Not okay x 4

First time:

When I was in high school or middle school I was walking on a path across a park with my friend, Carol. It was a beautiful day and we were talking about whatever teenaged girls talk about. A group of prepubescent boys approached us and as they passed us one reached out his hand and grabbed my crotch. He and his friends laughed. I remember feeling ashamed, embarrassed and angry at the same time. Carol and I didn’t speak of it then nor any time after that.

Second time:

I rarely took our dog for walks, but one night when I was about 16 decided to take Franz for a walk around the block after dark. It was a chilly night and I wore my red winter coat. I was approaching my house and as I did a person in a green snorkel parka (the kind with an orange lining) passed me near a tree that grew close to the sidewalk. I may have nodded hello to the person, I may have not but just after the person passed me he grabbed me, said “Hi there, how are you?” while feeling my breasts through my coat. I was stunned, embarrassed, and again ashamed.

Third time:

It was Christmas eve. I wore a red turtleneck sweater and long skirt. I was 16. We were at my mother’s youngest brother’s house. At some point I went upstairs to use the bathroom and my mother’s oldest sister’s husband walked out of the bedroom where the coats were. I might have said “hi”. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the doorway and leaned against me. I pulled away and ran downstairs. I felt it was my fault because my sweater was too tight and I went upstairs by myself.

Fourth time:

I was about 17. Our neighbor was a guitarist in a local band that played country and western music. My brother and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar so we took lessons from the neighbor. The lessons were usually done in the basement — and my brother and I were usually at the lessons together. One time, however, the lesson took place in his bedroom because the basement was being used for something else. Now he was married to a really sweet woman. I babysat their kids, so it didn’t seem that weird and while my brother didn’t attend this lesson, there was another student in the room with us, so I was ready to learn more on the guitar. At some point the other student left the room to wait in the living room. The neighbor asked if I liked the student — a guy about my age. I said I didn’t know him enough to know if I liked  him and besides, I was not that into boys or dating. The neighbor then walked over to me and kissed me on the lips. I was stunned. He must have known I was upset because he left the room. I picked up my guitar and walked out of the bedroom. The other student looked up but I just kept going and walked out the front door. I never went back for guitar lessons. I never talked to that neighbor again.

I told no one about these incidents at the time. When I did, later, mention them to people who were supposed to be outraged all I got were pats on the back and phrases like “he was drunk”, “he makes passes at everyone”,”don’t tell your dad”. The walking dog incident got me scolded for going outside by myself after dark. I learned that these are the things guys do. No big deal.

Each of these incidents still make me angry. The fact that both adults in these incidents, the neighbor and uncle, died tragic deaths does not lessen my anger.

It’s NOT okay.


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Good-bye to Burrens and hello to Pat’s Appliance Service

When my dad was about 50 he made a considerable change of employment. He struck out on his own and started “Pat’s Appliance Service.” I was in college, I think, and more than a little worried about his decision. That didn’t stop me from making him a card out of construction paper and markers. (did I mention I was in COLLEGE?)

He started out, after the Navy, first as an Electrolux salesman, then he worked as a speedometer repairman with a company in Elgin called K & D. After that he worked at an appliance repair place called Reber’s Appliance. When they closed down he worked for an Appliance store in downtown Elgin where he was sent to school to learn how to fix Frigidaire refrigerators. Finally he shifted gears a bit and worked at Burren’s Transfer in Elgin fixing the refrigeration units on trailer tractors.  This last job was pretty bad — he worked for a man called Walter Schock who was an angry foul-mouthed man. Dad would come home from work and say things I’d never heard him say. The “f-word” flew out of his mouth often and easily. I think he only worked there a year — enough time for us to take advantage of the Teamster’ insurance plan.

Here’s the card I made him to mark this momentous event.

Good-bye to "Uncle Walter" and *drawing of someone cursing next to a truck.

Good-bye to “Uncle Walter” and *drawing of someone cursing (*!!?*x) at someone else next to a truck*.

Hello Pat's Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things -- flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music*

Hello Pat’s Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things — flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music, dove with olive leaves* Love, Your family — we’re proud of you!!!.

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Father’s day card to dad

My mom saved everything. I look like a hoarder now because my office is wall-to-wall boxes full of stuff she saved. Stuff that I need to toss. Here’s a card I sent my dad about 6 weeks before he became a grandfather.

The card’s printed text was “With All My Love On Father’s Day”. I crossed out the “On” and wrote, “more than a week after”.


