Monday, April 20, 2015

Daddies Irish Wake


Late in January of 1984, I had driven 750 miles, to be with my father as he underwent his latest Cancer surgery. Each mile of the trip, my mind was clicking off the years, which had been spent at my father’s knee. Years of always knowing my Dad was there for me. Years that now threatened to come to and end. 

Just as my heart and mind had feared, the surgery did not go well. The doctors quickly opened my father up and closed him again. As the surgery was much shorter than predicted, I knew the news was not good by how quickly the doctors came out to talk to my Mom and I. 

Parting with a loved one is truly one of the hardest things we must do in this life. But, in my family, we always had a clear perspective of the beginning; middle and end of life on this good green earth, as my Dad like to call it.  

It was a perspective, which my father had learned from his father, and generations before them had handed this Irish Wisdom down to each succeeding generation.  

My Dad was always such an inspiration. He possessed a special Irish sense of humor, which contained wisdom, love and great trust in God and His care for us all.

When the Doctor told my Dad he could do nothing more to stop the cancer spread, my Dad pondered this for a moment, looked the Doctor in the eye and with a weak, but familiar grin, said: “Well now, It’s January and Saint Patty’s day would be a perfect time for an Irish wake don’t you think?
 

I have always thought it was such a sad thing that the poor bloke who died, never got to enjoy his last party.”
 

With this seemingly amusing statement, the doctor just agreed, but silently shook his head later, as he told us; Dad was very weak and probably would not last but another week or two at most. Obviously, the doctor did not know my father well. Dad made out a list of final things he needed

to get done. On the top of his list was to throw his own Irish wake on Saint Patrick’s day – which was more than two months away. Even more startling, to those who did not know him, was a list of things Dad wrote on his personal calendar covering the whole year of 1984 until Valentines Day of 1985. The doctors of course humored my Dad and all the while were busy planning Dad’s hospice care and the end of his life, which, they were certain, would be just a few short days away.


With a week of recovery from the last surgery gone by, my Dad had enough of doctors and hospitals. He decided he wanted to go home to die. The doctors agreed and so we took Dad home, for what we thought would be a short time.
 

Even we could not envision that Dad would live much longer. He was so frail and weak the end looked imminent.
 

My father was to surprise us, one and all. One day, a few days after he returned home, he disappeared when mom was shopping. Now that was no easy feat, since he was bedridden and on oxygen, but Dad had gotten up, dressed, and walked over to the funeral home to plan his

his Irish wake. He expected his good friend Randy, the undertaker to help him pull it off. And while he was at it, he made sure to make all of his funeral arrangements and have Randy take him to pick out the gravestone. My Dad never let the moss grow under his feet in good times or in bad, and this situation was to be no different.

 

As the weeks passed, Dad seemed to grow stronger just by anticipating his goal of spending one last Saint Patrick’s day with his friends. Never mind it was to be his own wake…that thought didn’t faze him at all. If anything it seemed to give him strength and joy to be checking each item off his calendar, which he felt the “Good Lord,”

 

wanted him to get done before heading Home, as Dad called it…”Home to Heaven after finishing his mission.”

 

To everyone’s amazement, Dad made it to Saint Patrick’s day. His “Irish Wake” was one which none of us shall ever forget. Forget about tears, Dad would have none of that. There was joy, and story telling and remembering all the good times of our lives together. With my father’s special love of the bizarre, he also had his casket placed properly in the living room, with himself ensconced, as any self-respecting deceased should be. His best friends from childhood played up the Irish wake to the hilt, with Irish toasts and general foolishness born of the spirit of love. One of Dad’s buddies reached over and stuck his hand in Dad’s pocket to turn it inside out. It was an old joke among friends, that whether they were rich or poor, they would always stick together. And in the end, they would all go out with empty pockets, except for their rosary and an abundance of trust in God’s love and Mercy. 

 

All in all, it was an Irish sendoff, which was better than any Saint Patrick’s Day we had ever celebrated in past


 

years. From that day to the day he died, my father remained optimistic and happy. Of course, his doctor’s

were a bit stymied to say the least. Dad lived right up until the day he had marked off the last “to do,” item on his calendar. The only item not crossed off was Valentines Day 1985, the day he died. Dad passed away shortly after midnight and as if to punctuate his love for us, his grave marker, when it came, was heart shaped and engraved with Roses and Butterflies. I guess the “Good Lord” must have agreed with my Dad, that he had a few loose ends to tie up before heading “HOME.”

