Not Just For Now, But For Always

somewhere-in-time montage“The man of my dreams has almost faded now. The one I have created in my mind. The sort of man each woman dreams of, in the deepest and most secret reaches of her heart. I can almost see him now before me. What would I say to him if he were really here? Forgive me. I have never known this feeling. I have lived without it all my life. Is it any wonder, then, I failed to recognize you? You, who brought it to me for the first time. Is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed? Any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me? There is so much to say. I cannot find the words. Except for these: I love you”. Such would I say to him if he were really here.”

Those words are spoken by Jane Seymour in her character Elise McKenna in a movie that’s now thirty-two years old. As I typed those words my mind screamed, “It can’t have been that long. It just can’t be. Thirty years?!” Logic responds and ways “yes, time has flown by”.

Although not included in Richard Matheson’s book, Elise’s words in the “Somewhere In Time” movie are spoken as a famous actress on stage in 1912 to “the one” she has just fallen in love with (Richard Collier played by Christopher Reeve). Few more beautiful words to express love have ever been written.

“Somewhere In Time” has been described as overly sentimental by those who do not have the well-developed romantic nerve that runs through every fiber of my being. Many of my favorite movies are love stories which have received the same criticism. I simply don’t care and feel sorry for those who can’t know the same deep feelings. It’s a terrible loss they will never be aware of.

The 1980 movie has a deep and special meaning to me that connects me to someone I loved long ago. Clear in my memory is holding hands watching it with tears appearing for both of us more than once as we watched. The shared emotion brought us closer. It’s only a memory, but a dear one I cherish. Feeling so does not mean I wish to go back there and instead speaks of my reverence for time “she and I” shared long ago.

It is sad to me that many people have old, dear memories they hide away and never share. The politics of many relationships make talking about someone from the past difficult and inadvisable. Such behavior is why many people live together for years, yet don’t know know each other. Ego and insecurity are great curses on romance.

Until my memories were awakened I did not become aware that the fictional “anniversary” for the characters in “Somewhere in Time” was this past summer. In the story the special day Elise and Richard share was June 12, 1912. This past June marked one hundred years from that date.

In reading about the movie I was thrilled to learn it is being turned into a musical with a world premier on May 31, 2013 for a five-week run at Portland Center Stage, Portland, OR. My hope is it succeeds and goes national so I get to see it.

How grateful I am for that old movie and the past romance it brings back into fully dimensioned memory. Such feelings and words melt my heart: “There is so much to say. I cannot find the words. Except for these: I love you.” WOW!

They wouldn’t understand,
and I don’t feel the need to explain,
simply because I know in my heart how real it was.
When I think of you, I can’t help smiling,
knowing that you’ve completed me somehow.
I love you, not just for now,
but for always, and I dream of the day
that you’ll take me in your arms again.
From “Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks

How Far I Have Come

holiday-wreath-762298The Holiday Season this year has me remembering my childhood. The older I get the more good I remember and the more not so good I seem to forget. Once upon a time I spent two Christmases with my Mother and Brother in a four-room clapboard house with cardboard walls.  How far I have come yet how much I remember. The following was originally posted on August 21, 2011.

The House with Cardboard Walls

Once upon a time in the deep South there was an old four-room clapboard house that sat on the side of a paved two-lane country road.  This house had four rooms:  living room, kitchen, bedroom and storeroom.   The toilet was a small building about fifty feet out the back door.

This was an old house that had never been painted on the outside nor finished off on the inside.  The floors were uneven and sagged in places due to the foundation only being stacks of rocks underneath.  In the three rooms used as living space the walls and ceiling were covered with flattened out cardboard boxes that had been tacked to the rough-hewn wall studs.  In most cases the printed side of the cardboard was on the reverse side of what could be seen.  Here and there a few exceptions existed where printing for the products the boxes once contained was obvious.

Each of the four rooms had one window with two panels of four panes of glass.  In two of the rooms a bottom panel would still raise for air a fan pulled in during the summer.  Lack of use in the two other rooms had caused the wood of the window frames to swell into the window casings making them immoveable.

The heat for the house was supplied by a long, squatty cast iron wood stove with stove-pipe for smoke at one end that went up and out through the living room wall.   Doors were always left open into the other rooms so heat could reach there.

One modern convenience the home did have was electricity.  The “juice” powered a single light bulb in each room that hung naked on a wire from the ceiling.  The light was turned on and off by a string that hung down from a switch on the light socket.  There was one wall outlet per room but there was little to plug into them except a B&W TV in the living room and tree lights at Christmas.   Sometimes in the winter when it got really cold the electric stove oven in the kitchen would be turned on and the door left open to add extra heat to the little old house.

