"Let's Do This Thing"

      All of my daughters and grands have especially cool names and they all have the best, most interesting personalities ever. Okay, I better say my husband and sons-in-law are also fabulous, but this is ultimately about one of my grands today. I love talking about how we chose our daughters' names, but there're a few of them, so I'll start with our second daughter whom we named Asha Perren.  For starters, we limited our choices to names in our families and/or heritages so we checked out library name books or bought a few, and searched for names from Native America, Africa, England, Norway, or considered any family names.  Asha, is Swahili for "life." It also has the added lovliness of being an Indian name meaning "hope."  When Asha let us know her daughter's name would be Perren, it was perfect!  And three years after that, Asha called and asked if they could use the name Pierson for their son.  Of course! (I mean, at 57, I pretty much figured I wouldn't be having more babies--although I told my girls, I'd always be a surrogate if they needed me--which creeped them out immensely.) Pierson was one of our boy names (remember, for in case we had a boy) of English origin that means "son of Peter." Ahhh.  
      During this difficult time of election stress, racial tension, pandemic sadness, I often think of my Perren and what she used to say when we went on little adventures like looking for volcanos or dodging shadows or watching ducks at the duck pond behind the bookstore. You always have to be brave for adventures you know.  And I'm trying so hard as I miss doing such special or simple activities like visiting my daughter and her new baby girl or going to restaurants and the opera and, to be honest, just walking to the mailbox.  Outside has turned frightening. People seem angry; others are hurting.  But on those pretend adventures, (with a lot of faith and diligence on all our parts, we'll have them again before very long), she'd turn, look and me and her little brother, and say, "Let's do this thing." 
Be strong and true, look up and feel the sun, and hold our branch/swords high!

      So today, that's what I'm going to do...      






Change 2020

For all of those I see standing in lines blocks long for hours and hours to get their votes in early, I want to let you know you moved my heart. I'm imagining most of you are voting for change, for the rediscovery of a road to healing and recovery and the democratic ideal. I sat down and cried for the bravery, the courage, the strength, and the love you have and believe in.
When my husband and I voted yesterday, i felt you all standing with us.
Years ago, when my in-laws were alive, retired, and living in Raleigh, North Carolina, we had a plan for the girls to camp out in their big RV that they always used to visit us and kept in their driveway; they were so excited about "camping out." I was pregnant with one of the girls (in truth, I hardly remember not being pregnant back in the day), and we adults would be right inside the house nearby. However, after dark, when we were still all in the house having dinner, the doorbell rang. My father-in-law answered and we heard, "What?" Peter rushed over, Mimi ((his mom) and I also went over to see something smoking on the doorstep. We made the girls stay in the dining room. Some "brave" soul left a smoke bomb on my elder in-laws' step. I knew why it was there. My husband knew why it was there. My husband is White-American; his father's ancestry goes back to Norway and his mother's to Britain. (Actually, I have traces from those two places as well, not so surprisingly.) I'm Black-American. It was interesting to see our process in deciding whether or not to call the police. I wanted to just leave, to go back home to Colorado, that instant; the girls would definitely not be staying in the camper. There was doubt about calling the police--whose side would they be on? And now? Over three decades later, the question is the same.

Voting (2)

Let's Go--or Not

Well, I haven't been here in a minute! But a quick thought: A pandemic will take you back to many places you've not been for a while:  alone; anywhere public while trying to avoid inhaling--or exhaling; driving out to shop and realizing you can really only go back home; going to a play, movie, restaurant, book club or bookshops; sewing class, museum lecture, swimming pool; and basically, I just can't casually go anywhere with...people. Film and book festivals, gardening classes, visiting my children. And I miss it all.


PiYo, PiYo, It's Off to Rest I Go

Okay, this is bad. I've not posted a blog for over a year. Every day is a new day to do better.
So let me start with PiYo. PiYo is a gym class I visited with my daughter. Clues that I may have made a mistake: my daughter(s) are more than two decades younger than I am. I need to remember this. Then a comment by my husband seemed to be a warning. Peter is always supportive of any project, effort, interest I have and even my procrastination with all of it. His words were: "That class Asha was telling me about? Are you sure?" Hmmm.
I reminded him that I do great with Gentle Yoga (perhaps an embedded clue was there) and Barre (for all of us ballet-dancer wannabes) and Body Pump (weights are good for osteoporosis for crying out loud). Also, a Pilates class I had taken last year was wonderful; the class was just too expensive, and, well, who can't do a class with all those straps to hold onto?
My daughter had my spot all ready. Unfortunately, I was a minute or two late because I was in the wrong room looking for and texting her that I couldn't find her among the fifty people in there! I had my water bottle, my outfit (yoga pants and sleeveless tank), my yoga-socks (because bare feet just never seems right), my towel, and most importantly, my asthma inhaler.
Asha is smiling, the instructor is smiling, then the music begins. I felt like 15 minutes went by before I could figure out the first move...and it stayed that way for the next 50 minutes. Pilates is an exercise program to develop a body's strength and endurance. Yoga is also for strengthening the body through stretching poses and relaxation. They're made for each other. But maybe not made for this 65-year-old, out-of-shape grandmother who didn't take some time to build up slowly.  

And then again...I like relaxing. I like sitting and reading or sewing or movies. Maybe because the good part is the sitting. That's awful to say; here's the thing:  exercise is good for me, I need it, I want to love it. Maybe tomorrow.

How Would You Say It?