 

A Mutt Named Gyp


On a spring vacation, in the 1950’s, my family went to South Dakota. It was a combination trip of sightseeing, and visiting relatives. It was exciting to visit the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and other historic places. But the visiting relative’s part wasn’t all that much fun for me as an eight year old. I was definitely bored and quite shy as we stopped along the way to see various relatives I had never met. By the time we got to a Great Aunt Kitty’s house (my Grandmothers Sister), I stubbornly refused to get out of the car. Little did I know, that Great Aunt Kitty house was going to prove to be the best part of my vacation that summer, and provide the best medicine a shy and soon to be crippled, eight year old would ever receive.

After several tries by my parents, to convince me to be polite and come meet Aunt Kitty had failed, Aunt Kitty took matters into her own hands. She approached me and knelt down beside the car door and whispered; “Won’t you please come help me? I have a litter of new puppies, and one is very shy and scared. He won’t come to anyone. But maybe he will come to you as he knows you’re shy too.”

Well, shy or not, I figured I needed to try and help a poor puppy that was scared just like me and off we went to the barn. There in one of the horse stalls was a Momma dog and four pups. Three of them were running around and yipping and barking like any happy puppy does. But tucked away in a dark corner under some horse tack and saddles, was one little male puppy that was hunkered down and trying not to be seen, just like I had been doing in the confines of the car.

I got on my knees and crawled into the tiny dark space and hunkered down with him. I decided maybe we could hide out together until everyone else went to the house and he and I could just hang out together, avoiding all the noise and people neither of us were interested in being with. After the adults left us, the Pup slowly began to lick me and then began to play. He and I spent most of the visit running around inside the horse barn and exploring the world together. By the time supper time came, I still was not going to go inside, but Aunt Kitty said I could bring the puppy with me. No one could pry the Pup away from me.

By the next morning, the relationship with the puppy had become concrete. No one could separate us and it became another ordeal for my parents to try and get me to leave with them. Again, Aunt Kitty came up with the solution. She offered the Pup to me to take home as my very own. It sounded great, but my mother wanted no part of the idea. After more tears and refusals from me to leave the pup, my Dad said; “Well, that Pup would probably fetch Aunt Kitty a good price at the auction barn, so we really couldn’t possibly take her Prize Puppy.” At which I promptly got my little purse and took out the rest of my allowance that I had saved to buy souvenirs on our trip. I had a whole dollar and some change, which to me was a lot of money and offered it to Aunt Kitty who of course accepted it as though it were a vast fortune.

By this time my parents decided the only way they were going to win was to give into me and let me have the dog. By the time we got back home to our farm, spring break was over and I was back in school, but rushed home eagerly every afternoon to be with my new companion who I had named Chip, but my dad jokingly called him Gyp the mutt, (a farmer slang word for worthless) because the once shy pup, was the terror of the farm yard, chasing the chickens and the cattle and everything that moved.

Shortly after returning to school, we were all vaccinated with the very first Polio vaccine, which proved to be a disaster for me. Instead of just a mild reaction to the inoculation, I was one of a few thousand children across the country, who actually got a full blown case of Polio from the vaccine. The lab had inadvertently not killed the entire live polio virus in a few batches and it had disastrous results for the children who got the bad vaccine.

 

As spring turned into summer, I had spent most of it in the hospital and when I came home, I was no longer just a shy child, but one who could no longer walk. Chip a.k.a, Gyp, as my father called him, was again, my sole comfort and interest in life. From the moment I came home, Chip never left my side. Through all the painful therapy I had to undergo, Chip, was there and when I would refuse to try and walk, he would jump at me as though to say…”You can do it! Come play.” He instinctively began to take things from me and hold them just out of my reach, so I would have to stretch and work my muscles to retrieve them. That was something no therapist could get me to do, but Chip made it worth the effort. He knew how to make work seem like play. By the time fall rolled around, I was able to stand and Chip was always there to encourage me to try harder and take another step and another. Chip, knew that deep inside all I needed was encouragement that one day we would again chase the cows and chickens together. And so it was, that I learned to try a little harder, stretch myself beyond what I thought I could do, and achieve the freedom to live and love and trust in a dog my father called  Gyp…The best bargain I ever bought, even though he would never be worth much as a farm dog. He proved himself a wise and wonderful friend until the day he died.

