Good old fashioned hate, with an extra dose of love

“I hate and love. And why, perhaps you’ll ask.
I don’t know: but I feel, and I’m tormented.”

― Catullus

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(detail of an embroidered bee on a pair of pants / Julie Cook / 2015)

Looking in the closet, deciding what to wear, I opt for the yellow pants with the embroidered bees.
In honor of Dad.
You should know Georgia Tech’s mascot is a yellow jacket.
Yellow Jacket. . .Bee. . .
Comme ci, Comme ça

Every state has its own hyped up in-state college rivalry.
You know, those colleges within each state which vie for bragging rights from one another–with such being anything from the highest recruited freshman class to the nicest campus, the best football team, the best basketball team, the best gymnastics team, the best debate team, the top research facility. . .yada, yada, yada. . .as the list goes on and on.

Here in the South we simply call it “good old fashioned hate”
Someone wrote a book about such using that very title so I’m assuming that’s what we call it.
Here in Georgia that love / hate relationship exists between The University of Georgia and The Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech, or simply Tech.

I come from a long line of Georgia Tech graduates. . .
My brother, my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, my cousins, even my son took a few course at Tech.
I on the other hand earned my degree from The University of Georgia, otherwise known as Georgia or simply UGA.

People often ask about my family’s rivalry but it’s never a problem. . . not until each fateful fall Saturday in late November when The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet The University of Georgia Bulldogs on the gridiron—-then there’s a problem. My Uncle would get so upset, he couldn’t bear to watch the game or even listen to it on the radio—simply too stressful.

Ask anyone from Ohio how they feel about Michigan.
Ask anyone form Michigan how they feel about Ohio.
Ask anyone from Auburn how they feel about Alabama.
Ask anyone form Alabama how they feel about Auburn.
You learn quite quickly that you’ve simply created fertile ground for a fight, plain and simple,
like I say, good old fashioned hate. . .

My deep sense of rivalry satisfaction however, comes in knowing that a man who graduated from both Emory University and Georgia Tech, who claims allegiance to a yellow jacket nation, actually had to endure paying for his daughter to attend college at his much hated arch nemesis.
Enough said.

As I sat in the waiting room, the nurse stepped out to change the channel of music.
U2 was currently singing yet she told me that they needed to change the tempo as Bono was just a little too lively for my dad. I know Dad didn’t complain, probably wasn’t even paying attention, but I let her change it nonetheless.
Eva Cassidy began singing a somber and melodic Fields of Gold.
“This is to make me feel better?!” I mused to myself.
The nurse immediately noted my “bee” pants saying how cute they were.
I explained I wear them for dad.
We then chat about that whole Georgia / Georgia Tech thing. . .

Looking over at Dad, I notice that he just looks so, well. . .old.
Small and tiny, shrinking.
His clothes seem to swallow him these days.
His hair, what hair remains, sits most days a bit disheveled on his mostly bald head.
His glasses, too big for his now tiny face, are always dusty, clouding his rummy eyes.
He’s pale and frail.
Usually listing to the right as he walks. . .make that, shuffles.
We made small talk. . .or actually I attempted to make small talk as Dad rarely initiates conversation.
I asked a few short questions in order to fill the quiet of the waiting room, albeit for Bono’s singing.
“I don’t know” was Dad’s reply, “you know my short term memory isn’t good.”
“I just looked at him, feeling sad, as he began staring forward with his chin dropped in his hand as his arm was propped up on his knee.
As they call him back to see the doctor, telling me they’ll come for me when he’s finished, I lose myself in my thoughts as the song Mad World begins to play. . .
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places,
worn out faces. . .

Not making me feel better at all. . .

The nurse finally calls me back.
I walk in as Dad is sitting in a chair looking rather small.
I take a seat by him on the doctor’s stool.
“Oh you’re wearing bee pants. . .”
“Yes Dad, just for you” I proudly smile.
He beams a smile of satisfaction.
He becomes fretful about a new prescription the doctor had told him about but I reassure him that we’ll find out more when the doctor comes back in to go over the lab results.

Dad’s hemoglobin is low. It’s been low.
Meaning he’s anemic.
There are symptoms and signs. . .
Dad is most likely bleeding internally, most likely intestinal.
Last visit they shot him full of Vitamin B-12.
Added lots of D and changed up some of the prescriptions.
He seems much better than last visit.
Not as pale, not as wobbly, not as poorly.
At 87 with one so frail, a colonoscopy is asking a lot.
As the doctor had explained to me on our last visit. . .”say he has a colonoscopy and say they find cancer—what do you do?” The odds wouldn’t be in Dad’s favor with surgery. And what of treatment? What of chemo or something even more aggressive. . .would he, could he survive?
We all agreed, with Dad leading the charge, we will wait and see. . .monitor.
Sounds good. . .

