Patience and Fishing

Family holidays aunder the riverside bridgere sometimes difficult for our son. It’s not that he doesn’t like being with family, he does. But his cousins, being quite older, have families of their own, leaving our son, the youngest by decades, kind of stuck with the old farts. In an effort to make sure he got to enjoy some of the pastimes he would like, we went fishing this morning. In fact, his uncle joined in. Frankly, I wasn’t sure said son would arise at an early hour but, surprisingly he did and we were on our way before 8am.

Promising to meet us at the bait shop, we took off before the uncle because, of course, I needed to indulge in my morning coffee. By the time we arrived at the bait shop ten minutes later, his uncle had not only purchased the proper hooks but a cupful of live bait (shrimp) as well. I have to acknowledge my gratitude at this point. I’m not a fisherman and the idea of skewering a cute little tiny shrimp wasn’t appealing at all.

Without driving all over the island, we decided to walk underneath the bridge and find a spot near the murky waters surrounding the concrete pilings. Besides two other fishing folks, we were the only ones. It was quiet, calm and the waters gently lapped the platform underneath. Having successfully baited the hook, my son cast as far as he was capable into the water We waited……and waited…..and waited some more. Casual conversation occupied our time as we waited for some unsuspecting fish to snap up the the shrimp. Behind my brother in law and my son, I noticed what appeared to be a floating boulder, which of course, was impossible. The boulder turned out to be a pelican flyingcouple of manatees making their way upstream. I would like to proclaim I captured their progress as they meandered upstream but I couldn’t get my camera set up in time. Suffice it to say, they are quite impressive.

Snappers seemed to be toying with my son as they breached the surface several times opposite of the location where my son was fishing. I even spotted on leaping almost twelve inches above the water. Of course, we decided to change our location, try a fresh shrimp and cast a little further out. During this waiting period,  I managed to capture a pelican in flight along with one preening his wings. All the while, my son and his uncle chatted nonchalantly. No nibbles, no tugs, nothing, nada, zip.

The snappers had moved to the other side of the bridge or at least their decoys had. Once again, my son moved to where they were making their existence known and once again, we switched bait and regrouped. After another forty minutes, he called it quits but unwittingly gained experience of learning patience. Patience is not his strong suit, nor apparently of teenagers in general these days. He’d garnered no fish, had only seen the manatee as it began to dive, hadngordon and chase‘t had a single nibble and other than witness a nearby flying pelican, the morning had been a dismal failure. But he came away feeling the time had been well spent.

There had been no text messages. He and his uncle had enjoyed a rare camaraderie. Baiting the hook hadn’t been nearly as gross as he anticipated and there’s just something mystical about early mornings, quiet fishing holes and the serene sound of water. It’s an imaginary throwback to the adventures of Huck Finn. In any case, what he did capture was a little slice of heaven he could tuck into his memory bank.

Happy Easter.

TheTrue Meaning of Love

Today was my birthday and I say that not to announce some sort of milestone but as a small tribute to my husband. As is our regular habit, hubby always prods and nudges me several times before the day.

“What would you like?”

“Is there something special I can get you?”

“Come on, honey. Give some sort of hint.”

My answer has always been the same over the years, oddly enough. Feeling blessed, I have always responded with the phrase. “Seriously, honey, I don’t need anything.”

Of course he never listens. The day before, like a man on a mission, he disappears for several hours. Upon his return, he usually places his special prize somewhere in safe hidey hole to wait for the next morning. When we first married, he would surprise me a pair of earrings or a necklace. All of these baubles were exciting to receive but considering our work involved manual labor, they weren’t something I could wear on an everyday basis. As time passed, his gifts took on a sensible vein.The first practical gift my hubby proudly presented was a brightly wrapped box definitely larger than a piece of jewelry. As I carefully peeled back the paper and lifted off the top, I discovered a salad shooter. A SALAD SHOOTER!!! He looked at me, waiting for my grateful reaction………he waited a long time, I’m sorry to say. I promptly filled the thing with carrots and took careful aim….

When we moved to Florida, dear hubby presented me with a brightly colored, huge umbrella for one birthday. After all, he reasoned, it rains quite a bit during the summer and now I wouldn’t get wet when it came time to feed the horses. After awhile, I waited in earnest to see what “practical” gift he would present next.