I once had to tell a father his son had died.  Whispering up through my memory, triggered by recent conversations about the experiences of presidential calls and letters and military commanding officer visits to deliver news that made its way from war to door, I remember that I, no one of significance, had to call a father and say to him that his son is dead.
            There was no way to be prepared. I had worked with J, a handsome young man with beautiful, perfect, dark-brown skin and eyes, and a smile that got bright-wide whenever he thought I was being silly, which was often. He died from a disease that took away his ability to walk, talk, and finally breathe. Because of difficult family circumstances, J’s parents had to place a young J in a nursing home to receive the best care possible at the time as their lives were in a state of flux. When J turned 18, our organization was able to help him explore various options on where he could live outside of the facility. We matched J with a home and support family so his last years were not spent in a hospital room but, instead, outside laughing in the sun or going to basketball games or getting pizza, for as long as he could.
             I offered to find J’s parents and tell them. Maybe it was because I was his “family support facilitator” or his friend—I hoped, but no more so than my colleagues who worked with endless focus and effort on his behalf for life outside of a facility. When I found out he died, I went to the hospital. No one was there when I arrived; I saw J through his slightly-opened door and went in. It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I looked at him and called his name; the smile he always had for me was gone. I said I loved him.
            I still sometimes think of how I was told my father died; he was 59 years old, lying in a military hospital bed in Colorado Springs, in 1995. After being with him most of the day and evening, his nurses talked me into going home to rest (I was seven months pregnant with my third daughter who would be named Andreanna, after him). I drove home in the late-night rain, and just as I got in the door, the phone rang. The nurse simply told me he was gone. I remember immediately being upset because I was just there, that I shouldn’t have left.  She was kind and said things to me like he may have needed me to leave, he may not have wanted me to see him die, that happens often.  It took me a while to think about that, but it sounded like my dad. I will always remember those words or maybe her kindness on my quiet drive back to the base.
            When I sat down to make the call at my desk that day, with my door closed and a few notes in front of me, I was not prepared for the enormity of the moment. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking. I worked to sound calm when his father answered. Quiet. I remember the quiet. After I confirmed I was speaking to J’s father and explained who I was and how I knew his son, the line was just quiet. He asked no questions. I suppose I didn’t think that they had been told at some point many years ago that this very moment would eventually come. Then I had to say it, that his son had become ill and had not recovered and had died. Quiet. I shared stories about his smile and his love of pizza; I believe he laughed at that. I left my contact information and let him know that I’d be calling him back very soon. Of course, after I hung up, I cried and cried.

Mornings After

      The first morning after the 2016 Presidential Election, I wasn't sure how to feel. Granted, it has been a busy semester helping daughters get moved into new homes, taking on new sewing projects, teaching two classes--which I've discovered is one too many for me anymore. Austin fall season is wreaking its normal chaos with my lungs and brought along a friend--anemia--to make my energy level up to about -2.  I tried to be upbeat walking into class the day after; I asked everyone how they were doing. Perhaps they were in the same shock I was. Or perhaps they didn't want to let me know that they weren't. But one of my students, an ex-Marine, looked up and said, "It's going to be all right." From that moment, I felt better. Maybe because my dad, who was a soldier, always made me feel safe and it might have been a message from him. Another student has inspired me to write poetry again, and now I find myself having spent the past six hours reuniting with my blog-journal.      
      When I first saw Mr. Trump cruelly mock a reporter with a physical disability, I thought no one would want that kind of heart, mind, and soul leading our country. I took it personally; it was our daughter, our girls' sister, he was mocking, our daughter who died to get away from the pain of living as 'other.’  He was mocking the children of my friends who’d worked for years to make our world a place where every single child and adult-- no matter the ability, the disability, the challenge, the illness, the behavior, the mobility—would have access to the environment surrounding them with all the gifts it offers. At times, I was honored to work alongside these fellow human beings.
       Suddenly, I feel unwelcome here, again, in this country where I was born and where my Cherokee great-grandmother was born and where my African threads of heredity were worked to death to make this country 'great' and for which my father fought in three vicious wars that sped the cancer that killed him at 59 years old and where he was called a nigger in the 'great' times of 1980's America.
       I'm confused because there must be many people I know and walk past and work with and teach who are pretending that I am exactly as equal they are, pretending to believe in faith, love, compassion, helping those in need, pretending to abhor hatred and violence and bigotry, perhaps even pretending friendship.
       I'm disappointed that the film footage my grands will see of what was to be another progressive, historic marker of American ideology is instead a rude, mean old man making fun of people and calling one of their own cousin’s entire race horrible names and promising to build a wall between our related countries instead of building answers to our shared problems.
       In the 70s as a new 18-year-old faced with freedom that I was ill-prepared for and a bit too naïve to handle, I found myself in a situation that led to my being raped. It was by someone I knew. It was someone from a group of “friends.” Unfortunately, I was not wise or strong enough to report what happened because I thought it was my fault; I was ashamed.  However, as a new, young secretary at an engineering firm four years after that event, I managed to stand up to one of the senior engineers and tell him never to pat me on the behind again after his welcome to the department. There will be footage of this new President using language that supports crude, inappropriate, vulgar, and unwanted advances toward women that I will have to explain to my granddaughters and grandsons. I don’t know what I will say.
         I remember meeting Governor George W. Bush and feeling that he was a kind man. He had provided funding to the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, to which I was originally appointed by Governor Ann Richards. He seemed genuinely touched by a picture of Annie that I gave him and told him she was deaf and that the money would help provide services to others like her.
          I went on an advocacy adventure in 1994. Mrs. Clinton and others had orchestrated a bus tour across country (for us, from Austin, Texas, to the White House) sharing our stories of the negative impact of not having insurance that followed the insured or not covering pre-existing conditions or not paying for certain therapies or new technologies for delivering insulin or helping restore some sound to those who chose the option. I remember the bomb threats to our buses, the “Nazi-Hillary” signs, and the rage toward us for trying to help provide a program benefiting anyone in America who needed health care. I met amazing individuals challenged with trying to heal from or live with cancer, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, medical catastrophe-induced poverty, or just trying to receive treatments or medications to help ourselves or our children.  We represented all ages, backgrounds, races; we were like a health care Woodstock.   FullSizeRender-2
      Mostly, I will always remember the bravery of a 10-year-old Annie and a 12-year-old Asha. I will remember Annie asking me what all those people holding up signs and shouting with angry faces were so upset about, and what was that sign language they were using. I think that’s when she learned the words for being flipped-off. She thought a minute and told me, “Just wave and smile at them.” It was our little joke to pretend they were saying nice things and waving to us as we grinned and waved back.  Asha soaked up the sights of the trip. She never wavered on doing her blood tests and insulin injections several times a day and every day. She made me brave enough to go to the subways so I could take them to one of the Smithsonian Museums and to see the Lincoln Memorial—which stops your breath; the Kennedy flame that burns the 60's era of civil warfare still; and the Vietnam Memorial that made me cry because maybe I touched the names of my father’s friends he lost there. I remember Mrs. Clinton talking to my girls as mothers do and accepting drawings Annie made. I remember her asking about Peter and how he was doing with work, knowing we depended on its insurance for our family’s care—Asha’s Type I diabetes and Annie’s hearing loss, my asthma and high blood pressure. I remember being asked to bring Asha back to make an appearance to a Congressional committee on health care reforms. I remember her sitting beside Mrs. Clinton and her leaning over and whispering into Asha’s ear after she spoke. I asked Asha about what she said. Asha was beaming and said, “She told me I was beautiful and did a great job." I remember my own awe as I sat in within walls of history and the sheer true greatness of it all.


