worked, especially when left to be a single mom during the depression.  I did not have a concept of women not working and always knew life was about finding meaning work (mom, who told me stories of them, liked her jobs, most of which were office jobs). Looking back I think she was quite the super woman!  But of course I didn’t think in those terms at the time.  Her work paid for the ‘extras’ in our lives – music lessons, dance lessons, scout camps, and for me, her income and my own paid for my college education. (I was not daddy’s little girl!).

Happy International Women’s Day to all women and the men who love, honor, cherish and respect them.

To those who don’t…….be scared, be very scared! There is a league of women backed by the spirits of those who walked before them just ready to change the world as you think it is!

(just had to add that!)

 

The troubled waters we are in

The troubled waters of hate and violence we are collectively in are deep and the long-term answers to our own safety, as well as our evolution as a caring culture, are complex. This is my humble attempt to discuss how mental health services as a solution to violent shootings is a myth.

My introduction to mental illness was as a teenager. A boyfriend had spent time, before coming to the school where I met him, at a school for young people with emotional problems. He eventually left the school where we met, returning the year after I graduated. That year he tried to commit suicide. He was a nice guy. In my teens I didn’t really understand what his emotional problems were, though he talked with me a bit about them. Another boyfriend saw a psychiatrist once a week. Another classmate, an unattractive, geeky chess prodigy with few social skills, committed suicide over an “older” women he met at a chess match. I’m sure she never knew of his infatuation or reason for taking his own life.

While in college in Washington D.C. I had more experiences being around people with mental health challenges, people I met from the D.C. community (no, they weren’t politicians).   Wanting to be a historian, I primarily studied Asian countries. Courses in the history, anthropology, art and philosophy of Asian cultures filled my two years at American University before I transferred to the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in social sciences. I did not know these early experiences around people with mental health troubles foreshadowed my eventual work as a social worker, including working in mental health services with people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders.

I was never afraid of my teen-age boyfriend, not then nor years later when he visited me on the west coast. In retrospect, what I did learn about him (some of it from his mother, including his putting cigarettes out on his arm when he was in the school for emotionally challenged children) indicated he likely had schizophrenia. There were few medications available at the time. Though he had an intensity that could be scary, I never thought he’d harm me, he had a kind heart. Other troubled people I knew never seemed dangerous, not only at the time, but also in retrospect after years of working with people struggling with mental illness. When studying for a Master’s degree in psychiatric rehabilitation I read pages of case histories, none were about people dangerous to others. In the years I worked one-on-one with people whose hallucinations, voices, delusions, mood swings and other serious symptoms were very debilitating for them, causing them to be isolated and often behave in bizarre ways, I met with them in their apartments or community settings, where I might have been considered vulnerable compared to those who saw them in clinic settings, yet there was only one person I felt uncomfortable with. I learned people with serious psychiatric disabilities were more likely to harm themselves than others. Statistics back this up. It may happen, but that is not the norm.

If you add personality disorders, and/or drug induced symptoms, you change the picture, and the person.

“there are no reliable cures for insecurity, resentment, entitlement and hatred.”

This quote, from an excellent editorial in the New York Times, “The Mental Health System Can’t Stop Mass Shooters”, could be describing characteristics and attitudes of many people, including some successful politicians who think of their own financial gains over the needs of those they are supposed to be serving; corporate heads who show little concern for the welfare of their employees or the communities where they dump toxic wastes; professionals who take advanced of vulnerable, trusting clients; coaches, teachers, actors or anyone who sexually abuses those they have authority over. The list goes on. These people have personality disorders*, often narcissistic personality disorder, sometimes borderline personality disorder, and they live and work in all areas of our society. Some, not able to be successful within socially acceptable means or the acceptable definition of success, or unable to get the attention they need*, may commit heinous crimes such as rape or murder. They feel entitled to have what they want and someone got in the way of their gratification, someone pissed them off. The difference between the former list and the later example is a matter of opportunity or degrees on the continuum of personality disorders, or both.