This year, when he asked what I wanted, I threw out a simple suggestion. “Honey, just get me some flowers. That would be perfect.”

During my first cup of coffee, hubby proudly placed a medium sized bag on the island along with two birthday cards. The cards were hilarious, as usual. Then I turned my attention to the bag. We’ve reached the age where wrapping is optional. So as I withdrew the box, I discovered this year’s gift was an “ultimate” blow dryer. I’m not sure if I have enough hair on my head to warrant such a powerful styling dryer. Nevertheless, his birthday presents always make me smile. We have had some good laughs over the years, let me tell you.

Here’s the thing though. Long ago, after I got over my snit at receiving a salad shooter, an umbrella, a gift certificate to have my car detailed, a crock pot, a blender and any other item I mistakenly regarded as ridiculous, I grew up. They say wisdom comes with age and hopefully I have achieved some measure of it. My husband’s gifts were his way of showing he knew me…..I mean he really watched over me. I love having salads; so he gave me a salad shooter. The horses had to be fed, rain or shine, thus an umbrella. I hate washing my car, hence a gift certificate. My favorite way to prepare a meal with our busy schedule is utilizing a crock pot, therefore, why not purchase a new one. When smoothies became my preferred breakfast choice, a top of the line blender would come in handy. All of these simple gifts were an extension of his consideration. As I looked at him, proudly presenting my latest birthday gift, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be married to someone who looks beyond the glitz, the bling, the baubles and genuinely observes what’s really important. And that was the best birthday present of all.

The Birds and the Bees

When we moved from the hustle and bustle of traffic congested highways and cookie cutter homes, our relocation took us to the other side of the country, to an area we had driven through many times on our cross country trips. Instead of having neighbors who would thoughtfully hand you the soap you dropped through a window almost touching yours, the neighbors at our new location were a considerable distance away. Make no mistake, people were as friendly here as they were in our previous neighborhood but we didn’t have to supply an extra bowl of popcorn for them as they watched movies on our TV through adjacent kitchen windows.

We chose the drastic relocation for several reasons. One was to be closer to family. The other and most important reason was to hopefully give our son a chance to enjoy the freedom to run around and enjoy his childhood like his parents had. We didn’t have to worry about walking to a park; our farm was the park. He was able to get a pony. A dog who had been abandoned and was being fed by three different neighbors, chose to adopt us as his permanent family. The neighbor behind us had the cutest little herd of miniature ponies and, of course, what is a barn without a barn cat. It was a little heaven on earth. Continue reading

“Don’t Touch!!!”

“Stop touching that!”

“Please don’t pick that up.”

“Put it back!”

As I listened to my voice repeating the mantra of one of the above for the upteenth time, it occurred to me to question my own sanity. Stepping back objectively, I had to ask myself why was I asking the same questions over and over again after almost fifteen years of repeating them to my now teenage son every time we were at some checkout or near anything he shouldn’t have his hands on.

As a youngster, it was the brightly colored candy wrappers at the grocery store. At the local bagel shop, it was the tip jar or neatly arranged business cards he couldn’t resist. At the pediatrician, he was a sucker for the stickers and lollipops, no pun intended. But the best irresistible paraphernalia lurked at the gas station counters: little red vials of 5-hour energy, an abundant display of cookies and, every parent’s favorite, handy dandy pocket lighters. Who wouldn’t want their toddler flicking a bic while waiting to pay for gas.

It brought me back to a distance memory that will remain one of my fondest although there is one friend who doesn’t share my opinion. We used to ship horses professionally and in doing so, were regular customers at certain truck stops. My son, as a toddler, always traveled with me. Driving a semi allowed him to enjoy the wide expanse of a double bunk, a television, VCR and cold juice from the refrigerator. It was a young boy’s dream. On one particular trip, we were fueling up for the last time before heading home. I’d left a deposit inside and was done topping off the tanks. Taking my hand, my son skipped alongside as we walked inside to purchase some chocolate milk for him and a pack of gum for me, get our change and be on our way. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the type California is known for. Just before we entered the doors, my son did a little hop, skip and a jump and pulled a heretofore unnoticed lever. Frankly in all my years of stopping there, I had never really noticed it. We entered, retrieved our items and completed our transaction. While waiting for a fuel receipt, it became quite apparent something wasn’t quite right. A nearby cashier, a weathered middle aged woman with a bouffant hairdo masticating on a wad of Juicy Fruit, began swearing under her breath. She began banging the buttons on her electronic register with escalating force as if the thing would eventually cry uncle the harder she pushed. The line of customers began grumbling, softly at first, then their tone began to escalate as well. Grizzled truck drivers began filtering in, complaining loudly about the pumps not working.