        These are the thoughts I am having the first mornings after the 2016 Presidential Election. I took my girls with me to vote for many years when they were babies. Now I have gone with them and taken my grandchildren. On Election Day 2016, I left the voting area hugging my oldest daughter and saying, “I really love America.” Perhaps I just continue to cling to that feeling and tell my grands if they should ask: always cling to the righteous spirit of an ideal dream.
         Faith has taught me love will win in the end.

Mother's Day - 2015

     It's not very hard to think about being a mother on Mother's Day, but it is a little uncomfortable. Maybe because I still can't believe I'm old enough to be a mother--five times! (Imagine how I feel on Grandparents Day.) Maybe I don't feel I've been kind enough, strong enough, smart enough, patient enough...well, you see where I'm going; maybe there are too many reasons I don't see how I could possibly deserve my own day. You should have to be a very wise person to have your own day--and the things I am wise about certainly don't deserve a day; maybe those things deserve a delete button.
     There are and have been many women in the world whom I'd choose to be my mother for Mother's Day; they could take turns, like getting on that special horse on the Merry-Go-Round.  And having had a child isn't a requirement. Mother Theresa, for example. Now how amazing would that be? I would never go hungry spiritually or physically.  Or Erma Bombeck? I'd laugh at least once every day.  I wanted to be Laura Petrie in a white sweater and black capri pants; she was a great mom, so vulnerable and apologetic, "O-h-h, R-o-b!"   Patti LaBelle? Oh my gosh, I've read that she loves to cook for people and even cooked for Elton John when they were both young and broke and beginning to fly.  I imagine that the music in the air of my dreams would be more than enough to live on with Miss Patti in the picture.
     I would be blessed to have been the daughter of any of my daughters. (The thought creeps them out---it is kind of weird and you can't think about it too much.)  In spite of me and all of my mistakes, misjudgements, precautions, my five daughters have great hearts and great souls. They would have loved me, I know. Just like I know Jesus loves me.
     So, in order to have had my mom-daughters, I am grateful for my own mother, Preta.  She was, in my and my therapist's opinion, overly harsh--Preta definitely didn't play. I can say, however, that she didn't let anyone mess with me or not let me have my chance. I think she was a little disappointed that I never "took my shoe off" and fought back.  She was at some times adored, other times hated, and most often feared; many of her ways I did not pass on. But in her last hours of life, she gave me something silent and powerful: she hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek and put the blanket over her head to go to sleep. I never saw her alive again.


      I am grateful for Peter's mother, too.  Margaret. Without her, there wouldn't be such a kind and good, loyal and loving man who helped my mom-daughters even be in the world.   She seemed a bit like my favorite TV mom, Leave it to  Beaver's mom. I've missed her. She always listened to my insanely goofy calls (and she'd call every week) with such respect. Even when I'd complain about her son, she'd take my side!  She always welcomed me into her world. She liked happiness.


         They both told me, at various times, that I was a good mother.  Perhaps it's the children who should make that call.  I did try, though; and it was often the best thing I ever did.  So, maybe we don't need a "Mother's Day" or a "Father's Day" -  there's too big a chance of missing someone very important to be grateful for who may not be technically a mother or father at all, much less our own. But they cared like one, a good one. Maybe we just need a "Those Who Cared About Me Day."  For me, there are a lot of you out there.  Happy Day!


This Really Happened-1:30am on a Tuesday Morning

     “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

      (with license in hand) “Yes, I know, I know…I’ve been at the capitol and just got out and was so worried about my new doggie…I’ve been gone 12 hours.”

     “Well, Miss Thune, you were going 68 in a 55 mile-per-hour work zone.” (Not a soul was out working in the pitch black of 1am.)

     “I know, really, our bill was last; I was giving testimony for House Bill 2048 for Representative Naishstat (trying to name-drop here) and I forgot how long that can take and my dog is a new rescue and I don’t know how she’s doing and I started hurrying…”

      “Bill 2048, huh? What’s that one about?” (Yes, he really asked me!)

      (In my trembly, almost-going-to-cry, can’t-believe-this-is-happening voice and instant advocate mode) “Well, it’s about creating supports for children with mental health issues and I offered my testimony because my daughter died from suicide five years ago…” (maybe TMI?)

     “I’m sorry to hear that. Do you have insurance, Miss Thune?”

      “Oh yes…I’m trying to find it…it’s here…” (I’m pulling everything out of my glove box just as I realized that police officers probably don’t like people pulling everything out of their glove boxes. For me, there were:  several straws, a black and now suspicious-looking case with all the manufacturing information on my car, and at least 100 multi-colored, tangled, pipe-cleaners that I’d tossed in months ago because my grands are not at all impressed with them.) “Here it is!” 

     (Oh my god!! Is that the knife I brought home from school to wash from cutting brownies for my students--right there on my passenger seat?)

     “Have you been drinking, Miss Thune?” (I needed to have been—does that count?)

     “Gosh, no! I literally just left the capitol, just now…I even have my parking ticket!” (Really? I’ve had one Snickers’ bar and a coffee all day!!)

      “I have to ask—you can’t imagine the stories I hear. I’ll be right back.”

     (This is just great; my poor Bella. Oh, please don’t make me walk a straight line; I couldn’t do it if I were a nun…)

      “Well, I’m not going to give you a citation, but please be careful. You were weaving a little back there.” (With this construction, new lanes, and strange curves, exhausted at 1:30 in the morning, I’m lucky I didn’t go careening off the road all together…but I kept that to myself.)

      “Oh thank you, I’m really sorry…thank you so much!”

End of story:  Bella was perfect—not even an accident, just running in serious doggie circles with happiness that I was home! 

Thank you, God. Thank you, Annie. MWAH!