 

 

 

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Battle of the Signs

Election season is always a bit crazy in Missouri. This 2006 election season proved to be one of those especially whacky and cantankerous election years. Due to the push to pass an Amendment to our state constitution, which would permit human cloning, the battle of the “Vote No” vs. “Vote yes” on Human Cloning began.  The stakes were high as such an amendment, would constitutionally protect human cloning.

 Our signs for a NO Vote would be defaced or removed in the dark of night by the opponents we faced. Night after night, the sign thieves would come and remove the signs. Some even resorted to defacing property in their nightly raids.

 Throughout the month of October the battle raged. By the end of the month it had become a fact of nightly attacks upon our private property an especially our signs. Obviously the sign raiders didn’t know it is not nice to fool Mother Nature or little old Irish ladies on a “Mission for God.”

 On the morning of October 30th, I had had enough of being Mrs. Nice old lady who patiently takes in and puts out her signs everyday to protect them.

I decided to take some action. Stealing myself for the battle ahead, I laid my battle plan carefully. With a glint in my eye, I set off on a shopping trip, which I must say I enjoyed much more than I usually do shopping trips. First stop was at Wal-mart’s toy department. I spent considerable time carefully wheeling around the department searching for the perfect ammunition. From there, it was on to the grocery store. Wheeling through the aisle on the handicap cart, I quickly assembled my remaining arsenal of weapons. A large jar of honey, motor oil and black trash bags.

 This night the raiders were going to pay for their crimes!  I carefully painted the edges of my signs with the honey to make them nice and sticky. Then I cut up and laid down the trash bags, dribbled more honey and motor oil on them and covered them with leaves, also duly baptized with honey and motor oil.

 When night fell I was ready and waiting for the battle to begin. Dressed in my finest Annie Oakley attire, armed with my cap gun, a spotlight and a primed garden hose, I nestled down in my bunker to wait for the enemy. Hours went by while I warmed myself with thoughts of the sweet victory I was about to undertake. It was a fire fueled inside of me with a resolve General Custer would have been proud of.

 Three hours later, my resolve was still hot, but the cold and chill was setting into my old bones. I was beginning to think the raiders were not going to engage the battle on my street this particular night. Then, just as I was preparing to give up and surrender my battle station for the night, the eerie light of car headlights began to glow softly on my honey/oil coated signs. The enemy had arrived!

 Suddenly, from the driveway, two large dark figures sneaking across my yard came into view! Holding my fire and waiting for the perfect moment, my heart was racing! As providence would have it, both of the enemy combatants reached their designated sign targets at precisely the same moment! As they reached out to kidnap and trash my signs, I hit the button on my floodlight! With cap gun blazing and my walker to steady my aim, I gave out a battle cry that any Marine Sergeant would surely have approved!

 Viva La Christo! I yelled at the top of my lungs!  POP!

 Take that you rascals! POP!

 Viva the Un-born! POP!

 Down with Sign killers! POP!

 This is for trying to fool little old ladies! POP!

 By this time, the miscreants were staring me dead in the eye! All 5 foot 2 inches of me, dressed to fight for the unborn. Proudly welding my cap gun and walker like a pro. And in about the same instant, the enemy realized they were covered with goo! With slips and slides on the slick trash bags, they quickly began their retreat. Scrambling back toward their car, with leaves and honey and motor oil flying, they threw themselves into the car and sped off into the dark Missouri night!

 
I did feel a bit concerned that they ignored my offer for some water to wash off their wounds before fleeing, but such is life, in the Battle for Justice! I hope they slept well, I know I sure did.

