Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Lost Time

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Easter is so early this year! I can’t remember it being in March before. This March happens to be the two year anniversary of the passing of one of my beautiful grandmothers. I always think of her at Easter because, when I was a kid, myself, my brother and all our cousins on my mom’s side, would gather at this grandmother’s home and have a HUGE Easter egg hunt in her pasture. Eggs were everywhere, even tucked into the manure. Inevitably, some of the eggs were never found. Always, we had a grand time. In honor of her, I wrote an essay about visits with her when I was a teenager and how I wish I’d made the effort to spend more of my days with her back then:

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This is a story of loss. So many have written about this topic that it is hard to know how to begin. The poet Elizabeth Bishop,  in her poem One Art,  tries to convince us, as well as herself, that loss – the loss of keys and cities and loved ones – is really no big deal, “The art of losing’s not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”  How disastrous can a loss be if it brings us a better understanding of our place in the universe or, at the very least, gives us insight into who we are and what we value? Who among us would describe such a thing as “disaster?”

Disaster, the way my eighteen year old mind saw it, was never having had a “real” boyfriend. It wasn’t for lack of trying. When your nickname in school is “Olive Oil” (we shared similar traits – tall, too thin, gawky with big feet. Just add acne. . .), boyfriend acquisition isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish. Adults at any given family function would, inevitably, ask the boyfriend question. Thank goodness for my grandmother, my mother’s mother, a woman with five children, who in the end would live more years with her husband deceased than with him alive. She would ask about a boyfriend but was much too pragmatic to let my shame over the lack of one get me down. “You’ve got time,” she would say, lifting my spirits. She was right. Years later, after college I finally found my first real boyfriend, now husband.  It seems ironic then that one of my biggest regrets when it comes to my grandmother revolves around the lack of time I spent with her.

Growing up in a suburb of Atlanta, we visited my grandmother “down in the country” monthly. As I got older, obtained a drivers license and car, I still made the two hour drive down to see both her and my other grandmother, my dad’s mother, who lived nearby.  I was young, so, yes, I let a little too much time go by between visits.  My high school life was typically busy – school, homework (I had a GPA to maintain), after school activities including years of dance, drama, and a short, failed stint at basketball camp one summer.  Once I made the decision to spend a weekend in the country, it was good to be on that long stretch of I-85 headed south, listening to music with the windows down. Even as a teen, I could appreciate the “me time” a weekend road trip can provide.

On these visits, I usually spent Friday night with my grandmother and Saturday night with my dad’s mother.  I saw my mom’s mother first because she was closer. Once you get off the highway in Greenville, going through the randomly European round-about in the town center, what’s left are little stints on alternate state routes and back roads with turns largely of the you’ll-know-it-when-you-see-it-because-you’ve-done-it-so-many-times-before variety. On my grandmother’s property is a modest pond of varying depth depending on the time of year and extent of drought each endless summer. I don’t know the number of car lengths away, but I can tell just by the trees and the look of the sky when the pond is only minutes from view. It must seem like a super human power to any passenger that isn’t family and hasn’t driven those roads like we have.

There is something about the air of a place that one calls home. Getting out of the car, inhaling deeply while stretching my long legs, it always brought a smile to my face seeing my grandmother come walking out onto the front porch, if she wasn’t already swaying gently on the swing in wait for me. Usually, we didn’t make it farther than that swing for a quite some time unless I was late arriving. Dinner, supper, rather, was probably an appetizer of buttery oblong Ritz crackers followed by a main course of the best pimento (pronounced “paminna”) cheese sandwich on Sunbeam white bread you’ve ever had and homemade sweet tea to drink. After dinner, we’d retreat to the den to watch television, a rerun of The Dukes of Hazard or Magnum P. I. if we could find it on one of the four channels the rabbit ears received. In truth, I think we talked more than we watched, but it was that lazy sort of talk where a question comes to mind, is answered and then we resume watching until something or someone else popped in our heads. In a bit, I’d be handed a Corningware bowl in the Spring Blossom pattern whose little green flowers always seem to me like clovers growing unwanted in a patch of grass.  In it, my “ice milk” with coca-cola poured on top making a float.