The other modern comfort that had been added was running water that came from a well a few hundred yards away that was shared with two other houses.  Water was available only at the sink in the kitchen and there was very little water pressure.  What came out of the faucet was actually more like a good-sized trickle than a stream.  There was no hot water heater.

One bathed in this house by heating water on the stove then pouring it into an aluminum wash basin with a flat bottom and rounded-up sides with a half-inch lip around the top.  With small dents all over from use over a long period of time, the basin was about eighteen inches across and five inches deep in the middle.  With a bar of soap and a bath clothe one washed up.  In the winter this was usually done by the wood store which also served to heat the water in cold months.

There were no door locks on the front and back door.  What kept each door shut was a rough “old-timey” door  latch made of unfinished bare wood with carving marks still clear on them from their making decades before. From the inside you lifted the latch from its catch to open the door.  On the outside a string was threaded through a hole in the door that one pulled to lift the latch on the inside.  A wooden spool that sewing thread had come on was nailed to the outside as a handle to pull the door shut.

This old house was roofed with tin which caused the eves of the roof to echo with any sound that hit it. Especially noticeable was when it rained and the drops pelted the tin making a relaxing and gentle rumble.  One accustomed to the sound was eased into sleep by its calming effect.

The front of the house had a wood porch onto which the front door opened and the living room and bedroom window looked out upon.  I know a story about how two boys, seven and five years old, got into trouble from being out on that porch.  Their mother left very early weekdays for her job in a factory making baby clothes.  The boys were awakened just as she was about to leave for work and were left to get up, get ready for school, make breakfast for themselves and catch the school bus.  The outhouse was way out back and with their Mother gone; the boys got out of bed and avoided the journey out back.  Instead the two boys proceeded out to the front porch and relieved their bladders off the side of it.

One day a car drove by as the boys were peeing off the porch standing there in their “tidy-whities” and undershirts they slept in.  What they were doing seemed so normal to them they kept doing what they were doing and waved to the passer-by they knew.  Their Mother was NOT happy about what the boys had been doing when she was told later by the neighbor driving by who thought what the boys were doing was cute.

How do I know all this?  I lived in this house with my Brother and my Mother for close to two years.  Vivid in my memory is how much trouble we got into for using the front porch as our bathroom.  That old house has been my reference point for all places I have lived in since all were an improvement.  However, I do have vivid gratefulness to that ancient house that still stands today although no one has lived there in a long, long while.  For a time, the old house with cardboard walls kept us dry and warm.  As humble as it was, that place sheltered us from the world and kept us safe.  For what once was a great embarrassment I now find sweet memories and much gratitude.

Home is home, be it ever so humble.


Thinking There Is One More Stair

A dear friend, Jan, died in a car accident over five years ago. I still have not had the heart to move the photos I have of her and her husband into an archive. Without the ability to explain it, even moving them from the directory where they reside is a discomfort even now I am not ready for.

There are two voice-mail messages on my phone from a friend of over 35 years. Bill passed away about two years ago. I know I need to save the audio onto a disc, but disturbing them from where he left the messages is not something I am ready to do.

One of the best friends of my life, Mac, died in 1993 and it was ten years before I got around to collecting together my mementos and photos of his life. I was not ready previously to store them away.

In all three cases, it wasn’t an unwillingness to let go of a person I loved and accept their death. Rather, leaving things where each placed something or as they created them was a private tribute to people who have special places in my heart. Past that I can’t explain it.

At the end of August I blogged about a poem I found purely by coincidence which was particularly meaningful written by an ordinary person I knew nothing about named Sherry Potter. The connection to her brought about thought the efforts of my friend Doug helped create a permanent place in my heart and mind for her. At the time it gave me solace that she was a surviving fighter of cancer. The story is contained within these two blogs:

About two weeks ago I received an email about Sherry from a family member  who found my email address on her computer. Sherry Potter passed away on November 6, 2012 within about two months of the contact she and I had. While I barely knew her, we did connect and I feel a sense of loss. I put off writing about her death and only this morning did I look again for the email from a family member. Sadly I apparently deleted it accidentally. As Best I recall from the email her poem was written about a man she was married to at one time, but never got over. Most all of us have those we loved, who for one reason or another, moved on in life without us. With that having happened to me more than once, I especially related to Ms. Potter’s poem “Ghosts”

I dance in the moonlight and your ghost in my arms dreaming of what might have been.

I hope that life has been kind to you and that I am not forgotten.

I send warm breezes to kiss your lips that I cannot reach and I envy them.

Time and space has taken their toll, but the memory of you and our lost love lives in the secret places of my heart.

We cannot know what the fates have in store for us as the future has yet to be written.
I wonder, will the paths we choose bring us back to each other or further apart on divergent paths, never to meet again in this life.