How I Spent My Friday the 13th -- A Short Story

          The last message on my cell before it died was "Tornado Warning, Seek Shelter." I wondered: Does that mean ‘go inside’ or ‘get in the bathtub’? And there I was, alone with my one- and three-year-old sleeping grandchildren, in my daughter and son-in-law’s home on two acres of cedar-filled, deer-munching, Texas landscape. A lightning show was underway while thunder, hard winds, and rain blasted three sides of the house. Water came in under French doors in the master bedroom; then, the electricity died leaving us without running water, appliances, air conditioning, or most importantly, television. Their two dogs were panicking, so I put them in their "bed-time" in the laundry room. After placing blankets and pillows in the hallway between the babies' rooms and closing their bathroom door and the pocket door to the rest of the house, I made a little, confined area away from external walls and without glass (I never realized how many floor-to-ceiling  windows were in the house until I had to avoid them.) I spent two hours crouched in the hall, ready to grab them out of their cribs at the first sign of an exterior breach (my Army daddy would've liked that!). All I can say is: Thank goodness for my Kindle Paperwhite—I read a few chapters from Dominick Dunne's A Season in Purgatory.  
            I found my emergency cell charger and with a couple minutes on my phone was able to see that the storm rating went from a warning to a watch; I actually slept a bit.  Around 3am, I heard the doggies crying and thought--oh, they should go out. With one of the three flashlights I found along with a pink canister of mace, I unbolted the dining room door so they could run right out. (Well, I didn't want to face a panicked deer or other wild creature without some kind of weapon.)  It was so dark...one doggie came back quickly, but the runner, Archer, was nowhere to be found. I started calling him and prayed that at least one of the many dogs I suddenly heard barking was ours. (Is it possible that a coyote would answer to “ARCHER!”) At some point, I saw a dog-like shadow running along the OUTSIDE of the fence. What the…? A Chevy Chase movie came to mind. I checked the gate and found that half the length of the wire and post fence had blown  down! Luckily, about twenty minutes later, Archer was at the back door.


            At 5am and still no electricity, the time came to create an exit strategy. My emergency charger was dead and babies would be waking up soon. I decided to just pack them up and drive up north to my house. Then I remembered the garage doors—run on electricity. I know my husband mentioned something about a release for an emergency just like this.  With my tiny flashlight, I try looking for that release; surely it would be a giant red handle with a sign that says, “Pull this to open manually!” Silly me, I actually pulled down one of the hanging outlet strips for my son-in-law’s woodshop equipment. Now, eight hours into this tornado adventure, I was beginning to panic.
            I needed Peter, my husband who can fix anything, my rock, my rescuer, the man who told me eight hours ago when I had a phone and a television and a tray full of warm, chocolate-chip cookies:   “Don’t worry, it’s just a storm; it’ll pass; get some sleep.”  Bright idea: I decided I could surely start my car, plug in my cell, and have one minute to talk very fast and explain my situation before passing out from fumes or blowing anything up.  Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t the best choice for anything fast; he needs a lot of 'processing' time. I’d have to wake up my daughter who, along with her husband and baby, was living with us for another few weeks until moving into her new house.  I said something like:
     Asha, I’m so sorry to wake you up but I have only a minute to talk because the garage is filling up with fumes since my cell is dead and I had to plug it into the car; the electricity is off, the fence is blown over, there is no AC and it’s getting hot; the refrigerator is starting to melt, the babies will be up in an hour, I can’t get the garage door open to drive them to my house, and I don’t know what to do. I’ll call back in ten minutes.
At least I think that’s what I said—it all sounded like Charlie-Brown-Teacher-Talk.  But bless her, she responded, “I’ll tell Daddy.”  I do love my honey, but if I’d had to explain it to him, the police would have found me on my cell in the garage, unconscious; I couldn’t chance it.  When I checked back, he was on the way. I also saw the door to the back yard from the garage right there, big as life, behind my car. There was no need to have risked our lives.
        It turned out to be quite a scene; when Peter arrived, he said he’d helped several people clear tree limbs from the road to even reach me.  When we looked at the back yard in daylight, chairs and toys had been tossed around, a window screen was found thrown across the yard, and the large gas grill, now uncovered, had been blown sideways and left about one inch from crashing into the living room window. We were fortunate that only a part of one of their trees had been split and blown down. Across the road from us, electrical lines were lying across the neighbor’s front yard.  It was eerie, and I felt badly about those anywhere who had gone through such a storm with far greater loss than I.
            After a little trip to McDonald’s to give the kids a quick breakfast and a stop at Home Depot for wire to mend the fence, all seemed right with the world.
            Peter and my grands, after all, were the only things that mattered.


Tornado-1                       20140614_131015
Tornadoday             Wiresdown

Another Year, Another Writing Chance

    Fall certainly came and went with its cooler winds and falling leaves, confused by the triple-digit, on again-off again temperature changes. One day I'm preparing for a new semester in 2013 and the next...well, starting a new spring semester in 2014.
    Last August, my grandson turned the big 2! Holden is still golden, full of questions and observations and concerns and wonders. His eyes can sparkle with mischief and in seconds be shrouded in annoyance. But his clouds don't last long. That's what I loved about having my babies...there was always that energy-filled eagerness to return to joy.

Baby sister, Harper, now 1 in December, is already her own girl, always sizing up the room. You have to work hard to gain her audience...and it's worth it.

And granddaughter, Perren, is right in between her cousins, having turned 1 in September...absorbing, dancing, always engaging.

I've kept sewing, too.  'Alice and Lula,' my one-woman sewing room is still percolating, growing closer to fruition. The quilt above that Perren (along with a very old Ellie Belle) is sitting on is a Lone Star pattern I recently learned to make; it became a September wedding gift for one of Annie's friends. The sewing business my family is helping me develop is named after my two grandmothers, both sewists: Alice, my maternal grandmother who was a silk presser and could make couture pieces, and Lula, my paternal grandmother who made quilts that, from the two that I've tracked down, are as beautiful and current as ever. Unfortunately, I never lived close enough to know them very well or to learn from them many of life's secrets; maybe they're guiding me to a connection delicately drawn by silver threads.
   AliceLulaCMYK                  20131202_164400

     I even got brave enough to make a dress although Annie's doggie, Princess, is the real star of this picture. (However, I should win an Oscar because I'd just stepped in 'doggie presents' trying to be a model!)

    I enjoyed taking youngest daughter, Halla, 20, to the Austin Film Festival (my fourth year) and Tiera, now 25, to see the musical, "A Night with Janis." Both were amazing events made more special by the company. Thanksgiving dinner brought most of us together at our oldest daughter's home. Christmas Day again found Santa (and his helpers) filling stockings, wrapping presents, and feeding my lovely girls, sons-in-law, and grands at my house.  It means more than I can put into words how hard my girls work to be with me on Christmas morning. When they were growing up, Christmas was a story I loved creating year after year:  Santa was coming and bringing gifts to teach us how to love and share and believe. Peter still makes Christmas breakfast: his grandmother's sweet bread rusk; this Christmas, the request was for his home-made doughnuts. Now, Merete and Asha, their husbands and children all come to the house, along with Halla and Tiera (who is a pro at making the four-hour drive at the drop of a hat--and in only three hours) all surround Peter and I with the greatest gifts we could ever receive.
    It's not quite right when I say the holidays are hard without Annie; every day still contains at least one moment of disbelief or sinking sadness or just soul-deep longing. Yet there are also moments of remembering her funny walk, how she thought many things were "stupid" or "a bad idea," how she, deaf, was the best dancer in the family, and how she never got lost--although she seemed to hit quite a few curbs, deer, and other strange objects along the way.  Her Princess still sleeps with Peter and me (in the center of a king-size bed!) for what will be four years this April. Peter and I just curl around her and hope that Annie is smiling. I sometimes wonder if the Grand Scheme had her adopt Princess so we'd have some of Annie to hold onto for a little while longer...anything is possible. I'll ask her when I see her again.