Copyright 2006

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Brother My Friend. Vietnam Memorial

As I approach the wall, in the early morning light, the sky is gently showering everything with dew. Here at the break of day's new dawning, I come much like Mary to visit the empty tomb. I come not with spices but with my heart wanting to speak to you once again. Today I come to meet with my brother, my friend. I know deep within me that we are still kindred in spirit, together and yet apart.

We have shared the days of our childhood and we have felt the sting of death. Yet, for all of this, nothing can really ever separate us.not even a broken heart. William.my sweet William.how I long to see you once again. Can you hear me? Do you see me as I search for your beloved name? Many years have passed since I last spoke with you and beheld your dear sweet face. Yet it seems like only yesterday that I stood beside your open grave.

 Brother, teacher, companion and friend,how the memories do ebb and flow. Can you see me? Do you hear me as I search for your beloved name? Suddenly, as though from a lighthouse.a tiny ray of sun seems to point out your beloved name.Billy.dearest brother, I know that you still watch over me.

 Can you feel the mist that is falling? Do you see how the dew drops look just like teardrops as I caress your beloved name? I counted 16 teardrops falling.one for each letter and character in your name. Do you remember bat-light, butterflies and fishing in the rain? Do you remember how you taught me to fish at Lake McConaughy and then threw them all back into the lake again? You said: "We should never waste God's beauty or abuse the bounty of his land".

 Do you fish the lakes of heaven, still teaching the little ones? Do you walk the fields with Jesus and. OH! Do you still sing slightly out of tune? Here in the misty morning sunrise.I feel close to you once again. I can almost hear you singing."Halleluiah! To Christ our King!" Best of all, sweet William.it sounds perfectly in tune. William, my sweet William.I shall always love you so. Billy, dearest brother.it is time for me to go. I know now, deep in my heart, that you are well and happy. Now not even 16 teardrops falling can take away my joy for you. "Vaya Con Dios," until we meet again.

Copyright 1990

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Help Save the Children

Help us raise money for these orphans in Nigeria who's parents were murdered by the Boko Haram



http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/please-help-the-orphans-in-igbo-land-nigeria-/302014

Friday, January 9, 2015

Out of the mouth's of Babe's

Several years ago a friend of mine had a baby. It was their second child. Their 3 year old little girl kept asking if she could be alone with her baby brother. Finally the parents agreed as she kept asking day after day. To be safe they left the baby monitor on so they could hear what was going on in the baby's room. All of a sudden they heard the little girl say "Now tell me what Jesus looks like. You just came from him but I am old and I forgot."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa was a Cowboy

Christmas approaches swiftly again this year. The memories of Christmas on the Plains of Nebraska, in the 1950’s flit’s through my mind. One such cherished memory is of a Blizzard, which struck a few days before Christmas, in 1955.

 Early one morning that particular Christmas week, we awoke to the sight of blowing and heavy falling snow. It arrived with such force the farmyard became almost invisible. Immediately, Dad called us all together to detail the job ahead. The animals needed feeding and the cows needed milking. Even though most townspeople could safely snuggle in their beds to wait out the storm, as a farm family, we had duties to care for the livestock even in a blinding snowstorm. Dad carefully tied us all together, using rope so that we could reach the safety of the barn for the task at hand. Admonishing us to watch out for one another and stay close, we began our morning with a seriousness born of life and survival on the plains in winter. Even as children, we were aware of the dangers of getting lost in a blizzard. People were known to die of the cold within a few feet of their own front door. The winds swooped in with nothing to hold them back and drifts quickly became a blind mass of whiteout on the once flat and clear landscape. 

With each of us bundled in coats, boots and mittens we struggled through the blinding snow out to the barnyard. Slowly feeling our way along the fence posts, we had to shout to keep track of one another as we struggled against nature to reach our goal. After several hours of working with the animals and securing them in the barn, we struggled back through the still swirling snow. As we reached our final goal of the house, Mom was waiting with Hot Cocoa and a warm fire burning in the kitchen stove for us to warm ourselves up again.

 

The rest of the morning we spent snuggled in the warm kitchen, making Christmas breads and cookies for the coming Christmas celebration. Covered with flour and sneaking bites of cookie dough kept we children occupied, while Dad kept watch over the weather conditions.

