whose will?

“It seems to me that the spiritual answer is to be found in neither optimism nor
pessimism about the future, but in complete trust in God.

Fr Benedict Groeschel


(Percy sporting a “mimi” hat / Julie Cook / 2017)

And just incase you’re confused…the question is not who’s Will…?
As in who is Will…?
But rather…whose will…?
As in mine yours, ours or His…..

The past couple of days, weeks and even months I feel as if most of my posts
have had one central theme in common…the simple matter of will.

As in the constant tug of war we play with both ourselves as well as everyone else…
with the ultimate tug and pull and war being with God himself.

When I was a little girl my grandmother Mimi would crochet and knit up a storm.
Sewing, knitting, needlepoint…you name it, she did it.
Yet none of that ever appealed to me…it was not ever to be my forte.
I just didn’t enjoy it and I especially loathed trying to learn it.

I don’t know if it was a patience thing or rather that I just opted for
other creative outlets.
Today a reattached button is about the extent of my sewing endeavors.

My grandmother however was profuse with Mother following in hot pursuit.
Afghans, throws, bell pulls, pillows, samplers, seat cushions, stool covers…
all of which now oddly adorn my home.
But the specialty, or rather the pièce de résistance being always, the “mimi hat.
A crocheted toboggan like thing looking oddly like a flapper’s cap.

Everyone got a mimi hat.

Colors were limited to brown, beige, rust, cream, antique gold….
You’d put the hat on your head and immediately your hair was now a flat static
fly away mess. Wildly and weirdly standing on ends atop your head so you
had no other choice but to keep the hat pulled down tight on your head…
while looking a bit odd wearing the thing in the house especially in the summer.

Mother would make us put on and wear the blasted things when we went to visit
or if Mimi would come to visit us.
Not that Mimi would expect it, but Mother knew it would make my grandmother happy
seeing us “enjoying” her handiwork.

I hated them.

My choice in wearing the hat was that I could either fight and refuse or
I could suck it up, acquiesce and please…
I opted for the later because I did not want to make my life miserable while
making everyone else’s lives miserable.
Nothing like a 7 year old demanding no to a parent demanding yes.

The same held true when I was made to wear a dress every time we visited our other grandmother, Nany. Since Nany bought the bulk of our clothes, Mother knew that
if she wanted to keep her mother-n-law happy, she’d better be putting her kids
in those nice new clothes. Never mind that I was happiest in jeans or shorts.

Which goes back to mother having a choice…
She could either give-in to our whining and let us look like sloppy bumpkins
while drawing the ire of the woman who had bought us all sorts of nice clothes
or she could get us gussied up and uncomfortable while drawing the praise of this
matriarch.
She too chose the latter.

I learned early on that sometimes its best to give a little while giving in a little
rather then reveling in being self centered with a life short lived
in a sea of selfishness.

Yet our society appears to have forgotten about biting the proverbial bullet…
Living in a nation that is now in a constant state of in-fighting over the notion
of our own individuals wills, is proving both counter productive and most
oppressively destructive.

It says a lot about us as a society that we are constantly demanding our own
will to be done.
As we’ve moved from the consideration of others to simply damning others.

Fr Benedict reminds us of the importance of a will other than our own…
“‘Your will be done.’
This conviction should be the ultimate intention of all your prayers–
along with finding our peace in the acceptance of that will.
Certainly, to pray like this is a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is out of two things, acceptance and obedience to God,
that we receive the great gift of peace.”

If we persist in this hellbent quest of ours, demanding our own will rather than
seeking out and yielding to His will,
we will be damning not only others but ourselves in the process….

When we went down last month to West Palm Beach for my aunt’s funeral,
As we sorted through my aunt’s belonging determining what should stay
or be tossed, I found a box full of mimi hats.
Funny how these some odd 50 years later, seeing those hats brought a warm smile
to my face and a most warming sensation to my heart.
I was immediately transported to a happier time.

How different that could have all been had I refused so long ago to have ever
worn one of those hats preferring to be self-centered and selfish.

Seeing them all these many years later may have actually brought back some very
difficult memories rather than the happy ones I felt suddenly seeing them again
all these many years later.

I opted to bring two of them home.
I won’t be wearing them, but I’ll be happy knowing that I now have them…
I just think the cats are probably now thinking what I use to think….
that these are really stupid looking hats….


