Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thoughts on Father's Day

Father's Day. Dad always shunned this day as one made up to sell greeting cards. But I don't mind saying that I certainly believe Dads should get at least one day of recognition for the hard work they put into being a father...and my Dad certainly is deserving of such recognition. Some thoughts came to me today as I went about my normal Saturday business.

Me (6-7 years old, at the Pond House in New Bedford, MA, in the row boat, "the Checkerberry"): Dad, I'm afraid to swim.
Dad: Just jump in and you will float…you can get to the shore.
Me: Dad, I'm afraid.
Dad: Just jump in... you'll be fine. See, Jeannie is doing it.
Me: OK... but I don't think I can do it.....

As I struggled to make my way to the shore, crying the whole way, swallowing water as I went, I was sure I would drown. But I made it to the shore and, once on shore I let out a HUGE belch and was instantly proud of my accomplishment.

Jeannie, my sister one year older, laughed and asked why I didn't just walk in..... apparently, the water was pretty never occurred to me to try to touch my feet to the bottom... I did learn to swim, albeit doggy style, that day.

Me (age 9): Dad, I want to play the violin. Will you sign the permission slip so I can?
Dad (after inquiring of my sister why she hadn't asked to play a musical instrument in fourth grade): Yes, you can learn to play the violin.
Me: Will I get my own violin?
Dad: Not yet. You will need to show promise before we buy a violin...we will rent one for you for the first year
Me: OK, but why does Jeannie get her own flute?
Dad: Because Jeannie will practice. We need to see if you will practice before we buy a violin...they are very expensive.
6 months later, at the violin shop to get my bow re-haired.
Dad to Mr. Gault: How much would you charge me to make a violin for Judy?
Mr. Gault: For $100, I’ll provide you the wood and teach you how to make the violin.

For the next two-three months, Dad and I worked on that violin under Mr. Gault’s direction, every Saturday, and for my 10th birthday, I got my violin… I guess I “showed promise” after all.

Me (14 years old on Christmas Day upon watching my sister open her gift of a brand spanking new sewing machine): Dad, Can I get a sewing machine?
Dad: Jeannie will share with you. If you show promise, you can get your own sewing machine.

For the next three years, I sewed nearly every day, on my mother’s ancient, knee-controlled Singer, paying my sister 10 cents a button hole for her to do my button holes on her machine… that’s sharing, right?

Me (17 years old, Christmas morning, as I am presented the last gift – an envelope from the tree): Dad! An IOU for a sewing machine when they go on sale after Christmas!!!! Thank you!
Dad: We’ll go shopping when the sales start.

Me (22 years old, as I met Dad on the driveway when he arrived home from work, my little Chevy Monza packed and ready for a road trip.): Dad, James and I have decided we are going to move to Florida.
Dad: I’m not sure this is the smartest move you could make.
Me: Dad, since when did you ever accuse me of making the smartest moves?
Dad: I don’t think I gave you a birthday present. I’d like you to get new tires on the car before you go.
Me: Thank you Dad!

Yes, I learned lessons every step of the way from you Dad, and through all of it I knew you were always there, ready to help me be the best I could be, and letting me learn to survive, when I was determined to do things my way. For these and so many other things, I thank you Dad…today and every day!

Judy Singing With Dad

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fun on The Farm

We had a great time this weekend with the lovely Miss Eloise and her insanely hilarious brother Luca. Ben brought them to the farm on Friday around noon, and for the next couple of days we just had fun.

Our number two broody hen, Princess, hatched her eight chicks that morning, and the kiddos were eager to meet the newest members of the farm community. We fed ducks and goats, dogs and rabbits, and picked strawberries and raspberries.

The kids decided the gravel pile was a fabulous place to burn up energy, and spent an hour just charging up and down the gravel, slipping and sliding and yodeling with glee…. I was sure they would be torn up from the rock, but they appeared to survive just fine. As dusk descended, Eloise delighted in catching lightning bugs.

Back inside, Eloise declared the afghan Mom made us last year, and which I had put on her bed for fun, was the most beautiful blanket she ever saw! Those two kiddos love the tiny room that is their room when they visit. They love exploring the toys in the toy box, and rearranging the big doll house, and "cooking" in the strawberry shortcake stove. Sleeping quarters are tight in there, but they don't seem to mind. In a couple of years I imagine they will camp out in the fold out beds in the music room, but for now, this room is kid central.