I only know that my memories of you warm me like a soft blanket against winters cold grip, comforting me when I feel I can no longer stand strong against the hardness of life.

We will not waste our precious time on ‘what ifs’ but yet in fleeting moments they invade my thoughts without invitation and that is when I dance in the moonlight with your ghost in my arms.

Mixed in with my sadness, is gratitude to have bumped into her, ever so briefly, in this life. May you forever dance happily in the moonlight Sherry Potter: November 4, 1941 – November 6, 2012.

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.
We all know that our time in this world is limited,
and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet,
never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens
to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom
in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is.
Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment
of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
Lemony Snicket

Regret Has Lived Long Enough

Very few memories of when I was a toddler stuck, however, there is one that has remained constant since the fall after my second birthday. Mom, Dad and I were visiting my Grandfather (my father’s father) way down in the country in a rural Clay County, Alabama community called Shiloh.

My memory is restricted to a few animated night images in that old clapboard house, but what I remember is vivid. Having never slept in a house at night that had no electricity I was enthralled by the yellow glow of room from kerosene lamps and a bright fire burning in the fireplace. Both threw large shadows on the walls that seem to dance, especially when anyone moved around the room.

To this day I can tell you how the furniture was arranged in the room, what tables the lamps where on, where chairs were, which wall the door to the outside was located and even where the kitchen was. A hot coal popped out of the fireplace and I learned the hard way not to pick things like that. I guess I burned my finger a little, but only remember picking it up and not any pain from the experience.

Being there felt magical, as if I had entered some kingdom like I saw a few years later in “The Seven Dwarf’s” house in the woods. It never occurred until I was much older how poor the old man who lived in the little run down “shack” was.

While my Dad’s Father was grumpy a lot of the time, later he read the Bible to me sometimes in his room at night when I was five and six years old when he lived with us. I remember him as a quirky man who saved chicken feathers for some reason I never knew and preferred newspaper soaked in water to toilet paper. I can close my eyes even now and remember him walking through the back yard headed to the outhouse with an old pot under his arm, filled with strips of newspaper floating in warm water. Guess I shouldn’t knock it since I’ve never tried it.

We called my grandfather “Pawpaw”.  Working he never amounted to much although he tried one money-making scheme after another. He tried selling books door to door unsuccessfully and tried to farm but was no good at it. He was in the army in World War I but spent his time in France in the hospital with dysentery. Essentially Pawpaw lived his adult life on a small pension from his military service and whatever he could scratch up buying and selling things. Looking back now I realize he was a sad man whose wife left him with two small boys (my father and uncle) who he raised. He made a mess of being a father, but I am certain he did the best he could.

The old man touches my heart to this day because of a lie he told in love each year around Christmas time. There were a lot of years growing I had no contact with my Father, but Pawpaw would just show up around holidays with gifts for my brother and I he said where from my Dad. I knew he had bought them because they were the sort of useful things a man of his depression generation might buy: handkerchiefs, a brush and comb set, a manicure set, notebook paper, pencils and such. I was grateful he remembered us, even if my father didn’t.

Pawpaw’s full name was Lovette Egbert Browning, born November 22, 1886 and died July 12, 1973. He was my grandfather and I will always remember him as a well-intended man who held my brother and I deep in his heart. He died when I was nineteen. I used the excuse that I lived a thousand miles away in Colorado and had almost no money as a reason not to go home for his funeral. That regret has lived long enough within. I am grateful to share it and release it on this page today.

We must all suffer from one of two pains:
the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.
Jim Rohn

Five and Five

Remembering how good early childhood was brings fond memories. While there was much chaos and heartache to come, those were peaceful times that preceded. Birth to seven years old is recalled as a carefree and happy time. My mind and spirit were not yet crowded with remembrances of how difficult and painful life can be could be. Back as a small child most of my focus was on playing, eating and sleeping. What a life! I am grateful for the sweet and dear memories from when I “was little”.  Here’s five (sayings) and five (images) that I hope serve as meaningful memory joggers for you as I found them to be.

I want to be in fifth grade again. Now, that is a deep dark secret, almost as big as the other one. Fifth grade was easy — old enough to play outside without Mom, too young to go off the block. The perfect leash length. Laurie Halse Anderson

…when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try. Ethan Hawke

I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. Maya Angelou

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. C.S. Lewis

I have found the best way to give advice to your children
is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.
Harry S. Truman

The Rain Is My Dear Friend

Sodden clouds, intermittent wipers and home, sweet home

I love the rain.

I don’t mean I grudgingly appreciate its ecological necessity. I don’t mean I’ve learned to tolerate it. I don’t mean I wait it out, flipping through the calendar to see how many more pages until the sun might break through. I mean I love it.