(oooo lala)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Happy birthday Dad…Nany too

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire

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Today Dad turns 86.
The picture above is of a birthday 82 years ago when dad turned 4.
His mother, my grandmother, Nany, was also born on March the 10th—She was 32 when dad was born providing, most likely, her most memorable birthday gift. Dad was 7 years younger than his big brother, my Uncle Paul who we lost several years ago when he was almost 90, making Dad the baby of the family—with my grandmother doing just that, pampering, babying and sheltering Dad throughout much of his young life.

Nany would turn 118 today—it’s most difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact that she’s been gone from my life now for so long. She was the formidable one of the family although she stood at just a tad over 5 feet. I’ve written a couple posts referencing her, but she deserves her own story, of which I’ve promised myself to write. She died two years after I was married, the same year mother died. That year, that dreadful year of 1986, Dad lost the two most important women in his life, each within just months of one another. Mother died of cancer at age 53. Nany died from the complications of a stroke at age 88. That left Dad and I, picking up the pieces, all while forging ahead as best we knew how.
I suppose we’re still picking up pieces, he and I—it’s just that the pieces are a bit different these days. . .

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Here’s Dad in a piecemeal football uniform, alongside my uncle, his older brother. After breaking a finger, Nany nixed the football, making him quit. Throughout the remainder of his life, he was never the athlete—however, he loves watching, to this day, his beloved alma-mater, The Georgia Tech Yellow jackets, playing football.

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So Dad, today is all for you!
Here is to hoping you truly enjoy your day. . .
We love you–
Julie, Gregory, Brenton and Abby

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Before they were Pop and Nany or Daddy and Mama….

. . .they were Paul and Anne. . .

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During each of my weekly pilgrimages to and from Dad’s, it is a guarantee that I’ll be leaving Dad’s with more than what I brought. Be it some sort of item from either my childhood or his, it is all slowly tricking out of that house. Gloria seems most determined to empty that house of not merely things that were my mother’s or grandmothers, but of most things in general. It seems she is truly of the mindset less is more. . .much to Dad’s chagrin.

Last week it was the dinning room chandelier (nothing large or garish, but it was Mother’s) and two side chairs. The week before that it was 4 dinning room chairs and a clock. Before that it was a side table and a corner cabinet. I have thought that perhaps I need to open some sort of antique store as I cannot continue bringing home so much “stuff”. . .I cannot house the things that are essentially coming from 3 separate households!

This week was no different.
“You’re taking the hall painting this week right.” Gloria tells rather than asks.
“I thought that you were putting it back up after they finished painting the hall?” I ask more than state.
It’s a beautiful large early 19th century English landscape painting that was my grandmothers. It is something I’ve always loved but it has hung in our house for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t believe Dad was letting her “dispose” of it so easily as he’s always loved the paintings that Nany had procured over her long life.

It wasn’t the tables or chairs however that caught my eye this week, but rather a box of very old photographs and mementos. I’m a sucker for old pictures as they tell so many stories— long time forgotten. They are the physical and tangible evidence of the lives once lived by individuals who have long since departed this life–of those who have gone before us. They hold the key to so many mysteries and secrets and yet often create more mysteries than those that they solve. They are also visual links to our past—my past.

Once home I eagerly sat down to open the box–not knowing what wonderful treasures I’d find. It was an old box that was a precursor to a Harry and David’s holiday fruit box. Obviously it was a box of pears Nany and Pop had received years before I was even born as the post mark read 1955. Inside the box, inside this cardboard time capsule of my world before I ever was, was a treasure trove of very old photos, cards, announcements, report cards and newspaper clippings.

I don’t know why but every time I find something such as this, a box full of someone else’s lifetime, I find myself growing a bit forlorn, enveloped in a blanket of bitter sweet sadness. More questions arise and there is simply no one around any longer who can answer the growing queries. Who was this handsome young man? Whose children were these? Where is this house–does it still exist? Who’s that in the uniform and of which war was he sent? Endless questions which are now my present frustration.

Then suddenly, buried under the yellowing envelopes and fading memories, I spy a small, over exposed, little black and white image of a young couple in what appears to be a small canopied boat of sorts as the hint lies with the young man’s right hand resting on a throttle.

“What is this?” I hear myself inwardly whispering. “Nooo” I softly breathe as in disbelief. “Is this really them?” The year is around 1921, the year they married. I can see the ring on his hand so I know it is 1921 or a year or so later–no children yet, so it is before 1923—perhaps it’s from the honeymoon. They are but 25, the same age my son is today. . .a surreal image I grapple to digest.