I’ve always been a night owl and my grandmother was one to get on to the next thing as soon as it was time. Promptly when the 10 o’clock news out of Columbus ended she would head off to get on her nightgown and housecoat, cold cream her face and come back to ask me wasn’t I going to bed. I had brought a book or magazines and was going to read just a little while longer. I would be sure to turn off the porch light and lock the doors when I headed to bed. And, yes, I would let her know if I got cold in the night, smiling at the knowledge that my own mother clearly had inherited the same worry from her mom.

In the morning, Jack Frost nipping at my nose while the rest of me is bundled toasty and warm under the covers, I force myself out of the beautiful four post bed and put my bare feet down on the cold floor, more appreciative of my grandmother’s worry over the possibility of my sleeping cold. Making my way across the room in just a few steps, through its swinging door and into the warm kitchen where the little one room gas heater has already been lit is a relief.  Better than that is the sound of the percolator brewing wonderful smelling coffee which, try as I might, I have never been able to drink. My grandmother and I sit there, eating our toast and jelly and chatting before taking the scraps out to the horses, coming back in to get dressed for the day. No doubt at breakfast, and throughout the morning, she will ask if I can’t stay a little longer, spend another night.

It would be nice to stay on and not rush off. We’d walk around the house a couple times, the key, we both agree, to how well my grandmother, now in her 70s, does out here on her own. Every morning and evening she does this walk by herself, unless one of her children or grandchildren happens to be visiting. It is where some of our most thoughtful conversations are had.

If it is shaping up to be a nice day, at some point we will take a little mini Butterfinger from the drawer of the frig out to the porch where we’ll rock away, listening to the sounds of the season. Periodically, we hear long before we see a lone car or large truck zooming down the highway passing quickly in front of my grandmother’s little house in the country. In all likelihood, we will have visitors at some point during the day, a friend, neighbor or distant cousin on their way to or from Columbus who will stop in unannounced just to say hello. This is the accepted custom; a phone call first is not necessary. In fact, it is relatively rare to hear the rotary phone ring at all during the day. Truly vintage, the heavy black phone was one of my favorite things to play with as child. I loved to sit at the phone table playing “office,” making pretend calls, having imaginary conversations with the  recorded voice “If you’d like to make a call . . .” on the other end. I’m amazed to learn that this Bell South relic was originally rented from the phone company, not purchased outright.

But, as Robert Frost has written, I have “miles to go before I sleep.” And so, instead of staying on, I pack up my things to head further down the road. As she sees me to the door, again my grandmother requests that I stay on for a spell. Come back when I have more time and can stay for a week. “Oh, I will,” I assure her, thinking a second time that it would be nice to have a little more time with her, feed the horses in the pasture, take a walk down past Mr. Shank’s old store, check in on the lake my uncles own or take her  to the hair salon. I could visit leisurely with whichever surprise visitor might pop in that day (even if it would mean having to explain the no boyfriend thing again – and again).  “I’ll make the time, Grandma,” I reply, though I never would.

Why is it I so regret that lost time with this grandmother of mine, would even describe it “a disaster?”  When I think about it, I realize not too much ever really happened at this home she made. And, yet, what happened there clearly has meant more to the person I’ve become than I realized until recently. When I think how much more I could have absorbed from my grandmother’s wisdom, how much better I could have known her, learned about my own mother and myself, I have regret.  Had I just taken the time to spend even one week during those years long ago when she was still in good health, not yet in a nursing home, before I met the love of my life and moved thousands of miles away, before she passed away at the age of 96, eating her favorite ice milk, surrounded by children and grandchildren, perhaps I would have realized sooner how lucky I was that she wanted to spend that time with me and how much I would lose in not doing so. Unlike Elizabeth Bishop (Write it!), I cannot convince myself that this lost time with my grandmother is anything other than “a disaster.”

Seaside

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Been trying to decide if I want to get back into the swing of things with this blog. Maybe I just want it to be a picture and tweety blog. Can’t quite decide if I want to put the effort into it but then I read so many beautiful blogs and do so appreciate that these strangers share so much of their lives to maybe no one. Maybe I will too. Or not. Today I will.

