Saturday, November 9, 2013

Once a Marine, Always a Marine ~ But I called him daddy

November 19, 1935 - March 20, 2013
Courage is endurance for one moment more.....
(Unknown Marine Second Lieutenant in Vietnam)
On March 20, 2013 my father drew his last breath on earth. 
It was pancreatic cancer that eventually stilled his heart and drew the light from his eyes and took his wise words and silenced them once and for all.
After living 77 years, serving in the Marine Corps for 20 of those years, fighting 5 tours in Vietnam and raising a family, he passed from an invisible enemy that no weapon can fight effectively.
Our grief was postponed for 7 months.  We grieved when we spoke to one another.  We grieved privately, within our hearts or when we forgot he was no longer there and picked up the phone to call and tell him of a golf game one, to give a grandchild report or to simply talk.
It takes a long time to get into Arlington National Cemetery.  And as exceptional as we thought my father was, we waited just like everyone else.  
The day arrived 7 months and 3 days later.  It was a gorgeous fall day. 
His family gathered at the Administration Building. Hugs, condolences and the freedom to express our grief had finally come.  We looked at one another and were amazed that he did not stand with us. The oldest of his brothers and sisters.
And he was gone.
When the time came to line up the processional, I rode with his wife in the lead car.
We climbed a hill and then turned a corner.
In front of us was a full band.
Two platoons of a Marine Color Guard.
All waiting on a field of green with a blue sky, The Washington Monument and all of Washington DC as the backdrop.
At first, I thought we had intruded on a funeral for a General.
But I was told
This is for your dad.
So I got out of the car and came to stand behind the caisson with the rest of the mourners. 
Two Marines took my father's ashes and the American flag and placed them into the horse drawn caisson while the band played and the Color Guard stood at attention.
My brothers and I then linked arms.
And we walked the last of my father's journey, with him, to his final earthly resting place.
His brothers, sisters, grandchildren and great grandchildren walked behind as well.  Each remembering and honoring a man who had loved them and who would have been embarrassed to have been recognized so publicly.
My brothers and I are the last of our family.
With both parents now gone, we stand.
Diana Gabaldon, an author that I love, said it best,
"Someone is never truly gone so long as there are two people who know-
one to tell the story and another to hear it."
So I came here to tell a part of the story.
The part of the story where a man lived, a man fought, then a man died.
But he was so much more.
Goodbye Daddy. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

The words of the unencumbered

The sea oats line the walkway back to the world.
Their smells are layered in the simplicity of salt air and the life of the unencumbered and the complexities of survival.
They blow against my arm alerting me to their existence, as if I needed a reminder.
Upon my return, the skies reflect the counterpart to the dunes as the sky has its horizon dotted with clouds and a backdrop of sun tinted pink canvas.
Stepping onto the wooden walkway
I am mentally assaulted by words that compete for purchase on the open and empty slate
of my inner storyteller and writer.
Like errant children
they push their own agenda for attention
until I sort them into cohesive expressions.
Pick me
Pick me
Pick me
the words say
as they pop around my
brain like kernels in a pan of hot oil.









Beach Grandma

When the weather warms the air enough
and the sun shines with such intensity that tomatoes taste like its yellow rays
I know that summer has arrived.

And with it
I am baptized again into every body of water I am near.
Like a mermaid
I will take up residence in its depths
and make the shore my bed.
I watch my grandchildren slip the surface to their own underwater
adventure so naturally that I wonder
if they remember the hidden world within their mothers.
Like my mother before me, I am
The Beach Grandma
and my magic is held in every diamond that glints on the water.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A moonlit starry evening

The alternating rhythm of the crickets summer anthem beat like a metronome against the backdrop of a clear sky with a full moon as its only adornment.

Our woods can hardly contain the cacophonous symphony.

The North star holds us in place and his heart beats with mine as one. Our hands touch and with one look at each other we quietly tuck this memory away for the winter nights that are months away.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Writing Refuge

 Today the breeze blows gently across the clover where bees light from flower to flower,  providing a respite from the summer heat.  The garden boxes are full of blooms and produce that await adoration and plucking.

The peace of the farm fills me to the point of tears and threatens to overwhelm me. 

At this moment ..... it is just me.

No one needs me.

I am away from the call of household chores and the beckoning whispers from things that are undone.

Their imagined pleadings are cleared with the wind.

The sound of birds twittering in the tall oak just beyond the market and the humming of bees in the lavender to my left thrum along the lay lines of my soul and awaken a passion that has been simmering for far too long.

