“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelou
I asked Janet if her leg was feeling better. “Boy, that broke hip sure hurt. It huuuuuurt,” as she made a wincing face. “Pains me in the morning and I have to take a pain pill, but it’s alright the rest of the time.” That’s Janet-speak for, “No, it doesn’t feel better.” So, this smile is about all the smile Janet can muster these days, but it’s not bad considering she doesn’t feel good. Another month or two and she’ll be running a marathon.
“To be nobody but yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ e.e. cummings
This is Janet’s first Christmas at the rest home in Campton. She’s at the same facility where both of my grandmothers stayed. The staff is exceptional, and the facility overall is really nice. For Thanksgiving, they invited families and provided an excellent full course traditional meal. For Christmas, they provided a large array of hot snacks, caroling, and Santa. The facility bought each resident something special, which I thought very kind. When it was over we wrangled one of the nursing assistants to help with a family photo (mom was telling me what she wanted printed before we snapped the first shot <sigh>). Our Janie-on-the-spot photographer did a darn good job I think.
Now, mom is all about the posed, everybody smile, nice background, formal pictures. I, on the other hand, prefer the more natural smiles, the less posed, the spirit of the moment shining through some way. If you follow me at all, you know that’s my thing. Case in point: this picture of Mom and Janet may be one of the best pictures of the two of them since they were just girls, in my opinion. And then I’ve got my hipster dad who just lights up a room anymore. Although nobody wants to see a loved one in such a situation, the fact that we were able to spend one more Christmas together is truly all that matters. We’re all grateful for it.
“There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, everyone of them sufficient”
~ Marilynne Robinson
You first met Darrell Conley in the November 3, 2015 post. As you might recall, Darrell grew up with mom and Aunt Janet. Yesterday’s baptism wasn’t just mom’s, but Darrell and Janet’s as well. Three friends sharing a sacred moment together. It was reminiscent of my own baptism in December 1979 with Mark Collinsworth. I was 14. Mark was 12.
I don’t know who took the picture of Mark and I but I’m awfully thankful for it. We were baptized during a revival, and we insisted we be baptized together. Everyone knew we were like siblings, so it made sense. The preacher with me is Rev. Eugene Haney who is married to my mother’s first cousin, Velma. The preacher with Mark was the pastor of the church, Brother Rudasill. I don’t remember his first name. This is the same baptismal where mom, Janet, and Darrell were baptized yesterday. No doubt you see the differences. The original baptismal was basically a huge tank that could hold numerous people. Over the years, it began to leak, and eventually couldn’t be repaired. The church went with a more portable, one-person model that I’d never seen until yesterday.
Mamaw lead me to believe that Janet had been baptized. I think even mom thought she’d been baptized as she framed Janet’s baptism as “rededicating her life.” This is not an altogether uncommon practice for those who feel they need a clean start, either because they feel like they backslid or maybe they changed churches or even faiths. There could be a host of reasons why someone might want to be baptized twice. But in Janet’s case, she, like mom, had never been baptized. She has now!
Darrell, as you might recall, is the last of the three Conley boys. Like mom and Janet, Darrell’s a private, low-key kind of person. A production baptism didn’t really suit him. Yet, he was totally comfortable being baptized with mom and Janet. His wife, Barbara, plus her two sisters, Rebecca and Rita, and brother-in-law (whose name I don’t remember) were with us, and that was all that attended. Perfect. It was a heart-warming event in that sweet little church. Although it was very different from the way Mark and I were baptized, the sentiment of a spiritual bond with God and family was exactly the same. It matters that we have loved ones walk this journey with us. We don’t have to see one another every day, but the memories we make can be a powerful force that help us through our lives. I’m grateful to have had that with Mark, and I’m especially grateful that mom, Janet, and Darrell have each other.
“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid that it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I was in West Liberty today with my folks. Aunt Janet called so excited, announcing that we had to come over to see her right away. We obliged. She directed us to the bedroom where we found a cute flower arrangement very clearly meant for Valentine’s Day. We asked who sent it to her, but she didn’t know (because she hadn’t opened the card we thought). So, we opened the card for her. “To Someone Special,” it read. Aunt Janet had a secret admirer! It was very exciting, and she was clearly tickled by it. She directed us to another arrangement in the bedroom that we didn’t see the first time. Sure enough, there it was. Its card was also still sealed. “To Someone Special,” it read. And then our lightbulbs came on simultaneously! These were Valentine’s Day gifts for us from Janet. She had the florist deliver them to her house knowing we would come over. It was one of the most clever things I’ve ever seen her do, but more than that, it was the sweetest gesture from the sweetest woman on the planet. There will never be another like her.
“The hardest part is letting go of what I think I’m supposed to be.” ~ Erin Chandler
It was completely soggy during the Sorghum Festival parade. It didn’t start out that way. We thought we’d dodged a bullet with the overcast skies. Ten minutes into the parade the drizzle started and didn’t stop.
The rain didn’t stop Ryan and his friend Chastity from grabbing handfuls of candy. The DAV spent $200 on sweets, so whether there were 10 kids or 10,000, rain or shine, there were Tootsie Rolls to be thrown. Those kids made a haul! I’ve never seen that much candy on Halloween. Such is the advantage of a soggy Sorghum Parade.