Dear Dad,

This is the last Father’s Day in which you will be just a dad. Next year you will be a grandfather. (Your grandchild just kicked me, as if to say, “I consider him a grandfather already!”).

We got our camcorder today — so watch your mail for home movies of Dean and his fat wife!

School is over — Yay! We are going up to see Neal and Marie on Friday. Dean’s sister, Diane, and her family are visiting us next month.

See you in about 8 weeks!

Love Dona (Dean sends his love too!)

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My brief dalliance with the art of wood burning

My cousin gave me her old wood burning set when I was a kid — at least I think it came from her. Anyway, I made a couple of things. And of course my mother kept them. Judge for yourself, should I have kept it up? Did I show promise?


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Eulogy for Mom

I lost what I wrote about my dad, at least I think I did. I don’t want to lose what I wrote for Mom. Here it is…

First of all, I cannot believe how difficult this has been to write (even before I sprained my wrists). My dad’s eulogy was written in fifteen minutes or so, but I’ve been trying to write this for over a week. I’m trying to think of why, and the only thing I can think is that while Dad told stories, Mom listened to others. For her it was all about other people.

So as I prepared to write this I thought about Mom’s qualities. I listened to what other people remembered about her, what people said on Facebook and in the obituary guest book and narrowed it down to a few special qualities Mom possessed: She was almost always upbeat, she immediately became friendly with almost everyone she met, she was thoughtful — nearly to a fault, and she had the best laugh.

Not counting my teenage years, my memories of Mom are mostly of her being really happy. She always had things going on with friends (coffee klatches when she was a young mother, projects such as painting fire hydrants to resemble American patriots during the bicentennial, raising money for a young girl named Angie who needed medical aid, and finally burgers or coffee with her church or grade school friends). She loved spending time with her family and would spend a lot of time planning for our visits after we’d left the nest. Her grandchildren (and great grandson) delighted her.

Mom talked to everyone. People in line at Jewel, people in elevators, people at museums, people on the Washington DC Metro. She and her sister, Ginny, would strike up friendships with strangers wherever they were often to my embarrassment.

Mom was incredibly thoughtful. If she knew you collected this or liked that she’d always be on the lookout for it for you. She used her artistic talent to make cards or Decoupage collage posters for others, some of which are on display around the room. After her Decoupage poster period, she created stained glass for family and friends, after that came quilts, then folk art painting. Earlier tonight someone gave me drawings Mom did of her young daughter and house.

My mom’s laughter is what I will miss the most. She laughed easily (although it took a while if she didn’t get a joke). Often the laughter was directed at herself if she did something she considered silly. Sometimes, often, she’d get an entire roomful of people laughing, stop for a breath of air, and then start laughing all over again.

Many of these qualities were present in her illness and after she went on hospice care. While she was not as upbeat as she’d been before, she did find things to be happy about, the rainbows that moved around the room, her “baby”, visits from friends and family (she especially loved when her great grandson, Preston would visit). She’d often thank someone who helped her (for instance getting from her bed to her chair), even after showing displeasure while being helped. She had a lot of visits from strangers these last few months, and seemed to enjoy many of them. Most importantly, she even managed to find things to laugh about.

Nearly 6 years ago when my dad died, I shared my vision of Heaven with you. The vision began with my beloved Uncle Don sitting at a café with John Kennedy. As more people from my life passed away they joined Uncle Don and President Kennedy at the table, the table grew to accommodate everyone. A few days ago Mom joined that table. I believe she’s there drinking Malibu and Diet Coke with Dad, her parents, her brothers and sisters, and all of her friends and family who preceded her to the café.

Finally, I would like to thank Richard Peabody for taking such loving care of Mom over the past few years. I don’t know what we would have done without you. I also am eternally grateful to Kevin and Connie for welcoming Mom into their home and taking care of her for the past several months. I don’t think I could have done what you did.

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Pastor Keith does it again

Nearly 6 years ago I wrote a post about how Pastor Keith helped us through our father’s death and I shared the amazing sermon he gave at my father’s funeral. I’m here now to let you know that he did it again, this time at my mother’s memorial service. We were not entirely sure this would be possible because Pastor Keith moved from my mother’s church to a different church, but since Mom was so fond of Pastor Keith and she’d never met the interim pastor at her church until she was on hospice care, Kevin and I (mostly Kevin) made sure Pastor Keith was able to be involved.

A few days before the memorial service Pastor Keith called to get some ideas for the sermon. We talked about mom’s qualities, about her illness, about her friends, about Kevin’s upcoming wedding. I also shared with Pastor Keith the dream I had the night my mother died.