On first glance I see a young couple, very much together. Then I begin to “study” the image. . . It must warm weather, most likely hot and muggy as the image is taken somewhere here in the deep south. He’s wearing what appears to be white pants and an unbuttoned loosely fitting white shirt as his sleeves are rolled up. He seems a bit shy and boyish but yet comfortable and in control in the “captain’s seat.”

She is shadowed, peering from behind, almost concealed in the background, something which will most certainly not be her style later in life. She looks cute and casual, almost tomboyish in the hat which covers her head. She’s wearing knickers with striped knee socks. Her round face always distinctive, which is how I quickly recognize her, yet I can’t make out the unmistakable clef of her chin–both telltale distinctive facial images–and yet there are no glasses– something they both were never without in later years.

She is holding, almost embracing him and resting her face gently against his shoulder. He is open armed as if he could or would simply turn to embrace her. She did not have a father growing up as he was killed in a distant war when she was only four—was this now the masculine figure she had longed for to fill a void in her heart that she never realized she had need of until now?

Never before have I seen, in photographs or in my memory, any sort of demonstrative display of tender affection such as this nor had I witnessed such in the time I had known them–nothing as tender as what is visible in this brief snapshot of time. I am deeply touched as I feel the warm tears filling my eyes as being privy to this seemingly intimate moment is very moving.

He died well before he should have. It was 1967 and he was but 66. She lived much longer, and sadly without him, dying in 1983 at the age of 87. I was 7 when my grandfather died so I did not know them as a couple for as long as I knew her as my grandmother alone. She had a terrible time the year following his death. We wondered if she would survive.

Ours was never a demonstrative family. We did not hug, we did not say “I love you” —that was all shown differently. Why was that I now found myself wondering as I stared at this picture. This pictures speaks differently. When did things change?

I never knew her to own a pair of pants as she was always in a dress and always impeccable. But in this picture there is a casualness that she never showed during the time I knew her–when we were kids, we were not allowed to wear bluejeans when visiting her. Prim and proper was the only way to describe her–a bastion of southern genteel society. But in this picture I see a young woman most comfortable and easy going–happy and content. Hummm. . .

In this photograph lives a time long before the long life which would lay ahead for each of them and of how it would eventually play out. This is a moment of “before.” A moment in time when they had no idea of what lay ahead–of where or of how life would take them. Nor that 92 years from the day their picture was taken that a granddaughter would come to meet them.

The photograph is tenderly sweet–they are such a young couple obviously very much in love. As this is the moment of “before” they have no way of knowing what it is I know today—I know how the whole story turned out and yet the couple in this picture has no idea. It is all so amazing–life and of its stories–the now and the thens. A single moment frozen in time, before a life time of a legacy was to take hold.

There would be two sons, two daughter-n-laws’ she outliving one of the daughter-n-laws; 6 grandchildren, two who tragically did not survive past thirty and again, she outlived; 8 great grandchildren and now 6 great great grandchildren. And so it goes. .

It totally blows my mind as I gaze at this couple who lovingly and mysteriously gaze back at me, their granddaughter. I am happy that I did know them together, albeit it briefly—I wish it had been longer, much longer–as there are now so many questions.

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving. I must give thanks for so much more than the obvious things–those tangible blessings. I want to offer thanks to Paul and Anne, who loved one another. Who had two sons, both of whom they loved as well. Who would claim me as their grandchild even though I was adopted. They claimed me as theirs, always. They did for me as much as they did for the biological grand children. I was theirs and they were mine. . .and for that, I will always be thankful.

The link this image has to my life today is as mysterious as it is joyful. I must take nothing for granted for it all is a gift, no matter how small and distant.
I leave you with the moving words and thoughts of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. . .

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

― Thomas Merton

Nany’s plant

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She was born into a tiny farming community in middle Georgia to a wealthy family in 1896. Her father was killed when she was only 4 years old–the result of a single shot to the head as he lead the charge of his men in battle, somewhere in the middle of the Philippines, during the Spanish American War. His body returned home to Georgia, to lay in state at the state capital in Atlanta, as a decorated army Captain. It was a new century, 1900.

