Posted in Family, life, Love

On This Day a Year Ago……

On this day a year ago, we lost my grandmother on my dad’s side. She was a beautiful lady who just happened to be born on my daughter’s birthday 94 years earlier. She left this world at age 96.

Because we lived a good distance apart, I don’t have a vast amount of memories of her, but the ones I have I hold near and dear. I have blogged about her before here. As a testament to her greatness are her children. I truly have never seen children love their mother so much. I have heard others, and have been guilty myself, of complaining about our moms. I have seen children growing frustrated with their aging parents and speaking harshly at times. But not my grannie’s kids. They loved her, doted on her, spoiled her rotten up until her last days. We can only hope to be as lucky in love.

I remember when I heard about her passing. We had known it was near, but one can never quite prepare themselves for the grief that comes. To be very honest, I was surprised at myself for my emotion that followed, but it was an emotion that I had never felt before. I don’t even know if I have the words to convey it. But it wasn’t just loss. It wasn’t just sadness. It wasn’t an empty feeling. It was a realization instead. A deep realization, that if the world follows natural laws, all the people who came before you will leave before you. Of course logically I know this, but she was my last grandparent remaining. My father had already died, and I realized that now my mother only remains.

I experienced a deep understanding that I am one living person left of being an orphan. I know it sounds ridiculous. An adult orphan. But my last grandparent dying made me realize that my mom is all that’s left of the people who, because of them, I exist.

Maybe no one else knows this feeling or maybe I’m just terrible at explaining it, but it’s what I know.

But anyway, time marches on, there’s nothing we can do about lost time or lost loved ones but to keep on living and remembering them.

The only thing that stays the same is everything changes. We as believers however, have a hope because of our savior that one day we will meet again in our eternal home where there is no sadness and there are no tears. Until then, we carry on.grannie woods

Posted in Family, Stories by my dad

Birthday Letters

On January 16, 1943 my dad was born.  I don’t know anything about his birth.  Whether he was born in a hospital or at home.  Whether he was a good baby or a tyrant.  How much he weighed or if he sucked his thumb.

Today if he were still living, he would have turned 70 years old.

He wrote himself a birthday letter a fews years back.   I happen to have a copy.

Jan-1998

Happy Birthday, Bob—–Happy 55 years.  A real milestone.  I feel like celebrating this b.d.,  unlike my 30th, which went by unnoticed.  Unlike my 40th which went by with hardly a ripple or even my 50th, supposedly the biggie, hardly made a dent on my psyche.

But 55 is the short side of the century mark.  So that makes it a milestone in my books, and I’m finally at the age where it makes not a tinkerers damn about anyones books but my own.

A brief synopsis—–I was born into a family of five siblings, a bootlegger father, and my mother was a housewife.  My family was mildly dysfunctional to say the least, my parents divorced when I was 11 and my mother struggled to keep her brood together.

I went to High school here in town, finally got laid, got drunk and enlisted in The Marine Corps just a few days after graduation.  Spent four years in The Corps, traveled around the world, went to work for various construction companies in West Texas and never once let college cross my mind.  Made a lot of parties—-a few friends and generally went around with my heart on my sleeve.

Anne, my wife and I had a wild, roller coaster, wonderful relationship from day one when we met in The Crystal Lounge bar, a downstairs dark, dank place where people drank, fought and loved with equal fervor.

Anne had two boys from a previous marriage that I was too young and dumb to see the joy in.  We later had two daughters that have remained the light of my life to this day.  The boys have forgiven my shortcomings and remain friendly toward me, too.  Thanks boys.

55 years—-that must seem like an eternity to someone in their 20’s or thirties, but to me it has been but a short journey on this meandering train we call life.  Meandering, wandering, everlooking for the path of least resistance, just like the nameless creek near Hoover, Texas where I gathered clover blossoms to plait into a braid for Anne’s hair.

                                                                                                                                                  ~1998~

Happy Birthday Dad—-happy 70th.  Two birthdays have now passed since you left us.  And lots has happened.  I miss you, but it does get easier with time, but there are still days that sadness is all around me, thick as fog.   I love you more than I ever have, and I’m so thankful for your writings that you left us.  I feel I know you better now than I ever did in real life.  I wonder why we feel like we can’t open up to others, and especially the ones who love us most?  I know I’m just as guilty.

You were a good dad.  That’s probably all  you  wanted to hear while you were living, and I don’t know if I ever told you.  But you were.   I wouldn’t change it for anything.