 

By early afternoon, the snow had stopped and it became apparent we would not be going anywhere soon. The snowdrifts were several feet deep and the road was buried. We knew it could be days before the snowplows came our way from the County Works Dept.  With the visibility improved my Dad bundled up to set out in pursuit of any stranded travelers he might assist. We lived about a mile from a main highway and anyone who might have been stranded would soon succumb to the cold. Firing up the old “John Deer” tractor, Dad left to pursue his goal of checking the roads for possible victims of the Fury of the storm.

 

By dusk, Mom was visibly worried and we children became quiet. We joined our hands in prayer and quietly huddled together praying our Daddy would safely make it home. As darkness began to fall in earnest, we suddenly heard the sound of our “Old John Deer” slowly making its way back into the yard. With a collective sigh of relief, we all ran to the front porch to usher Dad back into the warmth. Much to our surprise the first person through the door was a stranger. Dad introduced the man as Chuck. Dad explained that just about dark he had decided to give up the search, when he had spotted a Pick-up truck buried in the snow bank along the old highway exit road.

 

For the rest of Christmas week Chuck worked along side all of us and proved himself a friend in deed and in word. Chuck, we soon learned, was an itinerate Cowboy. He had been traveling from Texas to begin a job on the McGinley ranch, a few miles farther east from us. The next morning, when he entered the barn to help out with chores, our newest horse Toni suddenly began banging the stall and whinnying. Toni immediately greeted Chuck with a friendly but insistent nudge at Chucks pockets.

 Much to every ones surprise, Toni and Chuck already knew one another. Chuck had worked on the King ranch in Texas when Toni was there as a colt. Chuck had saddle broke him and taught him to cut cattle when Toni was just a young colt in Texas.

 Dad had not used Toni much as yet. Toni had proved a bit skitterish when we first brought him home. Dad was still working with him to gentle him out. Chuck immediately showed us that Toni was a pro with the right stuff. Chuck and Toni were a team in Texas and soon Toni warmed up to us all. Chuck showed us all the special things, which made Toni the champion cattle horse he was.

 First and foremost, Toni loved Cotton cake. Cotton cake, which Chuck always had in his pocket brought out the best in Toni from then on. Within a day, Dad and the rest of us could get Toni to do all we asked of him. Toni was now a real part of our family farm team… thanks to a stranger named Chuck.

As Christmas week progressed, the roads were still impassable with no sign of the snowplows in sight. The phone lines were still down and we had no way to communicate with the outside world. We were so looking forward to the Christmas Pageant at St Elizabeth’s Parish followed by Christmas Eve mass. My brother Billy was supposed to be a Wiseman in the Play, and I was suppose to be an angel.  There was no way we could get to town in all that snow. Fearing Christmas would be canceled; we children grew quiet and somber. We began to fuss that even Santa could not get to our house this particular year. Our Letters had never been delivered to him because of the snowstorm.
 
  On the day before Christmas Eve Chuck, our newfound guest came up with a plan. A plan that would make Santa and his reindeer proud. Chuck went out to the barn and saddled up Toni. He admonished us all, not to give up. He would set off for town and guide the snowplows to our farm to clear the roads. Dad was a bit hesitant, but Chuck assured him that he and Toni had traveled many miles together in Texas dust storms and could get through the snow on the plains of Nebraska. Dad warmed to the idea eventually, and saddled up our faithful old mare, ”Lady”, to make sure Chuck and Toni did not get lost. Dad knew the plains and the land well, even when it was buried in snow.

 With a cheerful wave they set off, loping belly deep through the snow drifts. Later that day, the sound of snow plows brought smiles of joy and relief to our faces. With Chuck and Toni leading the way, the plows cleared our roads and made it possible for us to get to town the following day. Chuck was able to get his truck out of the snow bank and be on his way to his new job.

 Early Christmas Eve night, before we went to town, the front door of our little farmhouse opened with a bang! In came Santa to pay us a personal visit. In his bag were all the very toys we children had lamented that Santa would not bring this year. Even if he could have made it through the snow, we were sure he would not have gotten our Christmas list. This particular year though, Santa was wearing cowboy boots, and seemed to have a very distinct “Texas” drawl when he exclaimed; “HO HO HO! Merry Christmas Ya’all!” 
Copyright 2000