Thoughts that Linger

January 2, 2011

Today I will take down Christmas and pack it away for another year. At least most of it. Reluctantly.

I’m one of those that starts listening to Christmas tunes around Thanksgiving and counts the days until it is socially acceptable to deck the halls. I love opening the big green tubs filled with memories of Christmas past, and finding a place in my home for them to reside for a few short weeks. And I love the warm glow of the lights. Everywhere.

I don’t even mind shopping during the holidays, contrary to most other times of the year. Not even for groceries. It’s likely I will see people I don’t see very often when the stores are crowded. I am delighted to exchange good cheer with a stranger, when their day is full and their job is hard, and it would be easier for both of us to do otherwise.

I will probably leave the mantle of lights and snowmen over the kitchen sink. One last vestige which I will enjoy, and my family will tolerate, until all hope for snow is lost. And when the last of this holiday season is retired, it will be the thoughts that linger on.

Like the squeal of my grandson, when he walked into the house and saw the “Lights!” for the first time, and the second, and the third. Or the way he danced with glee when the otherwise rambunctious dog snuffled him on Christmas Eve. Although this was his third Christmas, it was the first for him to unwrap a gift with understanding, intent, and enjoyment. There is a quiet beauty in the eyes of a child as they experience something for the first time, without fear or expectation.

My granddaughter lay on the comforter underneath the tree, in the house that her great-grandmother and grandfather built. This I will think of when I close my eyes to sleep at the end of a long day. Time goes by so quickly.

I will remember something as simple as my daughter turning off the television on Christmas Eve. Surely not a big thing and not that anyone was watching, but it was a sign that we should not be distracted from the more important things at hand, like each other. Things that were important to her as well.

Miles separated my son and I, but the comfort of his voice was as close as the phone on a blue Christmas night. I am reminded how important it is for me to have time apart to appreciate the time together.

This will be the Christmas when I remembered how much enjoyment there is in gifting something made with my hands, and hoping it will last for lifetimes.

I will remember John’s children, now young adults, gathered on Christmas day in the kitchen with their faces as close to the windows as humanly possible, counting the numbers and kinds of critters that had come to the feeders that John filled the day before.

And John, sitting on the periphery of kids and electronic media, strumming a green ukelele with a smile on his face, from deep in a soul where youth springs eternal.

It’s not the things I hold in my hand, but the ones that are in my heart.

In a Perfect World

September 5, 2010

Circa 1995, some of my son’s friends matched my daughter up with a date for a high school dance. I spent some time getting to know him. He was nice kid. He passed the “mom test” and I was comfortable sending Sarah off with him for a few hours. The dance came and went, and so did he. Their interests were different, he was a little older, and so it goes.

About ten years later, John and I made our first visit to the local butcher shop, and who do you suppose was standing behind the counter? Although I didn’t make the connection, he did, and came out from behind the counter to say hello and meet John. We quickly became regular customers and got to know the other good folks that work there, but his face is always the one I look for.

One morning, in the first part of 2009, my newspaper had an article about a crash involving two persons. The car had left the road and run into a tree. The driver had a blood alcohol level of .24 and was transported to the county jail after treatment for minor injuries at the local hospital. As it seems to go in accidents like this one, our young friend had to be extracted from the car, was airlifted to a Chicago hospital in critical condition with bleeding in his brain, fractures and other injuries. A month later the paper said he was still in intensive care and unable to speak.

The next time we went to the butcher shop, there was a picture of him taped up on the wall near the cash register with words written in black marker, asking customers to think of him in their prayers. Over the months, we heard updates with slow but gradual signs of improvement, more than often accompanied by “but it was a really bad accident”. At one point last fall, he had been moved to a rehabilitation center down south and the updates became fewer and far between.

Early this summer, the butcher shop opened a produce section in the rear of the building. John and I pulled the car around to the back and parked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two men standing at the edge of the parking lot, in butcher’s garb. We made our way into the store and closed the door behind us. As I took my hand off of the door knob, it opened right back up and in walked our friend. He had seen us in the parking lot. I got a big hug and a smile.