Fortunately, they put the horses well behind the candy, for obvious reasons. Plus, horses don’t care if it rains or not. Although, Keith Barker’s mule looks a little put out, but that could be because he’s Keith Barker’s mule. I always liked ‘ol Keith. His mom and dad were wonderful people, and Keith was always sweet as he could be to me. I don’t believe he recognized me behind the camera. That’s alright, I got pictures of him on his mule and one day we’ll catch up and laugh about him and that big cigar in the rain. That is but one joy of being from a small town.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every minute of my life and
I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
~ Georgia O’Keefe
I couldn’t help noticing the juxtaposition between the present and the past as I watched Aunt Janet wash breakfast dishes. On the wall hangs a photo of my grandmother washing dishes in the old house. The old kitchen was lit by a bare bulb, creating stark shadows across a room packed to the gills with dishes and knick knacks. Janet’s new house has a lighting fixture and ceiling fan, ample counter space, and little that’s unnecessary. The lighting is far less extreme, but the sentiment of an older woman stooped by Osteoporosis in a singular, small space is very much the same. I’m lucky to have these women show me how to grow old.
“Nothing is left for you at this moment but to laugh.” ~ Unknown
This is Ryan Collinsworth. He is 10 years old. He is soft spoken, quiet, and very sweet. He’s also incredibly adorable with his signature blond cowlick like his Uncle Mark.
Mark was like my little brother. Ryan’s dad, Rusty, was the older brother. I was sandwiched right between the Collinsworth boys, and I loved every minute with them. I’ve got stories about those boys to fill a book. I look forward to spending the Sorghum Festival Parade with Rusty. It gives us a chance to catch up, and reminisce a little. Rusty helps me remember a lot of things I’ve let slip through the memory cracks. Being with him is a little like finding a book of photos I forgot I had. When Ryan was younger Rusty introduced me as “the little girl on the pony with daddy.” There’s a picture of me and Rusty atop a pony’s back. It became one of those quintessential Kodak moments, what with Rusty smiling like there was no tomorrow. I don’t think Mark was born yet when that picture was taken. If he was, he was just an infant because I was barely two years old at the time. Rusty was a very rambunctious seven.
I’d been relying on Mark to fill in the gaps of some of our adventurous play dates in the creek or on Jones Creek. There were many adventures, let me tell you. He was Robin to my Batman, Tonto to my Lone Ranger. We were inseparable as children. We were even baptized together. Ryan’s mom was eight or nine months pregnant with him when Mark died suddenly at age 38. Now, I have only my recollections to rely on. Thank God I’ve still got Rusty. Ryan looks a lot like his him, but he looks a lot like Mark, too. He’s not mischievous like Mark, but he has a very similar soul. He’s so familiar to me that it’s hard not to hug him and never let go. I catch myself staring at him constantly. My heart fills with a little more love every time I’m with him. I’m sorry that he never got to meet his uncle Mark – that boy was a pistol, and a soul mate. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for Ryan. I hope he gets used to me staring at him. I don’t see that ending any time soon. At least I smile when I stare, probably like Rusty atop that pony.
“Accept who you are; and revel in it.” ~ Mitch Albom
A few weeks ago the planets aligned to bring photographers Sallie Powell and Crystal Heis to my office. From that conversation I was inspired to track down some old film I had never processed because I don’t have space for a darkroom in my house. I sent it to a great lab in LA called Richard Photo Lab. I thought I knew what all of the film was. Today, I scanned it. Turns out that I did not know what all the film was. For example, I had completely forgotten about this roll from 2009 of the Gaumer/Cardenas family taken the same weekend their daughter Lilia took her first steps!
Or this roll from Christmas 2008 when my beloved Sadie dog was still with me, mom and aunt Janet were less grey, and Mamaw was still laughing without help from oxygen and had the Christmas bow stuck to her head (a normal thing for her). Certainly not my best work – hideous, unbounced flash – but the subjects are as dear as any could be. Their presence supersedes aesthetic any day.
What I expected were shots from First Presbyterian Church in Lexington. Lee Bowman was still pastor, and because the pipes were still a solid color, this must have been very early 2006 just before the church’s renovation. Most of the film was exactly that, First Presbyterian. Yet, somehow I’d forgotten organist Tina Wagner climbing atop the pipes: a favorite! In any case, these treasures, each and every one, are so welcomed. There’s something to be said for hoarding film for years. It really makes for Christmas in June, and what a delightful blessing that is.
“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live
is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.”
~ Pliny the Elder
I went to West Liberty, KFC bucket-O-chicken in hand with all the sides, to spend a few hours with my dear, sweet mama on this Mother’s Day. She’s been real sick lately, suffering multiple bouts of pneumonia and pseudomonas in her lungs. She’s not out of the woods yet, but she rallied for a day of communion. Poor thing went from a barely audible voice to a whisper by the time I left, but look what a sweet smile she gave me despite it all.
It was also Aunt Janet’s birthday! We celebrated with a free cake that came with the KFC bucket, which left her box of Mother’s Day chocolate for later deliciousness. We also celebrated by singing Happy Birthday to her when Stanya Franklin Terrill and husband, Chris, arrived.
We ate, we sang, we laughed, we talked. We celebrated Janet and we celebrated mothers, future, present, and past. Happy Mother’s Day to three incredible mothers: Janet Adams Vest, Stanya Franklin Terrill, and Shirley Adams Terry.
“Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.”
~ Helen Steiner Rice
When we knew for sure that Aunt Janet would be getting her home replaced after the tornado, we said we had to spend Christmas in it. Last year the house was still a basic shell, but this year our tiny family gathered inside its warmth. We shared a delicious meal, exchanged thoughtful gifts, and played several rounds of Yatzee, which is what you play when there aren’t enough Rook players to be had. My mother wins the best gift award of the day (below). The family home place that sat on this spot for over 70 years had an outhouse that looked a lot like this one. There’s much to be thankful for this season. God bless us every one – and thank the lord we don’t have to use an outhouse in these temperatures! Merry Christmas.