People who have narcissistic personality disorder, or borderline personality disorder, are the “mentally ill” who do the most damage to others, and they are the least likely to seek help, or benefit from it if they do. It’s everyone else who has a problem, not them. They are rarely diagnosed.

The issue of mass shootings is not a mental health issue solvable by offering mental health services to individuals (though better mental health service are always needed). It is a societal issue where many people have become desensitized to others, where narcissism is becoming a “norm”, replacing empathy and compassion for, and cooperation with, others. Where those most in the limelight are setting a standard of “I’m right, and anyone who disagrees with me, or doesn’t give me what I want, is wrong and doesn’t deserve ______. ” Fill in the blank – food stamps, a job, health care, social security benefits, the right to live in the country of their choice, or maybe to live at all.

If you do not believe this has become a “norm” take time to read the comments written under many on-line articles or Facebook posts. See how people respond to those they disagree with, or whom they do not share the same values or perspective. (You can also read the articles listed  below addressing this societal problem.)

People with personality disorders are often liken to 2 year olds in their emotional development. They, like 2 year olds, should not have access to guns, nuclear weapons, shouldn’t be politicians, shouldn’t be playing with dangerous chemicals, or the rights of other people.

Mass shootings occur because people who are, or at least pass as, mentally healthy can buy weapons designed for mass killings, weapons designed ONLY for killing people, not for hunting deer, not for target shooting, designed to kill as many people as possible.

As long as this new “norm” of narcissism, of “entitlement”, is sanctioned by the role modeling of public figures there will be killings. Making the weapons unavailable for mass shootings is only a first but crucial step to ensure better safety for others. The other steps are complex and require honest reflection how, as a society, we got to this place of narcissistic entitlement. This place of “me first”, others be damn. Of hate, not love.

*Definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: grandiosity, lack of empathy for others, need for admiration and attention, described by others as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, demanding.  A person with NPD may concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their success, brilliance), be convinced they deserve special treatment, believe they are superior or special, have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat. They frequently take advantage of others to reach their own goals, can be charming to achieve to those goals, disregard the feelings of others, need constant attention and often go to extreme behavior to get it.

Borderline Personality Disorder has many of the same characteristics, with the addition of lack of impulse control, often engaging in risky behavior and in self-destructive behaviors. People with BPD usually do not feel a strong sense of importance, but more of being misunderstood. Those with NPD feel others lives revolve around them, those with BPD will become obsessed with and feel their life revolves around another person, becoming intolerant of that person not giving them the attention they need.

Related internet articles:

Me, me, me! America’s ‘Narcissism Epidemic’

Research says young people today are more narcissistic than ever

Is Social Media to Blame For the Rise In Narcissism?

Narcissism: The science behind the rise of a modern ‘epidemic’

6 Signs of Narcissism

The love story I never knew…..

Dearest Ruth,

For once I ran out of envelopes before I ran out of paper. I guess this box of stationary was properly designed for both to just about come out the same.

Also for once I actually got my arms around you in a dream last night and saw you very plainly too. Mostly you’re just in my dreams and I feel your presence but I never actually am able to stand back and see you. But I must have been thinking of you exceptionally strongly yesterday – even more so than I usually do which is a lot. Because I remember that there was a bombing raid on and I ran into this apartment house to find you and you came out of a door and ran right into my arms. I could almost feel you in my arms and your cheek against mine and you looked very happy to see me too. Just like the first nite we met in New York – remember? Anyway it seemed so real that I woke up and was rather startled – I couldn’t figure out where I was. Next time you leave my dreams take me with you please?

Well a week from today is Valentines Day my darling and if everything goes right we will be able to mail these letters tomorrow and you will get this one not too far after the 14th. In which case will you be my Valentine? I know you will because you always have and it’s lucky I am for your the sweetest Valentine a man could ever hope for. Darling I love you very much, more than I can ever tell you and I can only hope that I can soon be with you so I can demonstrate in various little ways how great is my love for you. This year I haven’t a Valentines Day remembrance to send you. But next year I hope to bring you one personally.