So today his levels are still low, but stable. . .so all is good. . . for now

It’s a quick ride home as he is only a Point A to Point B sort of individual. .
no diversions whatsoever!!
He tells me multiple times that he’s worried about Gloria as she’s constantly hurting and frustrated that her hands aren’t as apt to do what she wants them to do. I tell him that I hope the doctor can prescribe something for the arthritis.
He smacks his lips.
In fact the entire time we’ve been in the car, he’s licking his lips or rather moving his tongue over the top of his mouth. . . you know, the way you do when your mouth is dry and you’re trying to work up enough saliva to make it unsticky. . .but the sound is one that is enough to drive a person crazy.
I realize that his mouth is most likely dry from all of his prescription and I make a mental note to say something to the doctor on our next trip back in a couple of weeks.

There was a time I’d have gone nuts over the endless smacking sound and of the constant litany of the same worried question after worried question. My patience with Dad has not always been great.
He tends to be very obsessive compulsive. Especially in regard to my brother. I won’t go into that whole story—suffice it knowing that he committed suicide years ago and dad has a very unhealthy conscious decision in choosing not to heal.
He is a dog with a bone, refusing to let go. . .
For years he refused counseling, always preferring to wallow.
I had a hard time with Dad and all of that.

Yet thankfully time and age have a funny way of sorting things out.
Dad, unbeknownst to himself, is continually teaching me about the important things in life . . .with the kicker being that I’m finally open and appreciative to such.
Funny how that works.
And the most amazing thing of it all. . .
is that a diehard yellow jacket hating Bulldog can proudly wear a pair of yellow bee pants. . .
just for Dad. . .
Good old fashioned hate steeped in love. . .

You are enough for me. . .

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Confucius

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(brand new little gala apple blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)

Eyes hesitantly flicker open long before first morning’s light
A groggy mind works to sort out what the day ahead has in store.
Then the weary eyes close, wanting to put the day off a bit longer
Oversleeping leads to jumping up, bounding, and then running the remainder of the day
Long drive
Disheartening reports and observations
Long conversations
Hard conversations
Hopefulness is blindsided by reality
Strong words echo of defiance,
Yet are betrayed by both fragile mind and frail body.
The child now tells the parent what will or will not be.
Battles of will and hearts rage.
Tiny compromises stave off a bleeding flood by a day, maybe two. . .
Tears ride home in tired eyes,
While a heart fights breaking.
The traffic consumes what nerves remain
When a familiar prayer floods a rattled mind. . .

God of your goodness,
Give me yourself.
For you are enough for me
And I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory.
And if I ask anything less,
I shall still be in want,
for only in you have I all.

A lifeline of hope guides this wayward soul home. . .

(Prayer and image of manuscript below by St Julian of Norwich)
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(Westminster Manuscript attributed to St Julian of Norwich)

No time for chickens. . .

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
― Mother Teresa

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(portion of a 19th century oil painting by H.A. Bossir which was my grandmothers)

Have you ever heard the expression “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”??
Well oddly enough, for almost the past 32 years, that little expression has pretty much been the mantra of my little family. I say 32 years because that’s almost how long I’ve been married and it was just around that time that this bad luck / good luck ying and yang thing started. I’m rather confident my husband would own up to being the lightening rod but we won’t hold that against him.

And of course there’s that whole “best laid plans” thing which also rears its ugly head in my neck of this world. . .

So I don’t know what possessed me to even begin to think that my happy little bucolic dream of having my beautiful chicken coop complete with a bevy of beautiful layers, hunting and pecking to their hearts content, foraging in the beautiful vegetable garden next to the coop while I, Mrs Farmer Brown, tended to my small piece of idyllic country living would actually come to fruition.
What was I thinking?

What came over me envisioning Country Living wanting to come do a photo shoot of my city girl meets farmer girl world? Why did I picture myself naming the girls. . . Marigold, Clementine, Petunia, Coq au vin, and Lady Poulet? What possessed my husband when he had a coop custom made for me last Christmas?? A coop that now just sits forlornly in the backyard, empty and alone.

And what of the large vegetable garden we have each year? What of my squash, my zucchini, my myriad of heirloom tomato plants, my wax beans, my bush beans, my eggplants, my okra, my 4 varieties of corn, of my peppers. You remember, the garden that was decimated last year by the herd of ravenous deer that nearly ate me out of house and home?? And of my Irish Spring deterrent??
What of that???

Sadly, none of that is to be this year.

Time has come calling and has put the kibosh on all my hopes and dreams. . .
well. . .maybe not all my hopes and dreams, but those of the immediate moment such as chickens and gardens and a peaceful summer.
There just simply isn’t time in the day to be bucolic while spending the majority of the week on the road driving to and from Atlanta to Dads. . .