I will start with pictures from our most recent annual trip to Seaside, Oregon. We go with three other families and are lucky enough that one of them owns a cottage on “the Prom” just a short walk to the beach. This year going the first weekend in August gave us the best weather. Come Sunday, I just didn’t want to leave . . .














Anniversary

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Cecil Rudolph Kersey

February 22, 1937 – June 4, 2011

He was my father and I love him.

Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft star-shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there;

I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932

The Commission Project of Paul Ferney

Monday, February 27th, 2012

About a year ago I came across an artist by the name of Paul Ferney and his Commission Project through the blog of his wife at Oh Happy Day.  I really love his style and the way he handles the oil on a canvas so when his next available Commission Project came up, I knew I wanted to commission a painting of my late father.

The process is simple.  Make the payment his website and then email (or mail) him the photograph you’d like him to render.  In my mind this painting will become a family heirloom.  I chose something that I would ultimately love to have but I had intended from the get go to give to my mother as a gift.  The photograph I used is one of my dad in the 70’s, newly married to my mom and perhaps before I was born or when I was still just a year or two old.

This is the photo I emailed to Mr. Ferney:

And here is the amazing final painting that Paul Ferney created:

Here is a close-up so you can see the texture of the paint:

As you can imagine, I am beyond happy with how this turned out.  If you are interested, I beleive he has another Commission Project going right now with just a few spots left that’s due to ship in time for Mother’s Day.

 

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Remembering my father on his 75th birthday

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

My dad would have been 75 today, February 22nd, a birthday he shared with another great man, George Washington.

I’m thankful that in the year or so leading up to my father’s passing, I happened upon an online photo journal by Phillip Toledano, Days With My Father.  It is a beautiful, simple homage to one man’s father that was created over the course of three years.

After seeing that, I knew that if the worst should happen for both my father (and my grandmother, who also passed in 2011 and would have been 95 earlier this month), I would want to have memories such as these.

I only managed to capture a few images of my dad that I really liked over the course of that last year, mostly because he didn’t much feel like having a camera in his face and, living 3,000 miles away, my visits were short and far between.  But even to have those few photos is a bit of a blessing now when I want to remember him like he was, as though I could just reach out and touch him this very moment if I wanted to.  While it is nice to have the official studio type portraits of the ones you love, I find the most powerful photos are the ones that take us back to the real life that was being lived at any given moment.

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I will always remember my father’s hands.  They accomplished so much.  He was an engineer and extremely rational, intelligent man, but he was artistic as well, always creating something with those hands of his.  They were never idle for too long.

I remember him so often in his “workshop”, the entire basement of the house I grew up in, sawing, hammering, saudering, painting, tinkering away for hours creating anything – carved wooden works of art, oil paintings on canvas, birdhouses, the list was limitless.  Oftentimes, he would have a deep gash along a finger or in the palm of his hand or a blackened portion of a fingernail, evidence that something had gone slightly awry during the creative process.

His hands will always be precious to me for all the love that they produced and the evidence they left behind that he was here.

Dad’s chair. It is huge, like a throne.  Amazingly comfortable, he preferred it for sleep over a bed in his final years.  He was a night owl, like me, so his bedtime varried from midnight to two a.m. Often he would get up in the wee hours of the morning and “work” at his computer across from his chair.  He would then sleep in his chair until late afternoon when he would finally stir and start to come alive for the day.

Never far from him were his glasses and I can still hear the click as he opened them to don them for the purpose of investigating whatever issue may be at hand or to read whichever books he was devouring at the moment.  His glasses are something I never realized I associated with him so much until I was cleaning out his desk drawer and came across a couple pairs.  There is no reason to keep them now, but they were so much a part of him, I found myself tucking them into the far back corner of the drawer because . . . because there is no where else for them to go.  They are right where they belong, waiting patiently.