Annie's Ashes--a photo essay

    Ashes, the only real Andreanna I have left; soft, grey-white, sacred. These are places where part of her lives on:

My heart and Colorado

Aitnecklace          Sept2010AIT 115         Sept2010AIT 132

I wear a glass bead around my neck that holds that grey-white whisper of her soul; it is attached to one half of a heart that says: The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. The other half lies with the majority of her ashes in the mountains of Colorado.

Bridge1989         Sept2010AIT 129
My babies saying goodbye to our home in Colorado...we paid a special visit to Aspen, our favorite spot. Annie is in the orange coat; she is four years old. Twenty years later, her sisters and brothers-in-law stand on the same bridge saying another goodbye.

Sept2010AIT 131
This picture I had taken after my last goodbye, looks to me like an angel is above the bridge. When I first saw it, I knew that Annie was letting me know she was just fine. I once found a note she wrote that she was an angel with a broken wing; one of her favorite sayings was from the movie, Hook: "Think happy thoughts and you can fly." So she flies...

Austin, Texas

July 2013 377              CSC_0081

Aittree                           DSC_0097

All around Austin, tributes from so many for such a lonely girl:  a marker on Lady Bird Lake at Lou Neff Point given with love by Peter's co-workers; a sign defines a small park area dedicated by the city of Austin at the request of EmanciPet; a memorial tree purchased by the family through The Christi Center; a bench dedicated to Annie by a mentor, Lee Mannix, who tragically died two weeks after her, both of them in charge of heaven's dogs now...

At home

     Backyardgarden      Camera 6-2012 045       
 The evolving  backyard garden still grows the gifts of mourning: a lime plant from Peter's manager; an angel that colors the night in rainbow glow from my friend, Ana; a St. Francis, from Peter, to honor Annie's love of animals; a yellow rose bush from my cousins; and a pear tree given by a daughter's college roommate (my dear Monica) and her family. One day a fountain will be in the garden, from my sister-in-law...all gifts during those first blurred and blistered days of Annie's death.         

Grand Canyon and New Mexico

DSCN1981                  DSCN2969
One year after Annie died, Peter took some of her ashes to the Grand Canyon. Appropriately, she has a view of the ombred canyon from a tree on Horseshoe Mesa; she loved horses after falling in love with a sweet one at camp named "Little Mama." She even graces the hollyhocked entrance,
the altar, and the chapel of El Santuario de Chimayo, my own holy place.



I was blessed this summer when a friend of the family took some of Annie's ashes to Jerusalem. Beneath this tree, part of her becomes part of that holy land, and a poem for her, placed in the Wailing Wall, prays for our eternity together.

From Dust to Heaven
You've left me...
 But, I've not forgotten the feel of your skin,
or the brightness of your smile,
my starlight.
Could Mary's grief be the lighter
that her son died to save the world?
You saved no one...but me.
You were my world.
I imagine her loss is as mine...
Wait for me my Andreanna,
here where Jesus walked,
and I will dream of the joy
that Mary has found
and how I will hold you one day forever.


Annie loved Mickey and Minnie Mouse immensely. Peter and I were always sad we weren't able to ever get the girls to Disneyland. Over the past three years, I've received wonderful gifts of pictures of dragonflies (Annie had a dragonfly tattoo) or pictures of Minnie from my students. I used to wonder how she fell in love with Minnie, and then, not so long ago, I found a picture of her dressed and ready for her first day of pre-school:

Cell phone 6-2012 396






   And then, thanks to big sister, Asha, a most special place became home to part of Annie's spirit, making one of my dreams come true:

"If you can dream it, you can do it." Walt Disney                                                                      

For Annie:  MWAH!                                                                                                      












Jonathan's Quilt

      There once was a time I just knew I could not survive the loss of my child. Then, I lost my child. My heart kept beating, my lungs kept breathing, the sun rose and set. My other daughters still needed me; grandchildren arrived and let me know that the child I lost is born again and again and again. 
      In addition to my family, making quilts has become my life raft. I'm learning a whole new world. Fabrics and designers and patterns; sewing machines, quilting machines, notions, and techniques abound. New individuals have come into my life sharing their knowledge and love of the quilting process.  I've made 35 quilts in the past year!

    October 2012 046              Nikon 1-2013 100                  Cell phone 6-2012 356

The quilt with the brown and red sashing is a t-shirt quilt I made for my grandson, Holden. It has t-shirts from his aunties, gran and grandad, and his mom and dad. 
        One of the blessings that came from the most horrible loss was meeting Donna. She lost her son, Jonathan, only months after I lost Annie. Both of our children committed suicide. For the past three years we've shared tears and books and hopes and prayers. Each year when Donna visits her sister in Texas, she goes out of her way to visit me, too. On our first visit, we stayed up all night and ate ice cream sundaes and looked at pictures of our kids. On her last visit, she surprised me with my biggest quilting challenge, and honor, to date. She brought all of Jonathan's t-shirts and work shirts to see if I would make a quilt out of them for her. I was surprised, sad, and excited. Touching each of them made me feel as if I was touching Jonathan. Donna and I often say that Jonathan and Annie are together, getting us together down here to find the joy they now have. 
          It's amazing how each shirt is a story. I'm going slowly on this project; I don't want to mess it up--it's too important. I took the shirts to my quilting teacher to have guidance (a pep talk) to be sure I was proceeding correctly. I was doing fine. I would fold them, arrange them, take pictures of them. But no matter how long I put it off, I knew I'd have to cut into them, sooner or later. When I cut the first of Jonathan's shirts, I cried. Not because I was afraid of the job ahead; actually, I feel quite confident of how it will turn out. I cried because I miss him, too. Just like I miss Annie. I have met him through his shirts and I miss him.

   LPT phone 3-2013 229                 LPT phone 3-2013 231                        LPT phone 3-2013 232

                                                          LPT phone 3-2013 228

  Jonathan's quilt...another true labor of love. 