Sigh. . .

And speaking of Dad. . .

I had not even gotten in the shower this morning when the care service we’ve enlisted, in the daily care of the blind leading the blind, calls.
“Hello”

“Hi Julie, just thought I’d let you know your dad called us this morning canceling tomorrow’s service”

“WHAT?”

“Yes, their regular caregiver has a doctor’s appt. tomorrow–we were going to send a replacement for the day in but they decided they didn’t need anybody.”

“Really. . .”

“Let me call Dad and I’ll call you right back”

ring, ring, as a warbled voice answers. . .

“hello”

“Dad, the care service just called me, they tell me you’ve canceled service for tomorrow–what’s up?”

“Well our regular girl says she won’t be here so we decided we just don’t need anyone.
And anyway do you have any idea how expensive this service is?
(his voice raising to a crescendo of stricken shock and panic)
This is going to break me! I don’t see why we need any of this care business anyway.
Why do we need all day service for seven days a week. . .”

“Well Dad, you know you both do like to eat and since you all aren’t up to really cooking, it’s nice having someone who can prepare your meals,plus someone reminding you, you know, to eat. Someone there helping with the chores, making certain you take your pills, making certain ya’ll don’t fall as walking isn’t what it use to be. . .yada, yada, yada. . .”

(with an odd sense of clarity)
“Well since you’re coming tomorrow (I am??), you can be here and we’ll be fine.
(Great)
But you don’t need to stay long because you’ve got to get on the road before the traffic hits. . .”
(ugh)

“We’ll talk more about this tomorrow Dad while we see how you two do without your “helper” for a day.

Oh and did I mention the CPA called miraculously out of the blue this afternoon asking about dad’s taxes?
You know, the taxes dad seems to think will magically take care of themselves.
The ones he’s suppose to have been taking care of for the past two years but hasn’t.
The ones I’ve threatened him within an inch of his life to take care of ASAP, as in ASAP two years ago.
The ones that are still sitting in a pile on the floor in the office, aka my old bedroom.
(albeit a neat pile since I hit that room hard 5 weeks ago)
The ones I’ve pleaded with him to let me tend to. . .only to have him defiantly dig in his heels fighting me tooth and nail over.
“Ok Dad”, I’d tell him, “they’re going to haul you off to jail.”
He’d hang his head, setting that jaw telling me, “fine, they can just take me to jail”
Great. . .
All because he has refused to let go and give it up. . .

And it dawned on me one low day last week that the reality of him actually having to let go, giving it all up is what so much of this entire ordeal and fight has been all about–the difficulty of relinquishing a role he’s played for my 55 years of life.
He knows he’s not been doing a good job for years now but something deep inside of him won’t let it go. How does the dad, the one whose charged with the care and well being of his family, turn lose of that role. . .
He’s 87
He acts like a kid, a child. . .at times.
He forgets.
He’s confused.
He likes quiet, his cat, his simple little routine.
Yet he’s still my dad.
It’s his house.
He’s been in that house for 53 years.
He lost my mom while living there.
He lost my brother while living there.
He had a grandchild enter his life in that house.
Who are these people now invading his house, his world?
And when did this daughter, this kid who couldn’t balance a check book. . .
Who had champagne taste on a beer budget, who just had to have cotton candy pink shag carpet,
who was defiant, who preferred GI Joes to Barbies,
who went to Georgia to his beloved Georgia Tech. . .
When did she become the person who is now charged with
his care,
his finances,
his life and well being,
who now dares to tell him he cannot go down the basement stairs in his own house. . .

So it is now official. . .
The inmates are running the asylum and I’m charged with picking up the pieces.

Taking one for the team in the company of loons and voodoo dolls

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
Vince Lombardi

Skylark, Have you seen a valley green with Spring Where my heart can go a-journeying, Over the shadows in the rain To a blossom covered lane? And in your lonely flight, Haven’t you heard the music in the night, Wonderful music, Faint as a will-o-the-wisp, Crazy as a loon, Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.
Johnny Mercer

Great Northern Diver/Common Loon
(a beautiful image of a loon found on the web and belonging to Ignacio Yufera photography)

Ok–
I’ve always said let me be the example. . .
Allow me to be the one others look to in order to learn from life’s mistakes.
I’m willing to take one for the team, hoping that others will see. . .
what not to do
how not to do
when not to do
While learning from my
miscues
misfires
misgivings
mishandlings
misinterpretations. . .

These past three weeks have been jam packed with shining examples.
Despite any luck of the Irish that may have befallen the planet this past week, I was sadly passed over.