The farm is alive with work and purpose and serves as a reminder that I must fulfill my own purpose. There is no way to skirt past the life that is drawn here.  From the people that come to purchase the food that sustains them and their families, to the existence of the flora and fauna that provide sustenance to bees, birds, butterflies and the unseen life underground.

The place is a comfort to me.

A place that feeds my soul.

Whatever this place is in the grand scheme of it all, to me, it is peace.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creative Power

Life has been getting in the way of my writing.  Oh...and summer.  Summer play, summer sun, summer fun....these too have been getting in the way of my writing.

It's not like I don't have ideas. 

I have ideas.  Great ideas.  But there has been so much to do. 


Pool time.

Boat time.  I love work.  Love my clients.  But it does require about 40 hours a week from me.

But I am on a quest.  A quest for inspiration.  A quest for time. 

So, I checked out all the books the library had on writing.  I hope I am not depriving another desperate writing soul on needing these books, but I had to grab them all.  Cling to them.  And hope for something to creep out of them and into me.

I am enjoying "If You Want To Write" by Brenda Ueland.  Written in 1938, her wisdom towers above the language of today and gets down to the nitty gritty. 

Chapter I ~  Everybody is Talented, Original and Has Something Important To Say
            How's that for inspiration

And a few other Chapter favorites ~

  • Sooner Strangle an Infant in Its Cradle Than Nurse Unacted Desires - William Blake
  • Why Women Who Do Too Much House-work Should Neglect It for Their Writing
  • Keep a Slovenly, Headlong, Impulsive, Honest Diary
I am feeling inspired. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day

I know that what I am about to write has been written many times before, but I believe it cannot be said enough times.
Memorial Day for much of the nation involves a 3 day weekend, picnics, family time, fireworks, horse shoe throwing in sand pits and a few cold beers.
But for the two young men in my life it can be a very different kind of Memorial weekend. Both of them served in the United States Marine Corps and both did a number of tours in Iraq.  They knew each other in high school and joined the service within a year of each other.  One is my son by birth and the other became a son when he married my youngest daughter.
Both went to war.
Neither came home the same man.


Every day of every year since they served and came home is a type of memorial day for them.  Their memories revolve around special days and special friends.  Friends that may have come home and those they left behind.
Playing in the sand can trigger unwanted memories and the sound of fireworks can cause unwanted anxiety that sends them scrambling for cover.

Memory is a different animal for them.  Traumatic brain injuries for both of them can have them struggling to hold onto important information.  It can have their short circuited brains scrambling for the simple thought processes we take for granted.  

But they both came home. 

And they both started living life again.

I am proud of both of these sons.  I have walked the journey from the start to the present with Isaiah and consciously lend my support to Tony.  They both have my love and my appreciation. 

So this Memorial Day take a moment and thank a veteran.  Say a prayer for the families who lost a family member.  And say a prayer for those that came home. 
Their battle continues.

Opportunities taken

The anniversary trip to Ireland was months in the planning.  We bought books to help us navigate the journey and every Sunday we watched YouTube videos that others had posted to better educate ourselves on the lay of the land.  We had maps....
            post-its in all the books highlighting the important roads to take and places to see. 

                                            And we did it all.  Everything we set out to do.

                                                         But we saw things unexpected. 

              We came across breathtaking views whose beauty cannot be seen in photographs


                                                  We met people from all over the world.

                                                              And we found each other.

                                 Before we left my husband posted the following on Facebook.
Tonight I get to run away with the girl I fell in love with 35 years ago.  She captured my heart the first time I met her.......We will celebrate the anniversary of our thirty fifth year of marriage in Ireland,
          enjoying each other and remembering who we are and not what life has tried to make us. 

                                                          I believe we did just that. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sights and sounds of Galway

The coast hugs Galway like a wool shawl, hoping to keep her wrapped in warmth.  The gray and rainy skies have given way to a welcome sun.
Languages float on the air in the clipped staccato of German and Gaelic and the flowing song of Irish and French.  Snatches of conversation born on the wings of laughter, reflect the relief felt from the ebbing bleak and cold day.
The rays glint gold through the mug of beer and the wine glimmers in the glass. It's Spanish beginnings harken to the arch around the corner that once carried the cherished elixir from far away lands.
Up the quay is Salthill.  A place where the locals share stories of liners, queued in the bay, that brought visitors who smiled when the lilt of the greeters would welcome them to the Green Isle.  A shared story of snowballs, that were once crafted, were thrown.  But the air has warmed and it is no longer cold enough for such play.
Patients husbands watch wives who seek to capture the charm of the cobbled streets that are dotted with shops and hostels.
The land of a thousand welcomes opens her arms and gives the gift of history and lineage, while clothed in its modern garb.  It's past has a tenuous grasp on the ground that once felt the footsteps of Vikings.  A reluctance to embrace the future keeps the ghosts firmly entrenched and their hold on this city will not be easily loosed.  If the veil between the two worlds could be rent, the mistakes of the past could be understood and less likely to be repeated.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dublin, and the art of being a tourist