For Donna, Jonathan, and Annie,

The Shot

      For all these years, I've said I feel the pain my children feel, their sadness is mine, their disappointment is mine, their joy is mine.  One of my daughters has been insulin-dependent since age two.  It hurt my heart so much giving her those injections.  When I'd cry,  she'd say, "It's not you, Mommy, it's the shot."  She was very brave and strong and must have worked quite hard all those years not letting me see her hurt.  That's quite a sacrifice seeing as I've always been known for wearing my heart, and pain, on my sleeve; I feel and express much of what's going on with me "in the moment." Not always such a good idea.  I have another daughter who's done weekly injections for her condition. That needle was quilte large; it looked like jabbing a pencil into your leg.
        Now that I have a daily injection for the next couple of years, I can say that my heart may have ached deeply for my children's hardships, but I can't know completely what they go through.  Giving myself a shot every day is a hard, unnatural thing to do  (and that's only one--nothing like the thirty blood tests Asha did each day during her pregnancy or the every-three-day rotation of her insulin pump site--a plastic canula is injected under the skin for continuous insulin delivery). Peter, my husband, did the first couple for me because I just couldn't press the needle into my leg.  I've done it once and felt quite silly getting all nervous and sweaty and afraid of doing it. I was upset that I just couldn't nonchalantly stick that puppy in there and move on to something else.  We take turns.
          So although I still think I still feel quilte a lot of what my daughters go through--illnesses, losing their sister, jobs, houses, worrying about their new babies (although they are all doing such great jobs as superwomen), I can't truly understand their pain completely--not exactly like they do, nor can they mine. I can also appreciate how our other two daughters worked so hard to make their sisters and their mom forget about the pain. For the next two years at least, I'll be thinking of my brave, wonderful girls who didn't want their mom to be hurt or ever see them hurting.
          I love my girls. MWAH. (And Peter, too.  Don't worry, Pete:  "It's not you, it"s the shot.)

The Letter

The Last Letter

              (October 12, 2012—at the service, with Military Honors,
                     of Preta A. Mitchell Phillips)

The silver thread that held me to you October 2012 108
Has dissolved into light;
There will be no more pain or fear
Between either of us tonight.
I will pray for the peace of forgiveness
That He has asked of us all
And for the gift of remembering
Life before the fall.
I know you were lonely and sad and had dreams of your own;
You were not alone in that evening mist.October 2012 086
I wish I could have found your other girls, to say goodbye,
Because everything was said and done in that final kiss.
Through me, my girls, their children, and on
Your dreams will live, grow, become—
Take your rest now; be your true, lovely, funny soul.
Daddy, Annie, you, and me—wait—together—all will be one.
With love,
Your oldest daughter…      
October 2012 116


First Hug, Last Goodbye


     My mother, Preta A. Phillips, died one week ago at age 77 on September 27, 2012.  I am the oldest of her three daughters; I've not heard from my sisters in many years. They don't know that one of my daughters, their niece, died two years ago. I don't know about my niece or great niece. My father died 27 years ago. Preta reached out to me in 2008 when she had no one else.
     Bringing her to live near me was a difficult move; she'd made my life painful for so long, and I didn't want to bring that pain into my new life with my own family. When I began to have children and voiced my concern about making the mistakes she'd made, my aunts--my father's sisters--told me to just be the mother I always wanted to have.  I had freedom to be like the parents on "Leave it to Beaver" and "My Three Sons" and "The Waltons." I had permission to love my girls with all my breath and heart. I could love them as much as I wanted to. I would never tell them I didn't want their love. I am free not to feel afraid anymore.
     However, I learned to care for her with a bit of distance. Two years ago when my daughter Annie died, my oldest daughter took over taking calls from the care facility Preta lived in. She'd pass me the information when I could better "hear" it. My other three daughters took turns going with me to see her; I couldn't do it alone.  
    Recently my mother had begun receiving hospice services after returning from the hospital a couple of weeks ago. My last visits with her were probably the best we'd ever had.  I'd made a quilt for her in August for her birthday; she appeared to like it. It will be buried with her, covering her forever.


      On the last day I saw her, she was in much pain and said she was so sick. Her aides and I tried to make her comfortable; I told Preta the Hospice Austin team were starting up to care for her and that they were sending pain medicine over immediately, her new bed had already arrived.  When she'd calmed a bit, I put the TV on for her, something we used to do together--watch movies. When a facility nurse asked  Preta how she was doing, she ignored her. She looked at me then slowly raised her arms and held them out toward me, wordlessly. I bent toward her, she hugged me and gave me a kiss.  I told her I'd be back the next day. She put the sheet and blanket over her head, as if ready to sleep.  I found out later that afternoon, she refused jello and asked for a piece of cake--a rare treat on the diabetic diet she was on. She ate it just fine. When the phone rang at 1:ooam, I knew she was gone.
     Perhaps she did me justice by making me strong enough to be an advocate for my girls whenever they needed me. If I didn't make an A or even didn't have a turn to read in elementary school, she'd head straight for the teacher's home (we lived on an Army base) and ask why. Perhaps that's where my love of school really began, where the seed was planted that Preta believed was my key to the future--an excellent education.
     Her last real hug may be my first step toward forgiveness...and being forgiven. Goodbye, Preta. We both did the best we could.
     Your Linda

Food Personalities

     It's great fun having daughters...they each have their own personalities--quieter or louder, more serious or more silly, more put-together or more "elastic".  But it's been serious joy watching them grow into their own cooking personalities, too.  
     In a nutshell (!), our oldest, Merete, at one point, found boiling water a challenge.  Phone rings:  "Hi Mom, so what does "boil" mean exactly?  When it's smoking hot, or when these little bubbles are just around the edge, or is it a certain time period it's at a certain temperature...what's the deal?"  (Her father, the Engineer, is responsible for that.)
     Tiera, (the deep, still waters child), observes.  Phone rings:  "Hi Muva!  So those french fries you make, you had put some kind of spice on them before you covered them with flour...what was that?"  Who knew she was watching?  Paprika. 
     Annie--well, this is easy.  Hates cooking, hates leftovers, hates mistakes.  Make it right or she's out the door to Chipotle.
     Halla--the youngest, still at home, still in charge.  Phone rings:  "So Mommy-o, I'm going to make some no-bakes, okay?  And maybe some chocolate chip...but if I get bored, will you finish them?"
      Then there's Asha.  I can tell that the whole family has decided that if they ever need to spend a night anywhere, Asha's is the place to be--you'll get, as big sister and brother-in-law say, many "Tasty Treats."  Asha cooks for the same reason she loves vacuuming...it makes her feel good.  She's the one who will say, "Hmmm, I'm in the mood to bake."  Next thing you know, there's a few dozen cookies ready for her work the next day.  I'd like to think she got that love from me...and in some way, being able to stay home with her and her sisters when they were little and using cooking as an activity to entertain ourselves, might have helped.  But Asha says she "dreams in flavors."  Could be the diabetes talking.  She actually will invent things with spices and skinless chicken breasts and dried cherries and white chocolate chips, and so on and so on.  In fact, the call goes a little differently with her:    
     Phone rings:  "Hi Ashie, it's Mom. I just tried my first invention.  Okay, how does this sound?  I tried mixing some lime juice, ancho chile powder and melted butter and injected it into my roast chicken....do you think it'll work?" 
     You have to be in the mood for food to give that a try...