Almost three weeks ago I found myself living the life of a voodoo doll.
A cute little stuffed stick like figure, arms stuck straight out, hair looking like a result of an errant finger poked in an electrical outlet, blank faced, quasi puppet who’d quickly became a pin cushion at the hand of the malevolent and loon alike.
I was placed,
forced,
stuck,
covered in a situation (or four or five)
in which I was knocked upside the head,
dealt a terrible hand,
hit broadside with a triple whammy,
bamboozled,
and dumped within the middle of one nasty sticky wicket.

In order to protect the innocent or actually my own behind, we won’t use names.
Nothing to identify anyone but my poor misguided self and of course good ol Dad.

And before we proceed and lest we forget, a loon is not just another name for a lovely red eyed lake bird possessing a haunting tune, but rather the name for a psycho, sociopath or crazy individual who I seem to attract like a magnet. . .

–First to the current moment at hand. . .
If a medicine reads PM and or Nighttime, do not think that suggests AM or Daytime.
That is unless you enjoy feeling rather “outer body” during the waking hours
want to / need to drive
operate heavy machinery or something as simple, say like, the washing machine or hair dryer
wish to be productive–such as shower, dress, cook, eat, clean. . .
need to stay awake, as in not sleeping. . .
enjoy feeling drunk,
or think it’s a good idea to drive home from the grocery store with eyes that won’t focus. . .
PM and Nighttime are for just that—nighttime—even though it just may be the only option
in the cabinet, simply wait for the sun to go down before taking.

–Never ask “what else can wrong”
For it will be at that very moment the sewer pipe bursts.

–Never assume when presented with two different scenarios,
with one being tolerable and the other being the onset of Armageddon,
that you will get lucky, escaping with the better scenario hiding behind Door number 1. . .
Armageddon has your name written all over it.

–Never think that the other people you will find yourself dealing with are like minded, sane, rational, nice, or friendly. . .
There is a 50 / 50 chance you’ll get like minded–we must remember that since you usually get Armageddon, that 50 /50 percentage thing will be more like 80 / 20 against you. . .enter the loons.

–Never think that if you leave Atlanta at 4PM on a Friday afternoon, for your average hour drive home, that you will arrive anytime before midnight–thus making you the loon.

–Never think that if you are standing in a room with a loon and about five other folks that the loon will ask what you would like for lunch. . .the said loon, who has you in its crosshairs, does not consider you present, only the five other folks.
Trust me, you will be the only one without a sandwich.

–Never assume that age is essential when expecting people and loons to act mature. A 55 year old loon can act like a 12 year old junior high age kid any day of the week.

–Always remember, evil does walk the planet and sometime enjoys stalking you.

–Voodoo dolls are real and they look very much like me you.

–There comes a time when you need to be your parent’s advocate. The torch mysteriously passes from them taking care of you and your needs to you taking care of them and their needs. Don’t forget to step up and speak up.

–Which brings us back to likeminded. . .never assume you’ll be working with those who possess a “team” mentality when meeting a crisis head-on especially with a loon nearby.

–Never assume that if you were once a childhood friend with a loon someone that they remember it having been a nice friendship, a good time, or even remember at all. . .

–Never assume or figure. . .you’ll always be wrong, especially when it comes to loons.

–Never trust your “confused” 87 father with a “touch of alzheimers” to tell you that he will pay his bills and keep his records organized and don’t even mention the taxes—the witness protection plan may be the only open option when dodging the IRS

–Never remarry if you have grown kids. . .trust me.

–Never give in when the loons first approach you wearing smiles offering some sort of “great idea.”
Keep that whole Armageddon thing in mind.

–Never assume savings will always cover long term care for the elderly.

–It’s okay to now ask your dad what he was thinking when he thought getting remarried at almost 70 was a good thing. Trust me, he will now wonder with you what he was thinking.

–It’s ok to change your dad’s doctor.

–It’s ok to ask your dad if his idea of shaving is that of his entire face or just sections. It’s also ok to ask if he’s shaved in the past week or finds a beard with one long hair here and one long hair there his idea of no shave November in March

— It’s ok if your 87 year old dad asks you over and over “ok the doctor told me to speak my mind right?” “Yes dad, find your voice”

–It’s not ok when your dad starts calling you from a cell phone you thought he’d lost years ago and never knew how it worked.

–It’s not always a good thing getting step siblings at age 40

–Siblings. . .step, half, whole, or otherwise are like that whole 50 / 50 thing. . .
with that whole Armageddon thing hiding in there somewhere.

–Remember loons of a feather flock together, often attracting like minded loons.

–If you get rundown and stressed you will get sick—and then you will take nighttime meds accidentally in the daytime and wonder how you’ll get home from the grocery store

–there are no frequent flyer miles for traversing Atlanta’s interstates

–And lastly remember, when Life and loons come calling with crises and haunting calls—
it’s best to hold on, pray hard and look for the humor in between the tears. . .