Without further comment, here’s his sermon:

Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Patrick (February 16, 1936–August 26, 2016)
Texts: John 14:1–4 and Romans 8:18–21
Preached: September 9, 2016 at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, St. Charles, Illinois

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, in whose house are many, many rooms, and from Christ Jesus, who has gone to prepare a place for us. AMEN

I’m grateful to Pat Patrick’s family, and to Pr. Michael Rothaar, for inviting me to participate in this service for Pat Patrick this evening. I was Pat’s pastor for five years, and she holds a special place in my heart. Pat was the only parishioner I’ve had, and I suspect will be the only parishioner I ever will have, who invariably as she was leaving worship on a Sunday morning would bow her head in front of me as she was leaving the service and… would kiss my ring. I don’t know for sure how that started, but she did it week in and week out. Someone a couple of years ago noticed her doing this, and privately afterwards said, “Pastor, do you think that’s a sign of the Alzheimer’s?” And I had to laugh and say, “No, no, not at all, she was doing that long before that became an issue! That’s just Pat.” And even after her mind became clouded, she never failed to kiss my ring, and then would smile sweetly and somewhat slyly at me. There was a delightful, childlike quality about her, an almost pixie-like quality, that enabled her to look at the world with wonder, and to laugh that infectious laugh, and to get away with some slightly goofy behaviors that only she could get away with. You can see that delight in the photos of her as a young woman—still a girl, really—as she looks up adoringly at Elvin as he embraces her. Even when she went through trying times across the years, through difficulties and challenges and losses, she still kept that air of eagerness, that spirit of amazed wonderment.

Earlier this week, Pat’s daughter Dona shared with me an experience she had the night of Pat’s death that I think in some way captures that quality. Dona had finally gone to bed that night, sleeping near Pat’s bed, knowing that the end of this life was not far off. As she slept, Dona began to dream. And in her dream, she saw Pat get up out of bed, all dressed in white. There were windows all around. It wasn’t Kevin’s house, but some other place. And in the dream, Pat kept heading toward the windows, drawn like a moth to a flame. She would get up close to a window, and would stand with her hands behind her back like a child who has been told not to touch something very precious, standing up on her tiptoes, straining delightedly, expectantly to see what there was on the other side of the glass, as though there were something of great beauty and fascination to be seen that she couldn’t quite make out. She went from window to window, trying to get a clearer view. Others in the dream kept coming and trying to tug Pat back to her bed, but she couldn’t be held back…she kept going back to the window to stand on tiptoes. Finally, someone took hold of her and pushed her into Dona’s arms, but not even that could keep her from the irresistible attraction of the sight she was straining to see. And suddenly, she broke free from Dona’s grasp, and instantly was transformed into sparkles of light. And at that moment, Dona awoke, and Kevin told her that their mom was gone.

When I heard that account, I was immediately reminded of some verses of scripture, actually verses that come just before the very same passage that Pr. Rothaar read a few moments ago from the Letter to the Romans. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to people who were going through profoundly difficult struggles in their lives, people who were being persecuted and even killed, people who needed to hear a word of hope and encouragement, people who were unsure about what might lie in store for them. And in the verses that we heard, there is that stirring affirmation that not even death itself, not even life itself, can hold us back from the love that God shows to us in Christ Jesus. Those are amazing words to hear. We can have confidence in them. But now I want you to hear what Paul had to say just before those words. These verses come from another translation that I think captures something very important, and it’s why what Dona had to say caught my attention. Listen to them:

18-21 In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18–21, J.B. Phillips Version)

“The whole creation is on tiptoe…” Most translations give a very dry, “The creation waits with eager longing,” but the original Greek word there is actually very picturesque, describing the whole head being stretched forward, trying to see something wonderful that is about to come. And that is what I pictured when I heard Dona describe her mother in that dream, darting from window to window, standing on tiptoe, hands behind her back, craning to peek into those rooms Christ has prepared to see the wonderful sight of the future God has planned for her and for us. As the children of God, we need have no fear of death, because we have the incredible assurance that death is not the end, that there is resurrection life that will be even more wonderful than anything we’ve experienced so far, when “the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” We can approach even our own mortality with expectancy and hope.

Now I can’t tell you exactly what lies just the other side of the glass. Scripture says that right now we see only in a darkened, obscure way, only catching a pale reflection of the glory that will be. But Jesus often gives us word pictures of what God’s fully realized reign will look like, as did the prophets before him, and one of my favorite images is of a wedding banquet, a great feast where there is joy and laughter, where there is plenty for all, where the wine flows freely and the food is abundant, where all those who have struggled, all those who have experienced sorrow and crying, all those who have suffered in body or mind, will be brought in as welcome guests to enjoy the fullness that God has intended for each of us from the very beginning of creation, brought to sit at the banqueting table in their rightful places as beloved children and heirs of God.