She grew up to be an attractive, petite, yet rather buxom woman, whose presence could command a room. A southern grand dame of a genteel time. She was the epitome of “a lady” who hopelessly tried to impart in, as well as on, me the same overtly feminine demeanor. I was enrolled in ballet by 4 and tap by 6. I could only wear dresses in her presence, along with those highly shinny, yet stiff and squeaky, black patent leather shoes. White socks with lace and little white gloves.

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No matter how hard she tried, I always maintained that tomboy nature, hating ballet and loving football. I blame our differences of personality on my being adopted—no telling what genes I came prepackaged with, but it wasn’t that of a sweet little girl. I was rambunctious and headstrong– always dreading the yearly shopping trip she would take me on—only to while away the day, waiting for hours, while sales women doted on me, presenting this or that new little frilly dress in order for me to parade before my grandmother as she passed the final judgement….”it’s a keeper, or not”…….

It wasn’t until I was older and in college until I could fully appreciate my grandmother for what all she represented in my life and for what all she had done for me over the years. I was always a bit rough around the edges, but finally I had come to a place of appreciation— Nany was my biggest ally and friend.

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After her death in 1986, 2 months following the premature death of my mother, her daughter-n-law, I was left to help my dad pick up the sad pieces of his and our life/ lives…first his wife and then his mother. That was a difficult time to be sure—I was just 26 years old.

When it came time to pack up Nany’s home, dividing all of her belongings between my dad and my uncle, only leading to further redistribution between all of the grandkids, some things were destined for the rubbish pile—namely all of her plants. Being one who wants to always have something tangible of those I love, I couldn’t let one large plant go. It was healthy and pretty, possessing large shinny dark green leaves. Was this when I fist really noticed plants?

I brought the plant home to grace my newly married life—it must have been my first houseplant—what did I know about plants??—not much that’s for sure!! At some point, that winter or the next, I inadvertently left the plant outside on the night of a hard freeze–obviously I had thought it a good idea to take it outside for a good watering…..like I said what did I know about houseplants…a winter watering outside was not wise.

Spying it sitting on the porch the following day, apparently not a fan of frost or freezing temperatures, I knew immediately I had killed it. My husband however, having a very soft spot in his heart for Nany, mainly because she had been his biggest advocate when he suddenly appeared in my life and equally as suddenly into the lives of my family (that’s all for another post—FYI don’t tell your parents you’re marrying someone they’ve never met and you’ve only dated for 3 months who is also 10 years older—not the best conversation……but there I go digressing again….), thought better of leaving the plant out in the cold.

My husband brought the now frozen plant inside. I cut off the dead leaves and left the pot in the basement, figuring I’d just throw the whole thing out once it warmed up outside. Yet to my astonishment, the now barren looking pot of dried soil was sprouting new leaves. Could it be??? Did the plant survive???

My husband loves telling anyone who will now listen as to how he saved Nany’s plant. The plant has lived with us since 1986. It has also only bloomed twice since I’ve had it. Yes, I am now much better with plants, as I finally have become much older and thankfully somewhat wiser….I do fertilize, I water, I re-pot, I tend to and dote on….and yet, oddly, this plant will only bloom once in a blue moon.

It bloomed shortly after my son was born—a couple of years following Nany’s death. I saw the blooming as her joy over her newest and youngest great grandchild —someone she would have loved as my son seems more akin to Nany more so than I ever did.

And now, this week, the plant is blooming again. This time there is no monumental occasion. It simply sits in its place of importance in my kitchen for all to see as they enter my home. It sits in a corner of dappled sunlight, happy and full of life—and now–full of its single stalk of blooms. Maybe I’ve done something good–maybe Nany is happy as to the woman I have finally become. Still loving football yet quite capable of being a genteel woman when I need be…

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I know this is some sort of lilly but as to which specific species is beyond my soul. I thought I once knew what it was, but that was right after I “rescued” it, or rather, inherited it those 27 years ago. Yes you read correctly 27 years ago, crazy I know—the plant is anywhere from 30 to 40 years old—are they suppose to live that long? Seems awfully long to me as far as house plants are concerned…but nothing Nany ever did surprised me…….

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Happy Anniversary Nany and Pop

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Ann and Paul were married June 4, 1921. Today is their 92nd wedding anniversary. This picture shows two very happy young people who had no idea that 92 years from the very moment their picture was taken, on a honeymoon that spoke of so much great expectations and promise, that a 53 year old grandchild would share their beginning moment with the world.