Until that happy day my darling we’ll just wait and be patient. Knowing that our love and life together will be all the sweeter for our separation.

All my love,
Harry

P.S. I can’t say where I am of course but to ease your mind I can say that we are proceeding to an area relatively free from dangers. HH

 

a little locket of mom’s with a picture of dad and herself, likely from before they were married, maybe high school days.

Written February 7, 1945, this letter, written by my father to my mom while he was on a minesweeper in during WWII, was written only weeks after his ship participated in the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf, an allied amphibious operation in the Philippines to retake the bay from the Japanese. It was an operation similar to the more well known invasion of Normandy, with dozens of ship casualties, mostly from kamikaze attacks. He describes the invasion in a letter to his mother written in March of the same year. After describing the line up of ships ready to attack, he writes, “everyone has to wait until the cocky little minesweepers run in by the beaches to sweep for any stray mines before the first waves of landing craft come in. The whole gulf had been previously swept by us and the big minesweepers the 3 days prior to the landings before anyone else was there….”

I try to understand the extremes of emotions one goes through when at war, living in extreme danger, watching those around you get blown up, yet at the same time staying involved with life and loved ones back home. My father wrote my mother nearly every day, as I’m sure many soldiers and sailors did. The letters must of piled up since they were only able to send them periodically. Since their ship’s whereabouts were mostly secretive, letters to men on the ship were often delayed months. Shortly after this letter was written he received, from both grandmas and mom, the news that his first child, a son, was born January 30. Oh how the letters changed! They still began with “dearest Ruth”, or “my dearest”, and he still expressed his love and appreciation for her, but now he spoke of Kenny, or Ken, or K.B. – in every letter. He had the questions first time dads have, he wanted to know everything, he speculated on Ken’s future. He is proud and happy and clearly missed being with his new family. In the first post-birth letter he says he was “floating on the deck” and handed out cigars to all his ship mates. (This is funny because my parents never smoked, but tradition is tradition! The question is, where did he get them?)

From my perspective my father was not an emotionally expressive person, except when anger got the better of him. I never heard him say I love you or even show pride or approval to anything in my life, and I believe my brothers experience of him was similar. He did show his feelings in small ways. There were presents at Christmas that showed personal thoughtfulness. He wanted us to have life experiences, family vacations were important. He took the role of father and provider seriously, but was not emotionally connected to his children. And he always gave gifts and cards to mom for every Valentines Day, birthday, anniversary and Christmas, often very thoughtful, personal ones and always with a loving “Hallmark” type card. I think the feelings were there, but they were turned off.  Mom would say “ your father is proud of you” or some such thing, but I never knew if this was true or she was just “covering” for him.

My parents marriage, from my grown up analytical perspective, was not always easy. As a child I never felt I was growing up in a tumultuous home, but there were occasionally scary, volatile arguments behind closed doors. In many ways my parents were equal partners making major decisions together, in other ways it was a patriarchal home.

After reading letters between them before they married, as well as the small spiral notebooks kept in some secret place (a milk box or mail box?) in which they wrote notes to each other when Dad, in college, was working a graveyard shift, and Mom, younger than him, and still in high school was living with her mother, I have come to know how deep their friendship was, the strong values they shared, and the dreams they had and worked toward in their life together. I have learned their’s was a love story I never knew.

I think Dad may well have suffered from some degree of PTSD. The emotional impact of war, though recognized as far back as the Civil war, was not addressed as it is now. During the Korean War it was called “shell shock”, but the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a post Vietnam Nam War term. To be in a war zone, to participate in the killing of others and watch others be killed, any sane person would need to turn off the more sensitive parts of themselves. Some people cannot and are emotionally traumatized, others can and successfully turn that part of themselves back on once away from the trauma. Other’s cannot turn their feelings back on.