Change is in the air

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.
Washington Irving

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(a volunteer viola caught in the wind / Julie Cook / 2015)

Change is in the air. . .
It’s come riding in on the shifting winds.
First it’s cold
then it’s wet
then it’s mild
then it’s windy
then it’s stormy
then it’s icy
then it’s cold
then it starts all over again. . .
Usually all within a 24 hour span of a single day. . .
Ode to March. . .

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(a tiny beginning, the emergence of a lily / Julie Cook / 2015)

And change is indeed taking place, in many different places.
We’ve not talked about Dad in a while. . .
There seems to be trouble brewing on the horizon. . .
The blending of two unfamiliar families, when it comes to elderly parental care, is delicate.
Trepidation has come calling. . .

Between these grown children or these now not so grown parents. . .
This time of change is. . .
overwhelming
disheartening
discouraging
frustrating
challenging
frightening
unnerving
unending
unfair
but here it is, none the less. . .
Discussions are beginning
Decisions are having to be made
Not all parties are happy
Hoping for the best. . .
Once the winds finally cease their shifting,
We will see where this all lands. . .

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(a tulip tree bud / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(mist covered moss / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(dandelions don’t look so bad close up / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(tulip tree bud up close and personal / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is your Peace?

Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.
Albert Pike

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
― Meister Eckhart

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A female mallard glides gently in the pond in the Boston Public Gardens / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

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My heart is agitated and restless within me.
I am troubled by our times.
Global headlines are dire and grim.
Our own country is troubled by an exodus which is flooding into our land as we fret and worry how to best tend to these masses.
The weight of heartfelt burdens grow by the minute.

Yet you tell me simply not to worry.
“Forget about it”
“Don’t dwell on the negative”
“Think happy thoughts”
“None of this effects you, why worry”
“You can’t do a thing to change it, so don’t think about it”
“You don’t have a dog in this fight, therefore it’s of no concern”
“Be the ostrich and just put your head in the sand”

But I will not will myself to forget about troubles in our world.
I will not pretend everything is fine just because I am not being directly impacted.
It is true that there is very little I can do, if anything at all, to alleviate any of these maladies.
I am helpless, just as you are, watching dramas play out daily in the headlines.

But I ask you, how do I:
Tell the Dutch people not to worry?
Tell the Malaysian Airliner Company not to worry–agian?
Tell the Malaysian people not to worry–again?
Tell the Ukrainians not to worry?
Tell the Russian people not to worry?
Tell the EU not to worry?
Tell the small bordering countries of Russia not to worry?
Tell the Israelis not to worry?
Tell Jews worldwide not to worry?
Tell the Palestinians not to worry?
Tell the children of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador not to worry?
Tell the Americans in the border towns not to worry?
How do I tell all the parents who have lost and are losing children throughout the past week to simply dry those tears and carry on?

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Where does your peace hide?
Where is your wellbeing located these woeful days?
Not your distractions.
Not your diversions.
Not your poisons to deaden any and all feeling.
But rather your Peace?
Your wellbeing?
Your clam?
Your anchor?
Your harbor?
Your refuge?

In such times, it is to Nature, which offers a soothing clam, that I turn.
In Nature is where I may observe life, as it goes steadily and happily along, despite global worrisome events.
To spend sacred time silently with the Creator of the Universe.
Finding in Him and in His handiwork the offerings of silence, of hope and of beauty which joyfully continues spilling froth from all His creation.
Here is where I find it possible to offer prayers for hope because here is where hope still exists.

May you find that place which continues to hold you in comfort and care—that place which offers you Peace. . . and may you then, in turn, offer prayers for the desperate healing of which our world is in such need. . .

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(St Francis in a small garden adjacent to the Old North Church / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple

Psalm 5: 1-7

When does 669 equal 15,000?

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I work on the motto that if something’s not impossible, there must be a way of doing it.”
Nicholas Winton

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(Nicholas Winton in 1938 with a young Jewish boy in Prague)

The year is 1938.
You’re 28 years old, a young British stock broker—successful and living the good life.
You’ve been keeping up with the current events throughout Europe, with a particularly keen interest in Czechoslovakia.
Hitler is on the march.
The Czechs, particularly the Jews, are trying to get out while they still can.
The war drums are beginning to echo from across the English Channel.
You’ve got two weeks vacation saved up.
Seems like a perfect time for a trip to Prague. . .

Fast forward to Sunday evening, April 27, 2014—time for 60 Minutes.
Correspondent Bob Simon hosts the story “Saving The Children”
He introduces us to 104 year old Nicholas Winton.

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(Sir Nicholas Winton today)

I was just in the process of finishing up the dishes when the story started. Intrigued with the story’s intro, I immediately stopped what I was doing in order to give the story my full attention.