I recently discovered this picture, along with a wealth of long forgotten old photographs, in a box buried deep under years of “junk” in my dad’s basement. Never having seen so many of these old pictures before, I have realized that I am full of all sorts of questions—questions I fear that will sadly go unanswered. The questions I now find myself asking my dad, questions about his parents or questions about my mom’s parents, are met with the frustration of his ever fading memory–as that is what Alzheimer’s does, it robs one of those memories. These sorts of questions never seemed to have been asked years ago when I was younger and now sadly the people who had the answers are no longer with me, all but the one with the fading memory. The curiosity of “beginnings” seems to only emerge later in life—I suppose life is funny that way.

Young Paul came to Atlanta by way of New York. His father, a doctor, moved the family south at the turn of the new century. Why I do not know. He was a student at The Georgia Institute of Technology (aka GA Tech) when he met Ann. I found a picture of him at a desk in his dorm room. As well as a couple of pictures taken of what appears to be some sort of ROTC regiment of about 50 young men, all in uniform, taken in what is today Bobby Dodd Stadium. It was taken during the height of WWI, so I imagine all young men at the time were faced with the possibility of going overseas to fight in a war they didn’t understand. Such things never seem to change…

There are images of him in his cap and gown. Images of him in uniform from high School, Georgia Military Academy–two diplomas…GMA dated 1915 and GA TECH dated 1919…and then this image, 1921. I was only 7 when he passed away. At 7, to my young mind, my Pop was bigger than life–bigger than any super hero. It is because of his bigger than life persona that images such as these, found so many years later, seem only more precious—this is where life began for my super hero, and in essence for me as well.

She came to Atlanta upon graduating from a small west Georgia woman’s college. Her family’s home was in a tiny middle Georgia town. Her father was a decorated soldier in the Spanish American War, where, as a young man, barley 30 years old, the Lt. Colonel was mortally wounded. He was brought home to Georgia where he laid in state at the Capital Rotunda, the only non politician in the history of the state of Georgia having done so, all before the long train trip “home” to LaGrange, GA where he was buried with full military honors.

His suddenly widowed young wife was left to raise 4 very small children. She moved them back to her family’s home in middle Georgia. Only 3 of the 4 children survived to adulthood. Annie attended college, something woman, particularly in the early days of the 20th century, in the deep south, simply did not do. After graduating college, Ann moved to Atlanta looking for work—–something else young woman of her day were not doing.

There is the story of the college student Paul and his cousin hopping on a street car in Atlanta. Spying an attractive very petite young lady riding alone, Paul jumps over to her seat hoping to strike up a conversation. The problem was the plug of tobacco Paul had in his mouth. Annie politely told this brazen young man that she would not speak with anyone who had a wad of tobacco in his mouth as she coyly turned her head to look out the window.

Paul, fearing he would miss his only moment of opportunity, does something that calls for desperate measures and seemed to have made perfect sense at that particularly pivotal moment, he swallowed the wad of tobacco.

It is from that precise moment that I must go alone in my understanding of “my” history for you must remember that their history is indeed my history and Dad doesn’t seem to be able to sort out any of this history of ours as his mind and memory are both turning against him, against me, and against how we came to be at this current moment in time.

Life is funny in that we all feel the important internal pull to our very beginnings–what it is, who it is, how it is that we all got to be where it is and who we are today. Pieces of important puzzles being constantly pieced together. As an adopted person, beginnings seem doubly important to me (see the post “Who in the heck is Sylvia Kay and what have you done with her” to better understand this whole adoption issue of mine and the importance of understanding who I am and how I came to be….)

Paul and Ann go on to have a seemingly wonderful life. Paul becomes a very successful business owner in Atlanta that takes him all over the country. As a couple, they rise up through Atlanta’s high society. There are the tickets to the premiere of Gone With the Wind, where they met Margaret Mitchell, Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. There are images of Paul with then governors of Georgia and leaders of growing industry, images with his two young sons on a road trip across the south where a young Mr. Mole (aka my dad) is downing a bottle of Coke on the steps of the Louisiana State Capital. There are images of a proud man, arms wrapped around his two boys with a loving wife looking on……little would she know of her own devastation when he was taken so suddenly from her when he was barely older than I am today.

However today is not a day for looking back on the ending of a happy story but it is rather a day for looking at the beginning of one……
….So on this day, this June 4, 2013 I say happy anniversary Nany and Pop. I miss you both.