Later in the evenings he sat back in his chair to watch Fox News followed by recorded episodes of How It’s Made. Out came the TV Headphones (what a battle it was to get him to FINALLY admit he couldn’t hear and wear them!) and one of a seemingly endless supply of remote controls.  At this point in the day, my mother joined him in the “Media Room” and you could always find them there together until she retired to bed, turning out the lights as she went.  Eventually, after much dosing throughout the evening, the TV would be turned off, the computer shut down and my father would officially “go to bed” in his big, comfy chair.

I’ve mentioned already the avid reader my dad was.  Books and magazines have always been stacked in every nook and cranny in our homes.  My father was generous with his books, lending them out to anyone who showed any interest.  The amount he read during his lifetime amazes me.  There is a newspaper clipping somewhere showing him in a classroom setting as part of a course on speed reading.  His work at Lockheed required a good deal of reading, but long before that he was voracious about it.  Cleaning out the bookshelves in his bedroom at my grandmother’s house the range of topics were diverse and in depth – how to make your own bullets, how to build your own camera, how to taxidermy, how to paint realistic skin tones; If there was an endeavor and a how to book out there for it, the man had consumed it whole.

My dad, in his chair, enthralled in a book.  Today, on what would have been his 75th birthday, this is how I remember those days with my father.

 

. . . I want you to know

as your feet cross the threshold,

that all the seeds you have planted,

will continue to grow.

I want you to know,

as you move forward on your journey,

how the tears from my heart,

will forever flow.

. . . I want you to know,

in case I haven’t told you before,

that I need you to stay

and help me find my way.

– joy fisher

She would have been 95 today . . .

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

. . . and it’s hard to believe she’s been gone almost a year already.  It doesn’t seem like that much time could have passed without her here.  Though in the end, it wasn’t much of a life she was living in the nursing home, truth be told.

My grandmother, my mom’s mother, was the matriarch of that side of the family for so many years and I like to think we honored her that way.  The pastor at her funeral noted that she “invested in her grandchildren.”  She really knew each of us and offered sage advice and wanted to hear our stories.  She was full of life that way.  But, she was living in the past more and more and seeing her become more confused about what was real and what was not was hard to watch for all of us, I think.

I have a sense of peace when I think of her, knowing that when she passed she was not alone and was surrounded by children and grandchildren who loved her, even enjoying her favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream.  She taught me so much and there is so much about her I want to emulate for my own family.  I miss her and regret not spending more time with her when I was younger, before I had moved across the country.  She had that infinite country wisdom about things that I wish I had paid more attention to while I had the chance.  That is my only regret, that I didn’t spend more time and pay more attention to the little details and the ways she had of making everything special.

She left us in March of 2011, yet it still it seems like just yesterday.

Weep deeply.

A terrible malady took her mind,

Left no thought of present time,

But remembered for all that went before,

What followed of consequence no more.

Weep deeply.

Weep gently.

Remember now those festive meals,

so lovingly prepared with her special skills.

Shared both by family and by friend,

Created with love that had no end.

Weep gently.

Weep quietly.

Think now upon her with love,

Remembering all she did for others.

For certainly now she dwells above,

In that special place reserved for mothers.

Weep quietly.

– excerpt from a poem written by my father, Cecil R. Kersey

A Time Gone By

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

I came across this picture of my “Granny” (who is now 95) last night while cleaning out old photos.  It appears to have been taken in the ’60s because of her youthful age and the fact that I don’t recognize the kitchen of the house she is in (she has lived at her current residence since before I was born in the mid-seventies).

With my renewed appreciation of all things vintage, there is so much about the moment that has been captured here, most likely by my father, that I absolutely love.

I can guess that it was my father that took this picture because a) she is his mother, b) he loved photography and c) I can just make out the folds of her chenille robe, hinting that it is likely morning before she has gotten dressed for the day.

I can tell that she is making biscuits not only by the assumed time of day, but also the fact that her hands are covered in flour.  Yes, this could mean she was making something to be fried up, like catfish or okra, but it is more likely she is working with dough by the way her hands are clasped.  She is known, at least by me, for her chicken and dumplings, so one might argue she could be making dumplings.  However, the final clue is the little glass juice cup sitting in front of the bowl.  Her dumplings where rolled out flat and cut with a knife, whereas her biscuits would have been made perfectly round using the glass as her biscuit cutter.  This is a “Depression-era” woman, she is nothing if not resourceful, like many of her generation and the one that followed.