By the time the 60 Minute story ends, tears are streaming down my cheeks.
A tale of heroic action by one who simply thought he had to make a difference.
He had no corporate financial backing.
He had no Governmental backing.
He was not a member of the military.
He was merely a young man with a big heart.
A young man who simply knew that there were people, in particular families with young children, who were now in trouble. Never mind that these people were on the continent proper, hundreds of miles from his own home.
He had no clue as to what he would find.
He had no idea as to how to he could “fix” the current “bleeding”
He simply knew in his heart that he had to go and he had to try to help.
Hitler and his dreaded Nazis were coming, as was now Nicholas Winton.
The two were on a collision course with destiny.
One to save lives, the other to take lives.

I’m providing a link for anyone who would like to view the original story here:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/saving-the-children-during-world-war-11-60-minutes/

Mr. Winton, who is actually Sir Winton, is a most unassuming 104 year old British gentleman. He has a gentle, soft spoken demeanor, with an ever so sly smile. For nearly 50 years, Sir Winton never actually spoke of the life changing events which took place during a trip to Prague in 1938. Had his wife not found an old faded yellow and long forgotten scrape book in their attic, filled with the grainy black and white photographs of hundreds of young children, the world may never have known of the difference one young Englishman had made so very long ago.

When asked by Bob Simon as to why he never told any one of his most heroic feat which spanned 1938-1939, Sir Winton replied that it wasn’t that he kept it secret, he just didn’t find it important to go on about it.
That was then.
This is now.
And he currently has other irons in the fire.

At 104 Sir Winton is currently involved in working with the elderly mentally handicapped of London as well as for building homes for senior citizens. Interesting that a man of 104 feels a deep need to take care of those who are a bit younger than himself when it seems as if he would be the one in need of care.

I will briefly delve into only the general specifics of Sir Winton’s heroic act of 1938, as you may certainly visit the 60 Minute link or peruse the Web for a more in-depth story of this remarkable man— I will however whet your appetite with a few of the highlights.

As the Nazis rolled into then Czechoslovakia, wanting to literally take the Sudetenland, which they felt was rightfully their own, just as they had rolled into Austria and soon Poland and Hungary, the citizens of Czechoslovakia began to panic, especially the Jews. Nicholas Winton was reading about these disturbing unfolding events in the daily news with keen interest. He decided to use his time saved for holiday for a trip to Prague to see what, if anything, he could do to help.

The short end of story is that Sir Winton decided to get out as many children as possible from the impending falling death ridden curtain which was quickly descending not only over Czechoslovakia but over most of Europe. He had no particular resources except for his own ingenuity and creativity laced with a bit of deception. He orchestrated the deportation of eventually 669 children. He had even written to President Franklin Roosevelt asking if the United States would help by taking in some of the children.

When explaining all of this to Bob Simon, Sir Winton rather nonchalantly recalls that the United States refused to be of assistance and what a pity that was as he suspects they may have been able to save many more children.

The truly sad part of the story was the interview of Mr. Hugo Meisl. Mr Meisl was 10 years old in 1939. He vividly recalls the day Adolph Hitler rode through the streets of Prague. He along with the other children of Prague were lined up along the street route and were all told that as soon as the Führer rode past, they were to give the obligatory raised arm salute of Heil Hitler.

He was one of the 669 children that was saved during Nicholas Winton’s deportation scheme. Bob Simon asks if he remembers his parents taking him to the train station to send him to what was to be a journey to the safety of a new life in England. Mr Meisl recalls as if it was yesterday his parents taking him to the station that fateful day. They were not emotional but had told him that he was to go to England on a 2 month holiday, at which time they would then come join him.

Bob Simon presses Mr. Meisl asking if he had believed his parents. “Of course” Mr Meisl answers “We had every reason to believe our parents.”
As the interview continues, we all painfully realize that Mr. Meisl never saw his parents again. Bob Simon interjects “After the war you went back to Czechoslovakia… Was there one instant where you accepted the fact that your parents were dead?”

At this point, Mr. Meisl becomes quite emotional (as do I) explaining that for the next three years following the War, as the trains returned from Siberia, Russia, returning back to Czechoslovakia those who had fled or who had been taken prisoner, he searched for his parents.

I was personally so taken by the raw emotions of this man, who is now nearing 90, as he recalls the day he said good-bye to his parents and then of the 3 year search and wait for a return and reunion that never took place.

As a parent myself, I am hard pressed to imagine having to send my young child away to what I hoped was safety, knowing I most likely would never have seen him again. The total lack of control over my very life and that of my child’s life is something I simply cannot wrap my brain around. I find it a tragedy that so many free Americans and Europeans today have no true cognizant or emotional concept of the price paid by so many of our parents and grandparents during a time the majority of us have no understanding of—

We think that we would not tolerate such action taken against us or our family, and yet, the citizens of much of Europe in 1938 most likely felt the same as we do today.