You tried your best, I know that now.  It’s certainly not easy being a parent, I know that now too.

I never realized just how tender you were.  You were always so tough and big and strong, that I guess I didn’t think about your feelings much.  I’m sorry for that.

Thanks for being a number one dad to me.  Thanks for supporting me in everything I ever did.   Thanks for taking time to spend with me, even if it was laying in the floor taking kissing bets during a bowling tournament on T.V. or skipping rocks on the Illinois.  I have fond memories, and those are what I carry with me now.  It’s all I’m left with, the memories and your stories.

You’d really love Emma.  Sometimes I imagine that you are here and see you laugh at her or hug her close.  She reminds me of you sometimes.  Especially now as she’s learning to walk.  She’s got this stumble about her, that’s very Grandpa-esque.  Or sometimes they way she lays while she’s sleeping or a look on her face makes me think of you.  You are a part of her.

I know you’re in Heaven and I’m going to be there someday too.  It’s good that this life isn’t all we’ve got, isn’t it?  So, until we meet again Dad, enjoy yourself, and I’ll do the same.  There’s much happiness here still, and memories to make with others.

I love you bigger than Hog Eyes and Sauerkraut Mississippi.

Until then……

Love,

Angel

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Posted in Family

Picture Perfect

After we buried my dad February of last year, I drove back to Texas basically with a pickup, plants, and a photograph.

The pickup still sits in front of my yard, longing for a spin around town.

The plants, I’m proud to say, are flourishing.

And the photo sits on a shelf in my dining room.

It was one of his favorites.  At one point, being technologically disinclined, he asked my sister to put it as his profile pic on his Facebook page.  I don’t know how he expected her to do that, as he had the picture in a frame two states over, but nevertheless.

It’s a tiny picture, maybe a 3 X 5 in a cheap brass frame with parts of the frame chipped.  It displays a much younger us.

I remember the day.  Thanks to a generous landlord aunt, my sister had recently scored a cheap one bedroom rent house, albeit in need of some TLC.  I was helping her paint, when our dad showed up to check on our progress.  I’m covered in paint.  He’s not.  The hat I’m wearing leaves me to question.  Was I painting in that hat or was it on his head and I put it on mine?  I don’t recall the detail.

On the back, he’s written, “me & ang, yukking it up in ’91”

I can’t remember the exact conversation, but I know it went something like this:  my sister holding a camera, my dad draping his arm around me, my sister telling us to say “cheese”, and right before the camera snapped, my dad sucked in his gut, and I busted out laughing.

“Yukking it up in ’91” he called it.

If I’d  known then that we had only twenty more years together.  Twenty years.  It sounds like a long time when you say it, but it sure goes by fast. What would I have done differently?  Anything?

Throughout those years, we had many more times of “yukking it up”, and I’m grateful for every one of them.

But I can’t help but wish we could have one right now.

Miss you dad.

Posted in Stories by my dad

In Memory of my dad—number forty something

The green spiraled journal draws me in.

It belonged to my dad.

The very first thing I bought when I became an adult was a storage building.  It sits on my mom’s property (once upon a time it was my grandmother’s property) and my dad put a few boxes of belongings in there nearly twenty years ago.   In one of the boxes was this journal.

On the cover he has printed:
The Journals of Robert Lee—-soldier, statesman, author.

It is filled with his thoughts, his hopes, his disappointments, his memories.
Stuffed between the written pages he has a few cards from loved ones, pictures of my sister and I, and bills from the IRS.

I love this journal, although it is mostly sad.  He wrote when he was going through a very difficult time, of which I was completely unaware, but heck I was a kid then, barely out of high school, and completely wrapped up in my own life.

I discover that I didn’t really know my dad.  But who really did?

He hurt more than I know, and I don’t mean physically.

Today is the 15th of April, 1996.  Tax Time for most folks, but to me it is different.   Today I join the ranks of the homeless.  I haven’t learned a lot in my 53 short years aboard this planet, but I’ve learned this, we are just a short journey from this predicament that I find myself in right now.  It’s a feeling that I don’t wish on friend or foe, but I’ll come out of the water bushed and gasping of air, out of breath and hoping for a low hanging limb from which this wrecked body needs just a minute to catch it’s breath.  Then I’ll fight onward, searching for new friends, looking in familiar haunts for a few old compatriots, who’ll say—welcome ol’ shoe, come sit awhile and rest.