I missed posting yesterday, but hope to catch up tomorrow.  We slept in and missed a good part of the day, but catching up on sleep was essential.
We made up for it today in spades.  We hopped on the 130 Bus from Clontarf into City Centre early enough that we beat the opening of the shops.  After grabbing a coffee at Insomnia, the equivalent to Starbucks, we got on the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour that we have used for the past 3 days.  What an efficient way to get around to the important sites.
We headed to Grafton Street for some quick shopping then over to Christ Church.  What a beautiful church, surrounded by gorgeous landscaping.  After lighting candles and praying for our family back home, we cruised over to St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Also a lovely church, but a bit more commercialized.  Christ Church retained some its reverence by not putting up a gift shop as the first stop into the building.  Their gift shop was down the stairs and accompanied by a quaint cafe and surrounded by crypts.  A quiet place, to be sure, and had a distinct church feel.  St. Patrick's was covered in tourists and tour groups who seemed to have forgotten that some folks might actually be in prayer.  We snuck off to a quiet alcove, lit another candle, said another prayer ...because it certainly wouldn't hurt!
The bus tour guide said it best when he was heading up to the stop for Christ Church.  "The next 3 stops will be the religious places most frequented here in Dublin.  Christ Church, St. Patrick's Cathedral and The Guinness Brewery.  So with candles lit and prayers said.....we were off to The Guiness Brewery.
Because I must live a gluten free life, I knew this was going to be John's party.  We learned how they make the beer and that the starter yeast in every batch can be dated back to Arthur Guiness' original starter.  John learned how to pour the perfect pint and we visited the Gravity Bar where you get to see the whole 360 degrees of Dublin in the glass enclosed bar high atop the brewery.
Next stop on our list was The Old Jameson Distillery.  This is a whiskey that is a favorite of mine!  The concierge at our hotel, Clontarf Castle, called ahead for us and got reservations for the tour and a premium whiskey tasting for just John and I.  After learning about the process of how to make whiskey, we were taken to a private bar where the four top of the line Jameson whiskeys were set up for our tasting pleasure.  We were taught to hold the whiskey in our mouth a second for each year it had aged.  This allows the tongue to absorb the alcohol and allowing just the many flavors and notes of the whiskey to be appreciated.
Catching the 130 bus back to Clontarf Castle we were pleasantly exhausted.  Our time in Dublin ends tomorrow and we begin the drive to County Cork.  I can't say that I am altogether pleased with the fact that we will be driving ourselves, but I am with my sweet man for this adventure so the journey won't be alone!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 1 Dublin

I wish that I had a picture of St. Stephens Green to post, or perhaps our visit to the oldest pub in Dublin...The Brazen Head.  But, the wind was 20 mph and the rain was sideways.  I feared to take me beloved camera out of it s safe haven.  Hell, I feared taking out  the iPad.  Did I take pictures?  I did! But you wouldn't know where we were.  It could have been any pub.  But it wasn't.  It was Dublin.  The gateway to our experience.  We checked in early to our hotel / Castle.  Clontarf Castle.  And after unpacking and grabbing a quick 2 hour nap we caught the 130 bus to the center of town.  Unsure of our ways, we walked to our bus stop.  We caught our bus and ventured into Dublin. The wind was fierce.  More than we expected.  Our clothes were thin.  Our spirit was unsure. But our direction was forward.  We walked over cobblestone streets and found a pub called The Church to have our lunch.  This place is a beautiful old church, with the old pipe organ still in tact, and tables in alcoves for intimate conversations.  My surprise was having a gluten free menu incorporated within the regular menu.  I ordered a BLT on GF ciabatta bread.  So delicious.  Although the bacon was a slab of tasty ham.  Not quite like home.
A friend suggested that I write about this trip using my senses....sight, sound, touch, smell,taste. Find the strongest for the place I am in and use that as a prompt.  Well today was sight. Watching the ripples in puddles along the road and along the Liffy confirmed the strength of the wind.  Watching umbrellas turned inside out over and over and seeing so many of them discarded by trash cans along the road.  The close runner up to the sensory experience was sound.  Here in Ireland we heard the lilting cadence of speech from our taxi driver and waitresses, but all around us were the languages of many nations.  Dublin is very much an international culture.  Not just visitors like ourselves, but shop keepers, bus drivers and such.
I am sure that day 2 will hold a different array of gifts for the senses.  But sleep tugs at me for now and I am going to try and catch up after forty hours of going.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just a few more hours.....well more like 12, but who's counting?