In 1939 War was declared and the trains, with their cars full of young hopeful futures were all stopped, no longer being permitted to leave for the promise of safety and a future. A train was actually loaded up and was ready to depart the station just as the War was declared. It was in just a few short months that those same trains, now full of more children along with their parents, did indeed again depart Prague, but this time it was for a one way trip destined for what was to be Hitler’s final solution.

That 669 number of saved children, who were given the chance of freedom and life, went on to grow exponentially. The 669 married, having children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren. 669 saved young lives grew to 15,000 lives–all full of hope, dreams, love and thanks to Nicholas Winton, life.

Frozen in time

Cold in the earth — and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Excerpt taken from Emily Bronte’s Remembrance

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(the frozen bird bath, Julie Cook 2013)

This time of year always seems to usher in a bit of wistful nostalgia. Not only does the calendar alert us that Christmas is nary upon us, we also happen to have a birthday in this house as my son is turning 25 later this week. As he was a scheduled Christmas baby, who decided to arrive a week early, this has always been his favorite time of year and holiday. Happily or sadly, I fear, I must confess that each and every year as the calendar rolls around to this particular week, I cannot help but feel as if a part of me is somewhat frozen in time as I, ever so sweetly, recall those years which now seem so long ago. . . when he was simply a little boy.

Once upon a time a trip to McDonalds and a Happy Meal was a magical event. Spending time watching his favorite cartoons, be it Spiderman, Batman or the Ninja Turtles, was some of the best time I recall spending during that delightful time of innocence oh so long ago—as he and I would sit together on the couch or floor mesmerized by the long serving super heroes of what seems to have been each or our childhoods (sans those turtles for my youth).

With his dad always working and our living in a different community from the one we worked in and attended school, and with his being an only child, there was a great deal of time, for better or worse, spent together. Today he may look back and think he was a lonely child or somewhat sheltered, I look back seeing the time as simply what our world was, and relish the memory of the close bound the 3 of us shared.

The crisis of a child, which at the time can seem monumental, was most always easily fixed by some extra attention, hugs, favorite meals or a trip for ice-cream. Sadly I must admit that those crises which occur today are not nearly as easily remedied or alleviated. What I thought broke my heart for him when he was 5, truly breaks my heart now in the shadow of 25. At this grown up age, in my parental frustrations, as well as sorrowful regret, no longer do I know how to readily fix things. Such is the burden, I fear, of mothers world wide. All of this as I am reminded of another mother, long ago, who eventually bore the weight of the world as she held her newborn son under the light of a single star.

And so it is with such thoughts, which rise to the surface from this mother’s constantly wounded heart, when gazing upon a frozen bird bath in the throws of a winter morning. Thankfully, however, I am sustained by the knowledge of the eventual thawing and giving way to , once again, free flowing streams of water–as the thaw gives way to free waters, so too does it give way to the hope of soothed hearts, mended dreams, and bright futures.

‘Stop your crying and wipe away your tears.
All that you have done for your children will not go unrewarded.
They will return from the enemy’s land.
There is hope for your future.
Your children will come back home.
I, the Lord, have spoken’.

Jeremiah 31: 16-17
Good News Bible

This time I don’t think chocolate will make it better…..

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“Happy Father’s day! It’s not much…”

“OOOO Chocolate!!” (coming from a beaming face of an 85 year old)

“OH my Lord, Dale you can’t eat that, remember what the doctor said…”

“Dad why aren’t you taking your medicine?”

“Can I have the chocolate now?”

“Dale, my gosh…no you can’t have the chocolate…remember what the doctor said??!!”

“I thought he said that if I started feeling better in a couple of days I could go back to eating what I want.”

“Dad you have to go to the gastroenterologist on Tuesday.”

“No, he said if I felt better, I could………”

“My lord Dale! NO! Right here in front of Julie, I’m telling you……”

And so went the last visit to Dad’s.

“Can’t you tell he’s lost weight?!”

“Yes.”

Dad, how much weight have you lost?”

“I think about 10 lbs.”

Hummm…

“None of his clothes fit. I need to take him to get all new pants”

“Well had I known he needed pants, I’d have gotten him pants instead of the movies and chocolate….”

“He won’t take his medicine, he’s not helping himself”

“Dad, why aren’t you taking your pills like you suppose to?”

Blank stare

“Dad do you want to go to a home?”

“Julie must be a fly on the wall here Dale—she’s simply repeating what I told you this morning…”

And he finally turns and looks at me….

“I won’t leave this house but in a box”

“Well Dad, you’re working your way to that box very quickly”

Jump forward to yesterday.

The phone rings

“Happy New Years!”