April 18, 1996—
It’s not good being homeless, but I have been getting reacquainted with my mother.  Before I was always in a  hurry when I went to see her, but now we are taking the time to talk to each other.  Today we spoke of my grandparents, the last who died in 1975.  I wish that I could have gotten to know them.

As I reread this journal, no as I pore over his words, I get the “missing my dad blues”.   The “If only’s”  The “I wish”.  It doesn’t help that its a rainy day in July either.  Much like my dad wrote on the page he titled, “July or is it June 27?”

I moved into my new digs yesterday.  Went to the store and bought boloney and beer.  It’s a cloudy, dismal day, in fact I’ll call this place “The Dismal Swamp”  It’s a dump, held together with spit n’ glue, but at least the neighbor’s are nice—which means that they don’t bother me or even come out of their own hovels.  I’m into Charles Bukowski, poet, short stories, novels, drinker extraiordinairre.  Life is good as we let it be.

He was phenomenal with the written word.
Dawn comes on a silvery black flash that gently turns to a pale blue as the sun makes it’s ascent into the morning sky.  Departure time is steadily approaching and I feel a twinge of excitement as the clock ticks onward toward the time of making my exit.  My brother warned me about this happening, he said, “don’t let one year turn into ten” when I first moved here for just a year.  Well, June marks the 10 year span that I’ve spent here in Green Country.  I can see the changes here in Okla.  that have occurred since coming here.  Mainly, traffic flow, the driving here is atrocious.  But that does not take from  the few close friends that I have made here.  I’ll always appreciate them.

He was funny.
“Guess I’ll go by leon’s house and see if he wants to go fishing with me n’ doc tomorrow—-it is the fourth of July and we do live in the bosom of democracy, so why not fish.  Uh Oh.  Outta beer.  So I’ll take to task the advice of my ol’ mentor and friend, Horace Greely—-Go West—-about 2 miles—–the have Busch on sale.” 

11-19-96
Keeping a journal and trying to keep sounding interesting is so boring.

Yes, dad I agree with that one whole heartedly!  He continues…..

My life is boring, but the mundane way of life is peaceful.  Living quiet has it’s own reward.

He got lonesome and had regrets.

Nov. 24, 1996
I dreamed of Jo and Angel night before last.  They were small and cuddly and we laughed and played.  I awoke all discombobulated and out of sync.  It’s good to dream old dreams.  I miss the girls so much.  I hope Angel is doing all right out there in the west.  She is so private it’s hard to find out anything from her.  Joley has John so I don’t worry about her so much.  Joley is my little mother.  I know that she will see to it that I am taken care of.  I hope that I never need it tho.  I’m sorry now that I didn’t know how to love the girls’ mother.  Hindsight has perfect vision.  But I just didn’t know, and for that I am sorry. 

Jan. 13, 1997
I’m lonesome and being broke don’t help.  I’d visit an axe murderer if he’d stop by my digs. 

Although these notes are sad and some remorseful, I receive peace when I read them.  I know how much my dad loved me.  There was never a time I doubted that.  He wrote of it many times.  His heart was full of love.

I am the proud father of 4 children.  Two boys and two girls.  How this mixed blessing came about, I’m not exactly sure.  It just came at me out of the blue, kinda like a fighter with a good left hook.

I also receive comfort knowing I’ll see him again.

Feb 7th or 8th
I know God is my friend and I hope he lets me hang around for a few years.

Thanks God for the years.

There’s more.  There’s lots more.  But I’ll leave you with that for now.  I don’t think my old pop would mind me sharing this.  It helps me, and I know there are family and friends who miss him terribly.  I hope it helps them too.  Sometimes we just want to hear from our loved ones one more time and this is the way that I do that.  When I read these words, I hear his voice.  I see the twinkle in his eye.  I see him throw his head back when he thought something was funny,  yet keeping his laugh inside and quiet.

I see him in my baby girl too, little bits of him.  There are times I wish he could see her, but then I remember…..I’m pretty sure they’ve already met.

Posted in Animals

The Demise of the J&A Chicken Ranch

Well folks, I’m here to announce my flock of 14 birds is officially down to eight.

I’m sad.

The casualties are:
1 yellow chicken killed by a coyote in plain sight
1 yellow chicken found lying dead in the coop in March 2012.  Cause of death: unknown
The remains of one yellow chicken (mostly feathers) found in an abandoned outbuilding in April 2012, obvious murder

MIA:
2 black and white chickens
1 black chicken

I should have eleven chickens.  I had eleven chickens earlier in the week.  But tonight, I only counted eight.  I scanned the vicinity and found none, so I waited until dusk for them to come in to the coop to roost in order to get a good count.  There are only eight.