I couldn’t help thinking of that picture on this evening, knowing that tomorrow Kevin and Connie, along with some of the same folks gathered in this room tonight to mourn, will be feasting and dancing as they celebrate their marriage to one another at their own wedding banquet. Yes, it’s a contrast, but I think it’s a beautiful expression of a very deep truth: Even in our profoundest sorrow, we can stand on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting joy. And as I picture Pat standing at the window, up on her tiptoes, I think maybe what she was glimpsing was that great marriage feast that will have no end, where she will join with all those claimed by God as God’s own beloved children, completely restored in body, completely restored in mind, sorrows forgotten, tears dried, and infectious laughter ringing out in wondering delight at the magnificent gift of life and freedom that is hers as a daughter of God claimed by Christ Jesus in baptism. And I picture her bowing her head and kissing in gratitude the hand of the one who has invited her to the feast, then looking up and smiling that sweet smile. And that, sisters and brothers, is very, very Good News. Thanks be to God. AMEN

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Way to go Helen!

helen-medalI’ve not posted about wrestling in a long time because my favorite wrestler has gone on to bigger and better things. This past week, though, I’ve been back in the wrestling state of mind. It has been a long time coming, but one of Montgomery County’s own wrestlers, Helen Maroulis, made it to the Olympics and made Olympic history by being the first US female to win a gold medal.

Why did I care so much? Mostly because she and Andrew grappled a few times in his freshman year. I remember the first time. We got to the meet and saw that Andrew was up against a girl. It felt a little odd, and I remember hearing, “Andrew’s wrestling Helen” repeated a few times that day. The next time he was up against her, it was not so strange and by then I’d learned more about her. She had a brother who was also a wrestler, she was very good.

Here is Andrew wrestling Helen at Counties:

Here he is wrestling Helen at Regionals:

She beat Andrew each time he wrestled against her but when she was wrestling others in different meets I, and all the moms of our team, not-so-secretly cheered Helen on.

After she left our county to train more extensively I followed her on Twitter and Instagram. I was disappointed when she didn’t qualify for the London Olympics, and delighted when she qualified for the Rio Olympics. I told everyone who would listen about her and Andrew’s history with her.

helen-lapOn Thursday of last week I stopped what I was doing to watch her win the quarterfinals, the semifinals and finally the finals. I cried tears of joy when she ran her victory lap around the arena, the US flag trailing behind her.

We most likely never exchanged a word, but I am claiming the right to feel proud to have been in the same room with her and watching her wrestle as a young teen.


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Random Memory: The time the catalpa watered me

Catalpa in late summer showing the beanpods

Catalpa in late summer showing the bean pods

I grew up on a street lined with mature catalpa trees. These trees, if you don’t know them by name, you probably know them by sight. They are the trees with large heart-shaped leaves that produce huge white flowers in the spring and long green bean-shaped seed pods in the fall. I used to tell people that Heine Avenue should have been called Catalpa Street.

velvet leaf weed

Velvet Leaf in tomato garden

One afternoon I stood under our yard’s catalpa tree admiring what I suspected was a baby catalpa. It had large heart-shaped leaves, just like the tree above me. I wanted it to grow so I ran into the house, filled a pot with water and ran back to the front yard and poured the water over the baby catalpa tree. Just as my pot of water sprinkled the last drop on the baby catalpa tree I felt drops of water on my head, then more, then what seemed like buckets of water fell on my head. My first thought was that the mother catalpa tree was watering me, but then I suspected she was trying to drown me because I poured water on her child. As I ran into the house I realized that the water was just a sudden rainstorm.

Years later I discovered that what I thought was a baby catalpa was actually a velvetleaf — a weed which, according to the Internet, was introduced in the U. S. as a possible fiber plant. I see them now and then when I’m in nature — I saw a lot in Illinois the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I saw one — 6+ foot one — in my tomato garden. Which is why you are reading this now.

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A Man Called Ove and one similarly-aged woman’s opinion

Ove is fifty-nine. So, currently, is Dona.

That’s probably the only similarity between the two. Ove would hate book groups, Ove doesn’t read much, except maybe manuals. Dona loves books and enjoys her book group. Dona also loves electronics. Ove doesn’t trust them. Ove likes cars. And order. And following rules.