As we talked, it became painfully apparent that he was having some troubles putting his thoughts together. His left eye was a little smaller and slightly drawn upward, but the sparkle was still the same. I told him it was so good to see him and that we thought about him often. I asked him how long he had been back. He looked at me, and then turned to his friend and asked how long he had been back. I found out I hadn’t seen him because he was working in the shop now a few hours at a time, instead of behind the counter. I told him it looked like he was doing well, and he took off his baseball cap, showed me the bare patch on top of his misshapen head, and said “Yeah and the guy that did this is in prison”. His friend reminded him that their break was over, took him by the arm, and they disappeared into the shop.

And we wept. We wept for our young friend, and we wept for someone at the butcher shop who has a heart of gold. Someone who found a place for him, when I have to think it would have been easier to close the door.


I have started this post several times, but the words wouldn’t come, so I just quit writing. And after all, why would you want to read yet another sad story about the leavins of a drunk driver? It happens all the time. There was a similar accident that happened this spring in a nearby town. The driver and one of his friends were banged up, and the other two were killed. All of them were just kids.

Then last week the driver and his parents released a video “to help other teens avoid what he, his parents and the community have experienced”. I watched it. It seemed sincere to me. But a mother of one of the fatalities objected to it. To her it was “inconsiderate”. This was not someone she wanted her younger daughters “to learn a lesson from”. Lives changed forever. And a mother lode of pain.

Yesterday we made our weekly trek to the butcher shop, and once again I rolled this story out in my mind. As I spit out the last few words, I can finally say that I’m angry. Oh sure, I’m angry at the driver. That’s expected. But I’m really angry at our young friend for making the decision to get in the car with a driver that was obviously drunk.

In a perfect world, there would be no drunk drivers. And if there were, they would be alone in the car.

Memorial Day 2010

May 31, 2010

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Here’s to my dad.

He was in the 34th Infantry, “Red Bull Division” during the end of the second world war and the liberation of the concentration camps. I know this only because of the pictures I found after he died. They were kept in an old shirt box along with other items that led me to verify what I had already believed; that what happened to him during his length of service was life changing.

They said he was not the same when he came home. How could he be?

He never talked about the war, but it was with him all the time. And so it goes with the multitudes that have walked in his footsteps.

We’ll hoist the flag again today, in honor of my dad, and those that share his story. He would have expected that.

And we’ll say another prayer for peace. He would have expected that, as well.

One Man’s Trash

April 11, 2010

John and I carried the trash to the curb this afternoon for tomorrow’s garbage pick-up. Halfway through this post I rescued a vestige of my youth from the angry jowls of the trash compactor. It’s back in the garage, in all of its “Flower Power” and “Make Love Not Litter” glory.

In the summer of 1970 I was 14 years old. I know it was the summer of 1970 because I can tell you exactly what songs were on the radio. In fact, if you ask me about some date in time, I’m more likely to tell you the song I connect it to rather than the year in which it happened. Call it what you will, but it works for me.

My mother had purchased a couple of metal garbage cans and wanted them painted with Rust-Oleum. A friend and I were happy to oblige, as long as she was agreeable to the following: 1) we could paint in our bathing suits in the back yard under the hot summer sun, 2) we could exercise some artistic freedom, and 3) we could listen to the radio. Summertime by Mungo Jerry was the first song that came to mind this evening.

The fruits of our labor held vast and sundry items over a good 40 years or so, up until the bottoms rusted through. They were never used for trash. The last one sat on the back porch with a stash of bird seed and was finally retired by John and I when the critters made their way in and the seed began to dwindle.

So. I guess when we are dead and gone, this will be one of the strange things the kids find in the garage. I have had a great time writing this post. It’s taken a lot longer than most since I got waylaid in YouTube listening to the Billboard hits of 1970. If you are a music lover like me, and a product of this space and time, you will probably enjoy strolling through the list and rememberings of your own.

At least for now, this is one faded and outdated treasure I’m not ready to let go of.


