Tuesday, August 9, 2016
I was 13, a freshman in high school, and I noticed the protruding of Mom’s belly. I asked in a disgusted tone of voice, “You are not going to have another baby, are you?”
The last one was not walking yet and took an awful lot of care from the eldest of her children – me! Mom always made the best out of whatever came and she answered, “Yes, and this time I will give you a girl. She will be special and you can name her.”
Wow. That was quite a gift. “Well, it better not be another boy or he is going back.” Three brothers were enough.
That was about the best deal I ever made. Cute baby girls can twist anyone around her finger and, along with everyone else who came close to her, I got twisted.
She is still being the boss lady. Just because I am 13 years further along to getting old – like 88 to 75 – small difference -- when I fly into Texas, she calls the shots.
We begin this visit with one of my favorite entertainments. Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Beaumont. We take a casual cruise up the Neches River in Buford’s pontoon boat, peeking into the outlets, catching sight of the picnics on the shore. Anchor is dropped in a quiet spot, out of the way of speedboat waves. I open a beer and we enjoy our sandwiches.
There is no better sightseeing spot for the dazzles exploding in the sky than right underneath them. Breath-taking oohs and aahs. Then after the final firey explosion among the stars, Buford skillfully navigates us between the other motor and cruise-type boats to home. It is time for our almost nightly competition on Mexican train dominoes. We have been keeping score for three years and – at the moment – Buford and Mariam are neck and neck. However, we all know that can change in one evening and last year I left Beaumont trailing by six games.
The next day Nancy handed me the calendar. Worst, first. Eyes and teeth and feet. I told her there was no need for these check-ups, but she doesn’t believe me. When the moment came that the doctor(s) tell her that these parts are about as good as they can be for an old lady (oh, I hate that description), both of us are relieved.
The fun part comes next. Her hair-cutting lady takes her time, snips here, surveys, snips a bit more. The results actually turn me almost pretty. (for an old lady, that is!). Then I had my choice and this year I chose the facial over a massage. This brand-new procedure for me was smooth, relaxed every bone in my body, and I named it an hour of heaven. Next year, when I am 90, maybe I can talk her into both. After all, I changed a lot of diapers.
Since Beaumont is my second home, I had arranged to present the Beaumont library with my book, four copies of “The Alternate Safe World of Sanctuary”. The folks at the library welcomed me with warm, friendly, open arms. The newspaper didn’t care but you can’t win them all.
The wonderful beautiful Texas Tyler State Park is about a five hour drive from Beaumont and certainly worth the trip. A tree shaded lake side spot had been reserved for the Minnie Winnie.
Then, for almost a week, we explored. A short trail, less than a mile, up and down, left us hot and sweaty and heading for the camp shower. Our longest trail took us over a steady two miles, around the lake, getting good camera shots from all directions. We took our picnic lunch and also lots of breaks to sit and take pictures of the scenery.
Motor boats are not allowed on the small lake. Paddle wheelers and kayaks are for rent. I had my eye on the kayaks but Nancy considered it too dangerous for “an old lady.” It was with reluctance that she finally quit hassling me about paddling a single seater. I plopped down into it and Nancy and Buford took off in a double kayak. All going great, and with the help of the wind, I moved out into the center of the lake.
I pushed my paddles down deep, trying to turn around. Hollers were coming at me, “turn right! Right! The other right!” The wind kept pushing and my paddle kept going the wrong way and in about two seconds flat, I was in the weeds, against the shore. Sigh.
I pushed out, got around to a beach and my single kayaking days were over. I was assigned to the double kayak with Buford doing the work and me admiring the scenery. Nancy got into the single kayak, and with no previous experience or instructions, took off, smoothly skimming her paddles along the surface, sending the boat any way she wanted it to go. My only consolation is that I didn’t manage to turn that durned piece of wood over.
One more week and two more stops. This is the chance I get to visit with family and see how much the young ‘uns have grown.
Bernie was not enthused about making friends with me but he was still young. His sister took her time, but she finally came to my lap. I do need to mention that this picture of her was enlarged by the lady of the house in order to make an impression of how much Marshmallow has grown.
Otis had added considerable weight since the first picture had been put on facebook. He wanted to make an impression by showing off his teeth, but I was warned: “Keep his mouth away from your arm.” I wasn’t quick enough but it was only a baby scratch. In this picture, he wanted to show his affection for me, almost knocking me over.
This week went by too quickly, a relaxed time, with lots of family togetherness. I came home with so much pride in the family connections that belong to me. From Aunt Mariam: Love you all so much and thanks for being you.
And for Buford – here is a question for you.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
MY ROLLER COASTER RIDE
Quick decisions can sometimes get you in trouble. Or it can lead to a roller coaster ride that might be missed by being a scaredy cat. I jumped into a whirling jamboree without considering the work or the consequences. When 21 year old Tia, third great granddaughter, walked out on Hoy Field to receive her Phoenix College diploma, little did I know how that was going to affect me.