My dad had resiliency, his letters home to his wife and mom were generally up-beat, though he occasionally wrote of being homesick. He wrote about every day life on board the ship, especially the food, which was scarce in variety at times, then suddenly they’d get a drop off of fresh veggies, fruit, maybe cheese and eggs. Once there was a case of Washington apples, a treat from home for him!  He wrote about life at home, asking questions, always responding to things they would write him. Long, chatty, expressive letters, they showed gratitude for little favors done by others, like his mother sending flowers in his name when my brother was born. They also showed the practical pragmatic he was, he carefully asks about the cost of the glorious birth!

There were times I saw this expressive side of my dad, but for the most part he was the practical, the pragmatic. Late in his life, in his 70s and around the time he was first diagnosed with the prostate cancer which would eventually cause his death at 78, he began to draw, to write stories, to write poetry. I knew then there was a side to him he never attended to or nurtured, a side that wrote love letters and was able to show he cared about those he loved. There was a time that side was not turned off.

Dad with the woman of his dreams, his friend, his lover.

Dad’s dream about a bombing raid and looking for my mom in an apartment building may show his worry for those at home and the reality of living in Seattle during the war, when nighttime black-outs and a faux city was built on top of the Boeing plant to disguise it. Seattle was a target city, important to the war due to Boeing and not that far from Pearl Harbor.

The letters, diaries, little notebooks kept by my mother were not kept for others, I knew nothing of them until I cleaned out their house, yet they were preserved through various moves across the country, kept along with the cards, memorabilia and those “important” “dear Mom and Dad” letters from her children. I believe her private keeping of them was her own reserved way of honoring and cherishing the feelings expressed, especially the love. Maybe when the love was hard to see,  when their marriage was painful, she would read them.  I will never know.

I share this private love story on Valentines Day to show how love can be stifled, locked up and hard to notice.  How it can be injured. Look for it, it may just be scared to come out.

It may be in an old shoe box, hidden in an old letter.

♥️

other related stories:

Hearts and Califlower

“The Day of Days”

Natue’s Heart

Valentine’s Day

Animal Love

This is not a love story….

January holds tranquility

Are you among those who think January is a difficult month, one to ‘get through’, not necessarily a time to thrive?  The run of distracting holidays from October through New Year’s is over, the Solstice has come and gone – “hurray for the light returning”. We rejoice and celebrate, yet in truth, nights are still on the long side, and days are short and cold. Here in the north half of the northern hemisphere, skies are frequently gray.  To top it off, it’s one of the long months – 31 days!

In the NW signs of spring’s impeding arrival appear well before January 1. Many plants have fattening buds, bulbs are sending up shoots, there are even a few hardy winter blooming shrubs. Rarely do we have snow covering the ground, if at all, for more than a few days, except in the mountains. The tendency is to look for these signs, to look ahead to the season of verdant forests and colorful flowers. To be in waiting for spring.

on a quiet drizzly morn, a doe grooms her youngster.

But are we cheating ourselves? In the woods bare deciduous tree branches reach high into open skies. Unobstructed by the summer canopy of their own making, they let in the low, soothing winter light, warming the soil, teasing seeds, bugs, spores, larva, all kinds of life buried snug in the coolness. It is quiet, birds not yet ready to begin their spring flings. Many animals hibernate or semi-hibernate, and those who don’t, conserve their energy to forage for food. Nature knows better than we how to embrace each season.

Perhaps January is not just a month to endure, but a month to contemplate, dream, rest, find strength of mind and peace of heart to prepare for the energetic demands of spring and whatever the new year may bring.

It is a time to acknowledge there will always be winters in our lives, times that seem bleak.  In seeking to find peace during those times we can be more accepting of them. In allowing ourselves to rest, we will be prepared for what comes next.

Try like the trees to embrace the cool gray skies, to wait in the quiet, while snuggled in, and to listen to the secret murmurs of the new year while learning the lessons of the old.

May your New Year ring in peacefully!