A Man Called Ove coverDona really wanted to read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman so she chose it for book group when it was her time to host. She thought it would be similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It wasn’t really. It was readable — very readable. Dona enjoyed reading A Man Called Ove. She liked most of the characters and the situations and the writing style was easy to read. But The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was so much fuller than A Man Called Ove.

But here is what Dona didn’t like about A Man Called Ove. The author (currently thirty-four if you believe Google) seems to have little idea what fifty-nine year old people are like or capable of doing. He’s made Ove seem much older than fifty-nine — maybe somewhere in his seventies. His similarly-aged neighbor Rune is portrayed as being skinny and bent over when he’d been fit enough to scare drug dealers a decade or so before. Granted Rune has dementia, but it doesn’t seem quite right that he’s gone from being strong and large in his forties to being skinny and bent over in his late fifties. Ove doesn’t always act like he is in his seventies — he uses his strength on more than one occasion, but generally, as a fifty-nine year old Dona thinks that the author has written off the older generation as basically useless. The occasions where Ove uses his strength are accompanied with an explanation why he is strong. The only people in the book that are past their forties are either dead, sick, unable to cope or depressed and all but one is retired. Sure, Backman makes some under-forty-year-old folks incompetent (as seen through Ove’s eyes), but he doesn’t make the entire under-forty crowd one-dimensional.

Dona is glad she read the A Man Called Ove (and even saw the film, thanks to connections) but she is annoyed at Mr. Backman for portraying her generation as being far less able than his generation.



Categories: Musings, Reading | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The blood of a stranger

Vince's bloodI sit here at my desk, sort of listening to a webinar on mobile app accessibility, but I am thinking about the blood stain on my jeans. I should have changed into clean jeans and thrown these into the wash, but I just have not done that yet. It is the blood of a stranger I met today.

His name is Vince and he’s probably somewhere in his eighties. While I am not an expert on dementia, I’m pretty sure he’s in at least the early stages. The shuffling walk, the confusion, the falling. I do not envy the talk his family is going to probably need to have with him regarding his driving ability.

Okay, here’s what happened. I took my car to the Toyota dealer this morning for its 15000 mile checkup. It was a bother and I was annoyed I had to take time out of my work day to do that. I chose to go to the nearby mall while I waited for my car to be checked out. I didn’t buy anything (I was in the market for a lightweight jacket and some plum colored nail polish). When I got the call from the dealership I headed back.

In order to get back the dealership I had to cross a couple of smaller streets and a larger street — nothing much, but there was some traffic. As I got to the bigger street I noticed a man lying down on the corner on the other side of the street. I thought he was about to get up — I figured he had fallen and could get up on his own. As I watched, I realized he was not getting up or turning over. I ignored the traffic light and ran across the street just as a woman with a toddler in a stroller got to the man. We told him we were going to help him up and he seemed grateful. We each grabbed an arm and pulled. She was the stronger of the three of us, but eventually we got him on his feet. Just then a man in a truck pulled up and jumped out to help us. The man who fell said he was okay and needed to get to the Toyota dealership so I offered to walk him there. The man in the truck didn’t think the man who fell could walk that far ans insisted he drive the man who fell to the dealership.

At this point we realized the man was bleeding and luckily the woman who helped get him on his feet had some baby wipes that we applied to the wounds on his elbows. She then said goodbye and left us to deal with the man who fell. He didn’t want to get in the truck, but the man with the truck insisted and we walked the man who fell to the to the truck. At this time I told the man who fell that my name was Dona and asked him his name. He told me it was Vince. I asked him if he lived in Bethesda and he said he lived in Gaithersburg, a town about 20 minutes to our north.

After a couple of tries we got Vince, who was worried about getting blood on us or the truck, into the truck and the man drove him to the door of the Toyota dealership. I said I’d meet them there. We were greeted by concerned Toyota salesmen who called 911 after we explained what happened.  I told them that the man’s name was Vince and helped him into the shop. I also said I didn’t think he should be driving. All this time I was holding his iPad, so handed that to Vince who said I was a real peach, a real peach. I offered to stay with him until the ambulance came but he said no and the Toyota guys said they could handle it from there. He said he wanted to give me something for my troubles and began reaching into his back pocket, but said that all I wanted was a hug. As I said goodbye after a one-armed hug I could hear the ambulance siren turning into the parking lot.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers a few times so I am glad I could pay it forward with Vince today.

And yes, I will wash my jeans now…

Categories: Life, Musings, People | Tags: | 1 Comment