The bags are packed.  The fridge is cleaned out.  The house is clean.  And when this 12 hour workday finishes .... Champagne will be placed in my hand and the vacation will be officially started.

Taking 3 weeks off seems decadent no matter how much it is needed.  But for my sanity, I will embrace it. I will try to throw off the daily routine that binds and replace it with carefree and spontaneous!  Who am I kidding?  At 55, planning is more the route I take.  Spontaneous screams lack of forethought, childishness, and potential danger.  I mean, I could leave behind an important article of clothing if spontaneity rules.  And no one in Ireland wants to see me without a bra!

So at the end of this LONG workday, I will raise my glass and toast the marriage of planning and spontaneity....can't wait to see how that will work out.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


In just one week my sweet man and I will be getting on a plane and headed for Ireland!  He is our trip planner and he usually plans it around our anniversary.  Although he has been known to schedule a few quick getaways for the sake of sanity.

Years ago when our 4 children were young and I was in the throes (-noun.  any violent struggle) of raising the little darlings, when our anniversary rolled around I took on the task of planning the celebration.  Knowing we had to get away to celebrate the very reason for the existence of these children, I began trying to schedule a weekend excursion.  But I wasn't sure what kind of money we had available so I wasn't sure how big or small the merriment could be  - I hated the finances - still do.  I also had to find someone to watch either all the children or I had to find 4 different families where I could farm them out.  Between the planning and the children I was overwhelmed.  I told my sweet husband that if he wanted a get away weekend with the bride of his youth, he was going to have to plan it from now on.  And plan he did!

In that time he has taken this task very seriously.  He loves to surprise me and gives me just enough time to plan the trip and research. On our 28th anniversary he planned a trip that had us flying into San Francisco and driving the Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego.  He arranged the drive so that I was the one closest to the coast. With the window open for days and me leaning towards the shoreline I found myself with one tan arm and one side of my face the color of a hazelnut.

He arranged for us to go to Cancun, the Dominican Republic, Scotland, Italy, a cruise to the Bahamas,  B & B's in the Shenandoah or just a local hotel where we could just be us!  He has always kept our relationship a top priority and has protected it against the subtleties of life that could effectively erode the foundation we stand upon.

To say I am excited to experience Ireland with him would be like saying I was excited about having a million dollar lottery ticket! I am Excited, Emotionally Charged, Curious, Thrilled, Enthusiastic.....well, you get the point! 

Time away. 

With John. 

Heaven on Earth.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

His passing

On March 20, 2013 at 9:15pm my father drew his last breath.  If you live long enough, you outlive your parents and that is how it should be. Though it doesn't make it any easier.  Knowing ahead of time, that he had 3 to 8 months to live following his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, didn't make it any easier either.  It was almost 3 months to the day. Why couldn't the doctors have been like weathermen and been wrong?

Following the diagnosis he began to put things in order.  He wanted to make sure his wife was taken care of and not left to do on her own after his passing.  Sell the house. Pack the house. Find a new place close to her family. Make arrangements.  He did all these things.  And in the nick of time!  But he also did the personal things.  And he gave me some final gifts.

In December his wife called, just weeks after his diagnosis, and told my brothers and I that things had changed and that he said he felt he was dying.  This news came during my workday.  I was behind the chair taking care of my clients hair when she called and said he wanted to speak to me.  I removed myself from the work area and found a quiet place.  My dad came on the phone and in a weak voice told me he felt like he was having an out of body it was time .... like he was dying.  I told him he couldn't.  That I had tickets for two weeks from then to fly down and see him.  But he quietly said..."I love you Deb.  Tell John I love him too.  Kiss the children and grandchildren for me."  As soon as I hung up the phone I called my husband, told him I was canceling clients for the rest of the week and I needed to be in the car on my way to Florida as soon as possible.  We drove through the night....12 hours of monotonous driving.  Neither of us could sleep.  We drove in fear.  We drove on adrenaline. But when we arrived the next morning...there he was.  "I thought you were dying, " I said.  " I thought I was" he smiled.  "I guess I was wrong." He was wrong and we spent the next 3 months saying goodbye.