White-Winged Dove--The Rescue

     When time is taken to be open in mind and spirit, wonderful gifts are provided.  Unfortunately, it is hard work to remember to also be open to changing damaging patterns or habits, but that is the gift inherent in a new minute, a new hour, a new day, the constant chance to try again.
     Halla and I were leaving to go out for a lunch date (one of those rare moments when an 18-year-old daughter was in the mood to tolerate an hour or two hanging out with mom).  I heard rustling in some leaves beneath our twenty-three-year-old oak near the driveway.  A bird was trying to fly but only managed a few inches or so.  Being the fearless, courageous mom that I am, I said, "Halla, come here...do something...this bird is hurt!!"  Now we're both looking at this beautiful bird with the softest grey coloring, some black and some brilliant white color along the wings.  Halla, being the quick-thinking, scientific mind of the two of us, said, "OMG--it's got a big, gross hole in its back..."   I said maybe our vet would look at it.  At that moment, realizing taking it anywhere meant one of the two of us would have to pick it up, I said, "I wish Annie were here--she'd have grabbed it all ready!"
     But Halla hung in there; while I grabbed a box and put a towel in it, I told her to get some bread or something. (Later I found out it's better not to feed an injured animal until it's been seen at the Center.)  She tore up a whole-grain piece of tortilla.  Why that tickled me, I don't know.  I guess it reminded me of the time I was told little cups of beer would collect pill bugs from over-running a garden; my husband came home to find his stash of expensive porter spread around the flowers. He kindly suggested, "Well, good idea, not poisonous--how about some generic light beer or something next time?" 
      I finally got the number and address of the Wildlife Rescue Center on MLK, Jr. Blvd. I had two students waiting to meet with me up at ACC Cypress Campus, but I called them to let them know our mission and rescheduled for an hour later.  Halla donned a big pair of Peter's work gloves.  But each time she got close to it, it would fly up a little ways and then fall right down.  It was so sad...she tried once more--I thought maybe if I put the box where I thought it might fall...then we realized we'd need Peter to do the trajectory math calculuations of how far it can fly at its disabled speed, etc., etc.  No time for that.  Then we thought of our neighbor, Collin, who has known Halla and our family since they were in elementary school...he's a hunter; he'd know about a little bird.  Well, the hunting part seemed a bit opposite of what we were trying to accomplish, but it was all good.  Collin came over, donned Peter's gloves and tried to help catch it.  Tough little critter; it tried flying away once more, but down it came in some bushes, and Collin was able to get him out.  He looked at our box with the cozy towel and bread and said, "Are you sure you want to use that box? It might fly out."  Oh yea...we got that set up before we realized it could fly a bit.  Halla, and her father would beam with joy about this, said, "How about some duct tape?"  That seemed like cruel and unusual punishment since we'd have to spend some time punching quite a few holes in this box so it wouldn't think we were burying it alive.  So I ran in and grabbed one of the many fashionable small doggie carriers that Annie had purchased for Princess.  I think I grabbed the one she actually bought from Coach. So Collin got our new BFF into the cadillac of carriers and we were off.
     Halla seemed to think I should drive like an ambulance..."Mom, Collin said he was breathing heavy--maybe there's not much time...can't you at least go the speed limit."  Fine..I was trying to sing songs to it to let it know we were its friends, Halla was holding the carrier up so it wouldn't jostle as we went over bumps at warp speed, and we made it to the Center.
    By now, I am in love with this bird and I'd be devastated if he wasn't going to make it.  The nicest young lady came over (Stephanie?? I just can't remember), but as we filled out paperwork outside the building (no one can go in--it could bring in disease, etc.), she deftly reaches right into the carrier, WITH HER BARE HANDS, and starts checking out our bird.  "Hey little fella, what happened--something got to you; you seem to be well fed.  (I bragged about the whole grain tortilla Halla got.) She said it was so fortunate we got him there so soon, no time for flies (ewwww) to have gotten to the big wound on its back. And a lot of birds come to them nearly starved.  She sprayed antiseptic on its would and then fed him some medicine..."I know it doesn't taste great, but it is good for you...good job!"  I just love people who talk to animals like little kids!!!  She then let us know that he would be treated initially there, then off to a rehabilitation center to get well, then in about three months when he should be nicely healed up, he'll be taken to a safe-release site where there's no danger of him being shot.  I was so happy.  I think Halla wanted to adopt him to live in our back yard.
     But the magical part?  At first our bird was thought to be a mourning dove, but then quickly corrected to be a white-winged dove.  My favorite singer is Stevie Nicks.  So I'm going to call him Stevie and check on him while he's recouperating.  I also looked up some information about the white-winged dove.  It is considered a symbol of the spirit leaving the body at death.  Stevie Nicks ended up writing the song for her producer and friend, Jimmy Iovine who was also a best friend of John Lennon.  Lennon died in December, 1980, and Jimmy was inconsolable; Stevie, as the story goes, tried to comfort him, but there was nothing that could be done or said to break through the silence; she left for Arizona to be with her dying uncle, who died holding her hand and her younger cousin's, that same week as Lennon.    (http://www.nicksfix.com/sun7-17-1991.htm)

The white-winged dove, about the same size as our
mourning dove, is considered loveliest of all. Its plumage is soft and gray
overall, with white upper wing coverts that are conspicuous in flight -- wings
outlined with white.  www.desertmuseum.org


Well I hear you in the morning...
And I hear you...
At nightfall...
Sometimes to be near you...
Is to be unable... to hear you...
My love...
I'm a few years older than you...
My love

Just like the white winged dove...
Sings a song...
Sounds like shes singing...       
Stevie Nicks

I could feel Annie being very excited and telling the angels about Halla and me and Collin today and our mission to save one lovely dove.  But then again, I see her almost everywhere and in everything...I just have to be ever open. 