Without thinking it through, I told son Fred, “I can do that. I only need two more credits,” and with a sigh, “in Science.” I had lots of credits in the fun courses, writing, newspaper, photography, art, history, but lack of Science credits had kept me from graduating forty some years ago.
It wasn’t easy. Short term memory caused me to give up all other activities for 100 days. I had to concentrate solely on finding a way to pass the online “Science of Nutrition.” I strongly considered dumping it after the first test. However, I couldn’t face telling my PC graduate kids – son, grandson, three great-granddaughters – that I was chickening out.
Three blogs give the story of the struggle if you want to check the blog file.
Then came the big day, G-Day, Friday, May 13, 2016. It is now almost three months later, as I write this, and I am trying to get those fireworks days organized. The URL link shown will show the story.
This will be my filing case. I’m putting out a red flag now that this file might be rather dull. The next blog, three weeks in Texas, will be much more lively.
Megan, from Phoenix College, emailed and asked if I would talk to a reporter from Channel 3 and Channel 5. Wow! You’re durn tootin’. Send ‘em over!
http://bit.ly/25rG8dp You're never too old to follow your dreams. Reporter, Jason Barry, TV channels 3 and 5, KPHO/KTVK, May 12, 2016.
We made a date of May 12 at Laura Danieli lunchroom where I had arranged to give a talk, “Hear Her Story – 71 years to Finish a Dream.” My desire was to encourage others to follow their dream, regardless of age or disability.
The action began when two special friends, Amanda and Ursula, came to my apartment. They helped me put my gown on right side out and the cap at the proper angle. They attempted to calm me to a slow run, but it wasn’t possible, I was keyed up to high gear.
One of the very best Arizona Republic feature writers, Dianna Nanez, appeared with her camera. This link is to the e-version of the Arizona Republic. After you get past the ad, it also captures my five-minute talk.
http://bit.ly/1OcLkKz 88-year-old Phoenix woman chased her dreams and caught them. Arizona Republic story, Dianna M. Náñez, June 4, 2016.
In the lunchroom, two cakes and flowers magically appeared to give a party appearance.
More friends took time out from a busy day. Daniel, a one-of-a-kind-reporter who remained a good friend despite Ed saying “No” to his writing about our romance, came for the show. Jack, who had been Ed’s best Phoenix friend, surprised me and I couldn’t have been happier when I hugged him.
Family had told me that they would be at our family dinner on graduation day and I didn’t expect anyone here.
I was ready to give my talk, notes in one hand, mike in the other, wanting someone to hold up my book, “The Alternate Safe World of Sanctuary,” when out of the blue, great granddaughter Tia appeared. My cup floweth over.
So much of what happened next has become a blur. Jason Barry and his crew took me over to Phoenix College, in my cap and gown, on a hot afternoon and I walked up and down that sidewalk dozens of times for the photographers to get 30 seconds of shots. That evening I set the VCR to tape both channels and went to bed. While I slept a couple of dozen stations picked up the story.
Next day would be even more exciting. Colleen arrived first, coming in from Detroit. I know she came to support me and show her love for me, but I also felt she represented Duane, a major person in both of our lives. Then wonderful niece Kathy, from Houston, parked and a beautiful young lady came walking up the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Dolores had come along, first time I had visited with her since the families had explored the zoo together.
What a crowd we had at “My Mother’s” private dining room. There never can be so much happiness as to when all of one’s family is together in one space, all talking at once, laughter from one corner and then giggles from another.
Yes, just about every one of my family, plus my apartment friends who had cheered me on from the beginning; plus Tim and Alice representing the Lewis clan and always standing by me; and our special out-of-town visitors. My cup not only runneth over, I was crying with happiness.
Another blur – only two moments stand out for the ceremony. Five hundred or so graduates were sitting together for instructions. The channel 5 recording was shown on the tv screen, I was introduced, took my bow and my fellow graduates rose and gave me a salute. The next I recall – walking across that green grass to the presentation stand. The rest is a blank.
Well, it’s all over. The coach turns back into a pumpkin, the silver slippers are gone.
Almost. Shanna Hogan called me. Shanna of the New Times, ASU journalism teacher, author of best selling true-crime books, with a bunch of awards. What could she do with someone who is not spectacular and doesn’t have a problem? As it turned out, she wrote a great story and one of my best moments was signing our books for each other.
http://bit.ly/1TGl3RE 88-Year-Old Phoenix Great-Grandmother Graduates from College. Phoenix New Times, Shanna Hogan, May 25, 2016
Some nice things have happened because of the media attention. I sold a few more books. We had some nice family get-togethers. And I enjoyed every moment of my Roller Coaster Ride.
Here are more links to stories. I hope I haven’t missed any.
http://bit.ly/295HjYY ”88-year-old writer donates book to library” June 30, 2016, Glendale Star.
http://bit.ly/2auAlfu ”Woman earns diploma at the age of 88” June 24, 2016. Hendricks County (Indiana) Flyer
http://bit.ly/25Lss9P June 7, 2016 – Graduation story “It Doesn’t happen Often”
www.taswos.com website, The Collected Life of Mariam, long-ago published stories, current blogs and the first chapter of Sanctuary.