I love seeing my grandmother in this moment of “domestic bliss” (let’s hope she felt that way at the time).  I also love taking in the details of her (now) vintage kitchen.  Pots as art hang directly from the wood panelling. I LOVE that. Even the Coca-cola calendar shares its nail with a copper pot.  If it were a better quality photo I might even be able to tell exactly what month it was by that calendar.  But, it doesn’t matter because this scene, I am certain, was repeated like clockwork with the dawn of each new day for many years.

I’ll have to show this picture to my granny the next time I see her and ask her if she still has that big red rimmed enamel pot – it’s fabulous! I’d be shocked if she doesn’t, though finding it may be a problem.  She’s not one to throw much away “just in case” she needs it again one day.  Shoot, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that same Crisco tin isn’t still being washed out and reused to store something to this very day. The Cool Whip containers like the company, you know.  I tease a little, but please don’t mistake that for mocking.  I have the utmost respect for all the mothers in my life, especially being one now myself.

If my dad was still here, I would ask him to give me more details about this image – What year? Which state (Georgia or Alabama)? Why did he choose that moment? He is not here, so I’ll ask her instead, though I think I already know that she will tell me it was too long ago to remember and will wonder why in the world I would care so much about such a (seemingly) insignificant moment.

This is exactly what I love about photography, that it can magnify the tiniest moments of everyday, ordinary life and remind you how quickly the mundane and routine (that we all sometimes take for granted) can be gone.  If you are looking for it and open to it, photographs help us see that it’s not “having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”  In this case, a loving grandmother who’d make me homemade biscuits in a heartbeat if I asked her to, just like she did all those years ago for my father.

I could go to the beach every day. So, yeah, let’s do that.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I’ve recently realized that since I’m in Seattle for however long (it’s all great EXCEPT FOR THE WEATHER), that I could have that beach vacation I’m craving every day if I wanted to (and be at a different beach each day for that matter).

Well, actually, that beach vacation I’m craving includes sun and warmth. WARMTH! SUN! HEAT!

But still, there are things other than WARMTH! SUN! HEAT! that make a trip to the beach worthwhile, and you have only to take a child to a cold, rocky beach on the Puget Sound to be reminded of that; Things like skipping rocks, collecting seashells, pebbles and driftwood, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, running from said waves as the tide comes in way faster than you were expecting and looking out over stunning views.

So, trying to keep my chin up about it (and wrapped tightly in a turtleneck and scarf), I’m making it a point to try to get to one of the nearby beaches at least every couple weeks. I’ve even gathered up some fun glass milk bottles and wooden bread bowls and copper buckets to house the pebbles, seashells and driftwood we’ve already started to amass.

It’s no surprise then, that I’m totally inspired by this house tour that showed up today on the Apartment Therapy webiste.

So, yeah, the beach.  Here a few pictures from our most recent trip over the Labor Day weekend:

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Seahurst Beach Fun

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

When I think of going to the beach, I think hot sun and sand. Not so with the beaches out here in B-town (greater Seattle), but any time I go to the beach it still feels like a getaway so I’m trying to go more often. Especially since we have 3 beaches within a 5 minute drive of the house and many, many more that are 20 mins or less. It’s a crime not to in the summer!

On our way, we stopped at the local consignment shop, Lollipops, to buy some boy swim trunks for the girls to get wet and dirty in.  Clara enjoyed finding neat rocks on the beach and collecting or tossing them in the water at her whim.  Sydney enjoyed putting neat rocks in her mouth.  She did not enjoy mom taking them out.

See it all for yourself:

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An evening by the water

Friday, July 30th, 2010

One thing about Seattle, in about 20 minutes in any direction you can be on the some body of water.  And when the weather is on the warmer side, people flock to Alki Beach in West Seattle.  We are no exception and headed out there for fish & chips tonight.  A very relaxing and enjoyable Friday evening . . .

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