I looked everywhere for signs of foul play.  Or would that be fowl play?
I got nothing.  Not a feather, not a speck of blood, not a chicken track.

I’ve questioned the dogs.  I’ve interrogated the horses.  Played a little good cop/bad cop.  They’re not talking.  Not even when I offered a reward of 1 bucket of oats for any information leading to the arrest of person or persons involved in the disappearance of 3 chickens in one week.

It’s a classic whodunit.  Has something bad happened to my three chickens?

Or have these hens simply crossed the road to get to the other side?

I will be interrupting your regularly scheduled program for any urgent news updates.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Posted in Animals

The Coyote Snatching

It’s getting on sundown here at the J &A Chicken Ranch and the girls are heading in to roost for the night.   All thirteen of them. Yep, you read that right.   No typo intended.  Thirteen.  As life would have it, murder, mayhem, and malice struck the Chicken Ranch early Sunday morning past when an unsuspecting fowl fell victim to the first coyote snatching on record.  J-Dub had just stepped outdoors just shortly after dawn, when suddenly the door flew wide open, expletives filled the room, and the gun cabinet was heard opening and closing.  Sitting in the lazy boy enjoying my morning cup of java, I hurriedly asked him what in the Boone’s Farm was going on as he dashed back through the living room on his way back outside. “A coyote just got one of your chickens!”  I jumped up (as much as one can jump while 7 months pregnant) and stood in the door frame to witness a nasty, vulgar, repulsive coyote running across the pasture with a helpless, vulnerable, limp, yellow chicken hanging from his jaws. Shots were fired at the coyote.  The chicken was dropped with a poof of feathers and dust, and the coyote ran off with shots kicking up dirt behind him.  Another coyote who was off to the right watching the action and hoping to have a chicken for breakfast also ran off.  We only had  pistol handy that morning and unfortunately, a bullet never made contact with the coyote.  But in a matter of minutes, the ne’er-d0-well was back to pick up it’s abandoned meal only to be  scared off again with another round of shots.  I told J-Dub I was going to get my chicken out of the pasture.  I was not going to let that murdering cur have the satisfaction of tasting even a morsel of my golden girl.  Sparing me the task, J-Dub walked out and carried the dead bird back to the house and disposed of her. Realizing the dogs would return, I quickly penned all my hens and secured them safe and sound in their coop where they have spent the last 5 days miserably.    They were mad for a good while, and the other day I think I even caught a couple of them with a file and a saw tucked under their wings.  A blueprint drawing of the coop with arrows and lines was discovered crumpled in the corner.  It was obvious to any onlooker that plans for a Coop Break was underway, I got home early enough today to let them out for a couple of hours of exercise before dusk.  You’ve never seen such elated birds.  They ran, and pecked, and flew, and clucked.   I sat outside with a rifle not 30 feet away when dusk settled and I dared those good for nothings to sneak up to the house again. In the famous words of Scarlett O’Hara….”I can shoot straight……if I don’t have to shoot too far.” In Memory of a Yellow Chicken:

Posted in Uncategorized

Memorial Day

The flags were flying high and proud at Ft. Gibson National Cemetary this past Monday.

I took a solitary road trip to visit my dad’s grave.

This trip was a journey of healing for me. 

Not complete healing, only partial.  But I’ll take partial.

My dad’s death hasn’t seemed real to me.  He lived in another town and although we facebooked regularly, we only saw each other about every 4-6 months.  He would call me up or send a message saying “I’ll be out that way about Tuesday.”  Just out of the blue like that.  Whenever he’d take the notion.  I’ve been expecting to hear from him anyday now.

Driving into the cemetery, searching for section 24, site 146 and seeing his gravestone made  it real for me.  Realizing that I would be driving into his town, see the stores, see the family, see the memories but not see him, made it real for me.  Not feeling his hug and his sloppy kiss on my cheek made it real for me.

Whenever we’d leave town, he’d stand on the porch on Cedar Street, lean on the railing and wave us good-bye for as long as we could see him.  That too didn’t happen this trip.  It won’t ever happen again.

It was good for me to face it all.  A tiny piece of my broken heart was sewn together this past weekend.  And as time passes, more stitches will be added.  The void won’t be so vast.  The hole won’t feel so empty.

The stages of grief are:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

Today, I accept it. 

Tomorrow may be a different story. 

But today I’m okay.