By the way, we ended up donating the Coach carrier (that I'm sure Annie and Princess would approve of) to the Wildlife Rescue Center, along with a small monetary donation. They often need ways to transport the small animals. Please feel free to check out their website: http://www.austinwildliferescue.org.  There are many types of donations they collect and could use information on how they can expand.

Much love and thanks to my surrogate son, Collin; to my bravest girl when the going gets tricky (except for catching a cricket), my Halla; to Asha who made sure we went to the right place. And to Annie--who made me change the way I look at birds forever.

Messages in Grief

    It has been a special weekend--a lovely trip to Baton Rouge for my daughter's baby shower from her in-laws. Many of her husband's family, friends, and his parents' friends brought love and gifts galore. It was a joy to be in the home of my son-in-law's grandmother, where he grew up, touring the beautiful neighborhood where he rode bikes, played soccer, lived life.  And now, there we all were celebrating the impending new life of  his baby daughter and my granddaughter, Perren Madalyn.
    As the births of my two newest granddaughters (oldest sister, Merete, is expecting later this year)approach, it's never far from my mind that Annie is having an angel's-eye view of all that is going on.  She doesn't have to worry about not hearing what everyone is talking or laughing about, we don't have to worry if we're signing everything for her, she doesn't have to battle the depressive disorder that took every joy and made it into something, that seemed to her, unattainable. Now she not only has the best seat in the house, but she can finally enjoy feeling nothing but love and gratitude and happiness for each and every one of us.  However, my arms will always ache to hold her just once more.
    She seems to know when I'm feeling this way--missing her a little extra. There are some pictures on my bulletin board in my sewing room: a fabulous sewing studio to daydream about--all wood and windows and big spaces; there are a couple of cards sent to me last Christmas with little birds on them that remind me of the bird that stayed with us as we buried Annie's ashes; there are sample Christmas cards I made for the past few years; but two things stand out. One item is a little poster Annie made for me quite a while ago with her favorite saying from a movie she loved:

Cell phone 6-2012 393

The other is an old snapshot of Annie when she started a pre-school for children who are deaf. She must have been around three or four.  My comment about the picture was "I wonder why Annie loved Minnie Mouse so much?"

Cell phone 6-2012 396

She was all set with her Minnie Mouse jumper, backpack, and lunchbox!  And the bow she always wore when she was little.  
    For me, it was a message through time and space, through grief, when the first of dozens of gifts Annie's big sister, Asha, opened at the baby shower some 23 years after this photo; the very first gift Asha opened was a Minnie Mouse backpack. After that, she opened a Minnie Mouse lunch box. I couldn't believe it...but I could. Because that's how God works. Annie is with me, with her dad, with her sisters, with her new nieces and nephew, with her brothers-in-law every step of the way. And she always finds a way to remind me.
    Until I hold you again, Annie...Mwah!

Anything for You

     So now that I've made perhaps half a dozen quilts, I take on any job. When my daughter asked if I could make four quilts for gifts at a business luncheon, I said, "Sure!"  I wondered why everyone I mentioned it to looked at me like I was nuts.  I found a fun pattern online called "Circular Logic."  Each quilt has 36 circles that are reverse-appliqued; when I cut out inside the stitched circle, the color beneath shows through.

May 2012 133        May 2012 135


(The doggie in the corner is actually part of a t-shirt from the organization that I incorporated into the quilt.)

Halla took a minute before school to be one of my favorite models!!!

May 2012 137

All four of them were finished minutes before the luncheon started!  Anything for my girls...








Father's Day-2012

     My dad died May 20, 1985--four months before my third daughter, Annie was born.  She died April 5, 2010. I like to think of them together, getting to know each other while they wait for the rest of the family.  He was only 59 and had been a stellar soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division. Two days ago, my father came to me in a dream: 
        A phone was ringing; when I answered it, my dad's voice said, "Hey, how you doing? You     doing okay?"  It felt so amazing to hear his voice, as if, even in my dream, I knew it couldn't be     true--but maybe it was. Our conversation continued; I told him I was coming to see him     soon.  We then chatted about one of my cousins coming to see me and that I should call my     aunt (his sister, Mary Louise, who died recently in real life) and tell her I'm coming.  
I woke up with that melancholy feeling that happens often after having an experience you don't want to end but you know it will. Every year, on May 20, my husband and I send a balloon to my dad.  His father died about fifteen years ago, in 1997.  He was in his late 70's; a gruff and loud man who liked laughing and traveling and being with family. I'll never forget how he arranged for us to meet former Galludet administrators when we found out our Annie was deaf; he even tried to learn some sign language.  We were glad our fathers had a chance to meet each other a few times over the short years their lives overlapped.
    I feel blessed that the man I married over thirty years ago has been the kind of father we both were fortunate to have:  loyal, generous, smart, and loving.  I'm grateful that he's loved his five girls as much as any father could; he's worked long and hard for them to have as much as he could give (when our youngest was a baby, she would say, "You're going to work to buy me toys, right Daddy?").  There have been a handful of times I've seen his heart broken; of course when his parents died--but those losses, although painful and sad, were expected in a world where parents passed on and children carried on. But then there are those unexpected events: a toddler developing diabetes, a baby becoming ill and losing her hearing, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis...events that felt like punches. But he worked through every one, providing a job with benefits that cared for us all and doing all he could at home.  There wasn't a diaper he couldn't tackle; there wasn't a school project he couldn't build or a field trip he couldn't chaperone. He was there when I went to school and graduate school and back to work.
    Losing a daughter, though, has broken both our hearts in ways we still can't grasp all the way. We take turns having our harder days, days we feel responsible. Recently, I listed all the motions I should have made to help Annie fight for her life. He said, no, that he was the one who couldn't help her.  But that is how it is right now with a loss this great. It is with us every minute of every hour of every day; "it" is like a dark and dangerous monster we work to keep at bay--the pain of it, the sadness of it. But it's stronger than we are sometimes.  We help each other through, we try anyway, and then just take it on a breath at a time and keep moving.
    So Happy Father's Day, Peter.  You are the father I loved, the father you respected, and the father our girls know will always find a way to be there for them.  
    Whenever I see you with our grandson (the first of our grandchildren to come), I know we both go back in time and remember the unbearable joy in hearing "Daddy!" 


                                              May 2012 077