He asked me a question when we were alone one evening.  "Deb, do you know what you will be after I die."  "Yes," I said, "an orphan."  He laughed.  "You are 55 years old.  You can't be a orphan at 55. You can if you were 7, but not 55."  "Then what will I be,?" I asked.  "The memory keeper, Deb.  They will come to you for the memories."

When I left the next morning, I knelt down in front of him and told him that I didn't know how to do this.  "How daddy?  How do I do this?  How do I say goodbye to you?"  "You're doing it sweetie.  You'll do it. ".  I hugged him and he told me "I love you.  I'll be praying for you." And with conspiratorial wink he said, "I'll save you a seat."

Three months later his wife called and said that over the past 24 hours he had become unresponsive.  She was going to call the Hospice House and have him moved there.  I agreed it was the best move. But before she moved him I had a request..could I FaceTime with him? She reminded me that he was unresponsive.  I assured her that I didn't care and that I just needed to see his face.  So she gave me my wish and carried her iPad into his room.  She put it so I could see his face...and this face bore only a resemblance to my father.  Sickness and death had stolen the familiar smile and the face I had known for so long.  But, it was my dad...and so I said his name. "Daddy?"  And his eyes opened and he looked directly at me.  Weakness had taken his ability to respond  right away, but his mouth moved and I knew he was acknowledging me.  "Daddy.  I want you to know how much I love you.  But I want you to know that I know you love me too." And then he did the unexpected.  He responded.  In a quiet, quivering whisper of a voice he said "I love you."

In the end, with that sentence and desire to respond to me...his only daughter, he erased all the things he wasn't to me.  He gave me a dying gift.  A gift in March...a month that traditionally
holds no gift bearing holidays.

My grief is a process much like dying.  But I have memories to keep and gifts of my own to give.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Portraits in Chalk

One week ago today we had a surprise snowstorm.  Because of a low pressure system shifting off the coast, this one was hard to predict and snow totals along with a changing rain/snow line became impossible to nail down. I knew one thing for sure!  I needed grand kids here if we had snow! I have one precious girl that lives with me so I asked for the two boy treasures to be able to spend the night.  They are old enough to enjoy the snow and sled with their older cousin. 

The snow fell through the night and when we awoke it was a winter wonderland.  A heavy snow had fallen and left at least six inches of snow and it was still coming down.  Everyone was off work so my sweet man put up a tent in the basement for the kids to have a fort.  And after card games and lunch we went sledding!  And by "we", I mean I watched, took pictures and cheered.  The day ended with shepherds pie, hot chocolate and a movie....just the way snow days should end.

Snow gave way to warmth and we found ourselves thawed out and warmed by 60+ temps.  With those kind of temperatures no one can stay off the golf courses or away from the grill.  Sunday rolled around and the gang showed up at my house.  Fat rolls of chalk came out their boxes and bikes that hadn't seen the light of day since fall rolled out of hibernation. 

The same driveway that had been shoveled into submission, found adults and children  drawing the simple chalk lines that would lead them into spring. 

Bricks that had been covered in snow just days before were now decorated with the colors of a robin's egg and the promise of long days in the sun. 
If my memories every leave me, I hope this weeks feast will be a memory that stays.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A signpost

Not yet old, but no longer young, after the mother and before the crone, she is now a Queen . Still active, creative and passionate, the Queen is tempered with an earned wisdom that has come with her experiences. She has faced and overcome obstacles, limitations and life lessons - now assuming her power and accepting full responsibility for her life, dreams, fulfillment and happiness. She is the Queen of herself, the mature monarch, the sole sovereign of her own destiny.
(Queen Mama Donna Henes - The Queen of MY Self)

The fire still burns


I haven't written on this blog in a long time.  It doesn't mean that I haven't written at all, but I have been apprehensive about sharing here.  But it does not mean that I don't write.  Besides the ongoing story lines that run through my head, like a manic marathon training event, I have been journaling.  A safe haven for the deep thoughts that have been tumbling about my subconcious.
Last summer I had such wonderful adventures that I wanted to share.  Pictures of our journeys with kids and g'kids.  But I couldn't make myself type
But a dam has broke and the fire that has been burning within has been stoked and I want to do what feeds my soul and makes my heart happy.
I have something to say and want to say it here.  The place I created for myself.  A room of my own, so to speak.