With obvious exasperation, the cashier called for the manager over the loud speaker. “PAUL! I need you up to the front. RIGHT NOW!” From the back, a short, bald headed man following his ample belly came scurrying to the fuel counter asking what was wrong. The cashier voiced the problem loudly, “All the damned pumps are shut down. Nothin’s working! Some idiot must have pulled the emergency switch. DAMN IT!”

It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. That heretofore unnoticed lever my son had spontaneously jumped up and pulled had completely shut down every fuel pump in the entire facility.  I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat.  Worse, in his innocence, my four year old son was trying to confess to the crime. Now, I’m a great believer in honesty but I’m also a believer in survival. Scooping up my son, I said, “Let’s not bother the nice lady right now, sweetheart.” We skedaddled out of there weaving our way through a small throng of frustrated drivers elbowing their way inside.

I never shared that particular tale with anyone other than my husband until one day a year later. Meeting up with a trainer friend, I thought it was the kind of escapade he would appreciate, considering he possessed a wonderful sense of humor. Upon completion of the story, he looked at me for a good ten seconds before responding.

“Do you know, I was stranded there for at least three hours before they got those damn pumps working again?”

So here I was trying to pay for diesel and a cup of coffee when that memory came floating back. And again, my now young teenage son, who towers over most people including me, became instantly mesmerized with an unusually tinted lighter.

“Mom, take a look at this one.” Snatching up the lighter without thinking, he tried, once again, to flick his bic to no avail. I stopped myself in mid-scold.

“Yea, cool lighter.”

Thank goodness there are no emergency shutoff valves around here. In this town, they know where we live.

The Final Journey

Elderly_Woman_,_B&W_image_by_Chalmers_ButterfieldThe movie “Still Alice” affected me deeply as I’m sure it did many people. My fervent wish is a cure for this insidious disease which robs the very soul and dignity of those affected.

The Final Journey

     Loosely defined, a journey can take various forms. It can be a thousand miles or a thousand steps. A journey can be as simple as a trip to the neighborhood grocery store, as exotic as a trek through the Swiss Alps, as necessary as a pilgrimage from one country to another or as enjoyable as a trip down memory lane. My bittersweet sojourn began when I returned to my place of birth. It was my last opportunity to say both goodbye and pay homage to my mother, a woman who had traveled many paths in her lifetime and had taught me the importance of each little journey.

     As a young girl, this Lancaster Lass had left her country of birth, the United Kingdom. Traveling with her parents and two older brothers, she had crossed the vast of expanse of water to finally arrive in Canada and eventually enter the United States. Although she was a mere seven years old, the memory of standing on the deck, a biting Atlantic wind nipping at her cheeks and whipping through her auburn hair remained with her. When my sisters and I were young, she blushingly regaled us about the first time our father, the most popular boy in the school, walked her home to the rectory where they lived. She was fifteen and our father was seventeen. Picking the daisies and cornflowers blooming along the dusty path, he had presented the final bouquet to her at the bottom of the porch steps of her home. Her father, an imposing minister with an authoritarian air, was standing just behind the porch screen door, appraising this young man through wire rimmed spectacles as if examining an insect. Normally his haughty demeanor would send chills down the spines of the young men who displayed a fancy for his only daughter, but our father, she confided, simply tipped his hat with a disarming smile and continued on his way. It was the beginning of a lifetime romance. An old, crinkled, sepia colored photograph framed in pewter had held a special place on the family mantle for as long as I could remember. After their marriage, they had journeyed to Minnesota for four years where he completed his residency before returning to their roots and Illinois plains. Continue reading