Saturday morning after breakfast, we spent another good hour and a half feeding all the critters before heading off to Smithfield to attend an outdoor shindig with friends. The kids all enjoyed the sunny, warm weather, playing games, skipping rope, blowing bubbles and eating ice cream sundaes and s’mores. The adults all enjoyed catching up, visiting and eating ice cream sundaes and s’mores. A good time was had by all.

We arrived home in time to do evening feedings, after eating a pizza supper….can we say that Gakki is NOT following good nutritional guidance in feeding these youngsters? Ah well, they are only young once, and they did have a “normal” breakfast. Between eating and evening feedings, Eloise wanted me to put curlers in her hair so she could have curly hair. The entire time I was playing hair stylist, Luca was hugging me.

The critters seemed intrigued by Eloise’s curlers, the dogs thinking they were toys, and the goats thinking they looked like food. Eloise took it in stride. She is a natural with the critters, though some of them are significantly bigger than she is, and none of them are graced with good manners. Still, she is the dog-goat-cat-rabbit-chicken-duck whisperer, and is completely happy doing the feedings. Luca can take it or leave it. He likes feeding the ducks today, and isn’t the least bit interested in them tomorrow. He does like to bark commands at the critters... ”sit!!!” Most of the time the critters just carry on with whatever they were already doing and he seems fine with that.

Sunday morning was another opportunity to feed the critters, pick strawberries and play hide and seek, and cover your mouth with stickers, in Gakki’s eBay apartment, while Gakki prepared her Monday shipments. And then, after packing up all of their gear, we were on the road, back to Rochelle, to take the little cherubs home.

The kiddos were excited and happy to see Mama and Papa, but promised to come visit Gakki and Joe at the farm again soon. I then headed on to National Harbor, MD, where I am attending a conference all week. Busy, busy, busy! And exhausting. But FUN!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thank You For the Opportunity

Thank you Dad and Lynne,

This was a special weekend for me. Lynne was scheduled to attend a college reunion out of town and Dad, feeling the normal diminished capabilities of aging, does better when he has a trusted companion in the house. So, this weekend I was offered the opportunity to be Dad’s companion.

I have written before about the amazing gift Dad bestowed on his children – the gift of music. I have shared memories of how six children, ages 5-12 engaged fellow tourists on a cruise down the Firth of Clyde, en route to the Isle of Arran, with their impromptu joining with the string quartet to sing all of the songs from The Sound of Music. I have shared before, my earliest memories of singing in my four brothers’ room, my sister and I perched on one of their beds, all lights extinguished, learning and learning to love making harmony with Dad and each other.

This weekend I learned again that connecting with Dad, when he is bewildered, or anxious or just plain tired but cannot seem to sleep, is possible through the gift he gave us so long ago. Yesterday, I pulled out my guitar, and started singing the tunes I remember from those early days. I did not ask Dad to join in. In all honesty, I did it as sort of a distraction, as he had become somewhat focused on the clock and the time, and wondering when Lynne would return. As I have for years, when I play and sing those songs, I do so with my eyes closed….like in the dark room of my childhood, using my ears to provide all of the sensory input.

Within the first couple of bars of the song, I heard Dad’s voice….softly singing with me. I dared to embark on harmony, and he held fast the melody. And we sang. Red River Valley, Don’t Fence Me In, Edelweiss, Danny Boy, Over in Killarney, Down in the Valley, and so on. Songs my children know because I raised them on those songs, and songs for which I was once certain I would never forget the lyrics. And yet, at almost 59 years old, I did forget some of the words…. And Dad filled them in. At almost 83, he still has those songs solidly in his memory.

Even more interesting and rewarding to me was that after singing a song, Dad and I engaged in some discussion of where we were when we sang that particular song, and the memories of the importance of the song. One such song was “Two Little Boys,” which Rolf Harris made into a top of the charts hit in 1969 when we were living in England. One was “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” and the discussion of John Denver, one of my favorites from my 15 year old self, and one that my Dad accepted as a good one, despite the generational difference.

For two hours on Saturday, and then for another hour today, we sang and talked and sang some more. Ever the researcher, Dad offered, on numerous occasions, to go down to the basement and look through the LP’s to find the name of a song or an artist that was escaping both of our memories. I laughed and suggested we could just sing something else, and the answer would, ”come to us.” Dad suggested that we could also just look it up on the phone. Usually, while trying to look it up, it just came to us, but it was such a fun mix of the old and the new, the memories and the current.

In truth, most of us would prefer to not have to see our parents aging and losing some of the vigor they enjoyed all of their lives, but I can honestly say that this gift of music is a gift that continues to give, and allows me to continue to connect to the man who gave us that gift.

Thank you Dad and Lynne for the opportunity.