“Happy New Years to you too Dad, but I think it’s the 4th of July”

“Oh yeah, 4th of July”

“I wish I could have spoken with you yesterday but seems our phone wasn’t working”
(note, I call often only to get no answer…if he’s eating, wobbling to the bathroom, out to a movie, or watching the latest breaking all day news coverage, he won’t answer)

“Why wasn’t your phone working?”

“Seems someone forgot to pay the bill”

“DAD—AGAIN?!”

“Don’t fuss at me, it’s all taken care of…”

“Dad, how did this happen again?”

Don’t fuss at me, Gloria’s son and daughter-n-law came over yesterday and fixed it.”

“What do you mean they fixed it?”

“She helped me set it all up where it just gets pulled out automatically”

“Dad, I thought that’s what you were already doing. Dad it’s not their place to help you do that–its mine—Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Please don’t fuss at me…”

“Dad I’m not fussing—put Gloria on the phone”

“No, both of you will fuss at me”

“Dad, nobody is fussing, I just want to talk with Gloria”

“hello, what? I’ve been sick”

“….they just showed up, when they couldn’t get us on the phone or my, what do you call it?… cell phone. And it’s a good thing; they got the phone mess straightened out. It just had me all upset again and plus I’m sick. I told them you’ve been to sort his files and they’re in a mess again. I told them about you going to the bank and we thought things would get better…”

Much more conversation— “…Gloria, what about maybe assisted living?”

“Yes, I think that would be good– but I don’t like the one’s with elevators, those big high-rises. Something cute, like a little bungalow. I don’t want to live in the middle of Buckhead or Sandy Springs.”

“But that’s where ya’ll are now…”

“Well, I don’t know…”

I’ll drive up on Tuesday, is that okay”

“Oh yes Tuesday will be fine”

“I’ll work on his files and the papers—plus maybe we need to really talk about getting help—the house, the yard, it’s too much….”

“Yes, that will be wonderful”

And so began and continued the latest conversation.

He’s getting worse–more so mentally, not so much physically—but for this latest and should have been avoided bout of colitis…. The Alzheimer’s? Is that it? He just wants to be like a little kid—being catered to constantly. Never leaving the house or even getting up out of his chair. He’s now even shaving in his chair. Ugh….

“Hi Dad, what are you doing?”

“Oooo, I’m watching Flash Gordon!”

“The 1930’s flash Gordon Dad?”

“Oooo yes!” Complete with grin…
And he refuses to discuss moving, my taking over finances, or anything that is along the lines of grown-up responsibilities…telling my cousin the financial manager…”I don’t want Julie involved”

Why is that? Is it because he doesn’t trust me? Doesn’t want his “little girl” doing such? I don’t know. I’m almost 54, I think I’m grown up enough to help.

“Dad, have you spoken with your accountant yet?”

“No, but I’m working on it”

“Dad, you’ve been working on it”

“Don’t fuss at me”

And so it goes….I’ve tried stepping back—swooping in to tidy up and fix the disasters, little by little—getting things to a point of rolling along again, then BAM, he’s back in another pickle… the latest in an on-going litany of perdiciments. Bemoaning that everyone is fussing at him and to just leave him alone.
It is time to do and say the things he doesn’t want me to say and do…he refuses to leave the house. The house is too much. Even if there was a “sitter” who came in daily or even was there 24/7—there is still the maintenance of the 60 year old house, the leaks, the termites, the basement, the attic, the yard, the encroaching and changing growth of the city…. I don’t live there so I can’t just pop over everyday to check on them. If something happened, it’d take over an hour, with good traffic on the interstates, for me to get to them.

We need to sell the house and they need to move to a small assisted living community.
Or so I think that is the best idea. The most cost effective— or is it? What do I know?

There are no brothers or sisters to help in any of this—just me…and I don’t really know what I’m doing. They have been living very independent lives. My mom died almost 30 years ago and he and Gloria have been married almost 20 years…. it’s just that he’s stopped being a grown man—preferring to not be dad or pops…but a little boy who just wants life to be light, happy and continuously carefree. Which would be fine if he was willing to turn loose of all responsibilities concerning finances, allowing me to help—help paying the bills, etc.…

He’s my dad and I’ve never told him how things were going to be. Oh I’ve suggested strongly but not the “put the foot down you’re going to do as I say or else” kind of telling him what do to –because—he is my dad—you know, the dad who is the one who calls the shots, not the daughter…

I know he doesn’t want to leave the house. He’s lived in it since 1960. Gloria was good to come into a house that had the ghost of another woman. She’s made some changes but it’s still not the kind of house she ever wanted…but she knew he wouldn’t leave.

However now, I think there’s no choice.

I’ll go Tuesday and we’ll see.

I suddenly have a headache. This entire week of rain and gray gloomy skies has not helped how I’m now feeling today about all of this……the sun would at least help me feel a little hopeful.