I love everything about it. I love falling asleep under a down comforter in the dead of winter with the windows thrown open to the hiss of rain. I love waking up to the soft aqueous light that is a painter’s dream and listening to the rush of water in the culvert. I love the thrum of rain against the house on a dark afternoon with potato leek soup simmering on the stove. I love the fine mist on my face, the way my skin feels soft and pliant and new in the rain. I love thinking of words to describe the thick, sodden sky: pearl gray, dove-gray, iron-gray, pewter, ashen, silver, smoke. I love my big green, knee-high Wellies. I love the intermittent wipers on my car.From “I Love the Rain” Laruen Kessler originally published in Oregon Quarterly  Winter 2001

I have posted two blogs in the last year and a half that were homage to rain. Like Ms. Kessler, I too love the long-lasting showers that quench the thirst of nature and awaken the happy part the child within me.

How long has it been since I walked in the rain just for the fun of it? About 10 hours! The good feeling that comes to me when raining fills a day goes back to my childhood. I have no idea how those times got fixed in my mine as so wonderful when I was little, but am grateful they did. It is an extraordinary feeling.

I really do love the rain and the misty, overcast days when the hours are drizzled away. I feel safer on such days as even the robbers and burglars are not as likely to be active on a day when it is raining. There is such comfort for me from the constant drizzle and occasional thunder. I feel closer to life, softer inside and memories flow easier for me with a sweeter taste on such a day.

Rain Sizes” by John Ciardi

Rain comes in various sizes.
Some rain is as small as a mist.
It tickles your face with surprises,
And tingles as if you’d been kissed.

Some rain is the size of a sprinkle
And doesn’t put out the sun.
You can see the drops sparkle and twinkle,
And a rainbow comes out when it’s done.

Some rain is as big as a nickel
And comes with a crash and a hiss.
It comes down too heavy to tickle.
It’s more like a splash than a kiss.

When it rains the right size and you’re wrapped in
Your rain clothes, it’s fun out-of-doors.
But run home before you get trapped in
The big rain that rattles and roars

Expressed simply, the rain is my dear friend. It cleanses me. It renews me. It enriches me. I hold rainy days in such high gratitude where I place things most precious to me.

The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected;
I have always considered the rain to be healing — a blanket –
the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day,
or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed
by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital,
muffling gift of falling water.
Douglas Coupland

Masters of Our Own Lives

Last evening when I came across Edgar Guest’s Poem below I started to wonder, “when is a man old?” Many say “you’re only as old as you think you are” or “as old as you act”. My vantage point has been one gets old when he or she ceases to ask questions, stops seeking the truth and does not embrace being alive to the best of their ability.

While more engaged with life than most fifty-nine year olds, the years do count up and my body shows wear. Aches are regular where none used to be. The constant ringing in my ears I don’t notice until I think about it (like now) and I don’t have the energy I once did. This 1953 model is in good shape but has a lot of miles on it.

On the flip side of perspective, I am smarter and more even-tempered than ever before. The vein of kindness in me is wider and stronger than ever. Good memories harmonize better all the time within as the bad ones grow fainter. Life all around me is not only adornment for my existence. I actually see and marvel at living now fully realizing one day this reality will not be mine. Though acceptance of the impermanence of things, of myself, comes a much deeper appreciation for all that currently “is”.

“When An Old Man Gets To Thinking” by Edgar A. Guest

When an old man gets to thinking of the years he’s traveled through,
He hears again the laughter of the little ones he knew.
He isn’t counting money, and he isn’t planning schemes;
He’s at home with friendly people in the shadow of his dreams.

When he’s lived through all life’s trials and his sun is in the west,
When he’s tasted all life’s pleasures and he knows which ones were best,
Then his mind is stored with riches, not of silver and of gold,
But of happy smiling faces and the joys he couldn’t hold.

Could we see what he is seeing as he’s dreaming in his chair,
We should find no scene of struggle in the distance over there.
As he counts his memory treasures, we should see some shady lane
Where’s he walking with his sweetheart, young, and arm in arm again.

We should meet with friendly people, simple, tender folk and kind,
That had once been glad to love him. In his dreaming we should find
All the many little beauties that enrich the lives of men
That the eyes of youth scarce notice and the poets seldom pen.

Age will tell you that the memory is the treasure-house of man.
Gold and fleeting fame may vanish, but life’s riches never can;
For the little home of laughter and the voice of every friend
And the joys of real contentment linger with us to the end.

I hope my destiny includes one day being an “old man” like Guest wrote about. I would be grateful to live to a more straight forward time; one of old age when calmly sitting and sweetly remembering takes up most of my time.

The things we think about, brood on, dwell on…
influence our life in a thousand ways.
When we can actually choose the direction
of our thoughts instead of just letting them
run along the grooves of conditioned thinking,
we become the masters of our own lives.
Eknath Easwaran