  • 25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago (#4)
  • 5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love) – The Presidents (#11)
  • ABC – The Jackson 5 (#1)
  • After Midnight – Eric Clapton (#18)
  • Ain’t It Funky Now (Part 1) – James Brown (#24) (instrumental)
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross (#1)
  • Airport Love Theme (Gwen & Vern) – Vincent Bell & Orchestra (#31) (instrumental)
  • All I Have To Do Is Dream – Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell (#27)
  • All Right Now – Free (#4)
  • Always Something There to Remind Me – R.B. Greaves (#27)
  • American Woman – The Guess Who (#1)
  • Amos Moses – Jerry Reed (#8)
  • Are You Ready? – Pacific Gas & Electric (#14)
  • As the Years Go By – Mashmakhan (#31)
  • Baby Hold On – The Grass Roots (#35)
  • Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) – The Temptations (#3)
  • Band of Gold – Freda Payne (#3)
  • Be My Baby – Andy Kim (#17)
  • The Bells – The Originals (#12)
  • Big Yellow Taxi – The Neighborhood (#29)
  • Black Magic Woman – Santana (#4)
  • Blowing Away – The 5th Dimension (#21)
  • Border Song (Holy Moses) – Aretha Franklin (#37)
  • Born to Wander – Rare Earth (#17)
  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do – Lenny Welch (#34)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (#1)
  • Brother Rapp (Parts 1 & 2) – James Brown (#32)
  • Call Me – Aretha Franklin (#13)
  • Can’t Stop Loving You – Tom Jones (#25)
  • Candida – Dawn (#3)
  • Cecilia – Simon & Garfunkel (#4)
  • Celebrate – Three Dog Night (#15)
  • Check Out Your Mind – The Impressions (#28)
  • Closer to Home – Grand Funk Railroad (#22)
  • Come And Get It – Badfinger (#7)
  • Come Running – Van Morrison (#39)
  • Come Saturday Morning – The Sandpipers (#17)
  • Cracklin’ Rosie – Neil Diamond (#1)
  • Cry Me A River – Joe Cocker (#11)
  • Daughter of Darkness – Tom Jones (#13)
  • Deeper and Deeper – Freda Payne (#24)
  • Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) – The Delfonics (#10)
  • Do It – Neil Diamond (#36)
  • Do the Funky Chicken – Rufus Thomas (#28)
  • Do What You Wanna Do – Five Flights Up (#37)
  • Do You See My Love (for You Growing) – Jr. Walker & The All-Stars (#32)
  • Domino – Van Morrison (#9)
  • Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) – Aretha Franklin (#11)
  • Easy Come, Easy Go – Bobby Sherman (#9)
  • El Condor Pasa – Simon & Garfunkel (#18)
  • The End of Our Road – Marvin Gaye (#40)
  • Engine Number 9 – Wilson Pickett (#14)
  • Everybody’s Got the Right to Love – The Supremes (#21)
  • Everybody’s Out of Town – B.J. Thomas (#26)
  • Everybody Is A Star – Sly And Family Stone (#1)
  • Everything Is Beautiful – Ray Stevens (#1)
  • Everything’s Tuesday – Chairmen of the Board (#38)
  • Evil Ways – Santana (#9)
  • Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me – Crow (#19)
  • Express Yourself – Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band (#12)
  • Fancy – Bobbie Gentry (#31)
  • Fire and Rain – James Taylor (#3)
  • For the Good Times – Ray Price (#11)
  • For the Love of Him – Bobbi Martin (#13)
  • For You Blue – The Beatles (#1)
  • Games – Redeye (#27)
  • Get Ready – Rare Earth (#4)
  • Get Up I Feel Like Being Like a Sex Machine (Part 1) – James Brown (#15)
  • Gimme Dat Ding – The Pipkins (#9)
  • Give Me Just a Little More Time – Chairmen of the Board (#3)
  • Go Back – Crabby Appleton (#36)
  • God, Love and Rock & Roll – Teegarden & Van Winkle (#22)
  • Gotta Hold on to This Feeling – Jr. Walker & The All-Stars (#21)
  • Green-Eyed Lady – Sugarloaf (#3)
  • Groovy Situation – Gene Chandler (#12)
  • Gypsy Woman – Brian Hyland (#3)
  • Hand Me Down World – The Guess Who (#17)
  • He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – Neil Diamond (#20)
  • He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – The Hollies (#7)
  • Heaven Help Us All – Stevie Wonder (#9)
  • Heed the Call – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (#33)
  • Hello Darlin’ – Conway Twitty (#1)
  • Hey Lawdy Mama – Steppenwolf (#35)
  • Hey, Mister Sun – Bobby Sherman (#24)
  • Hey There Lonely Girl – Eddie Holman (#2)
  • Hi-De-Ho – Blood, Sweat & Tears (#14)
  • Hitchin’ a Ride – Vanity Fare (#5)
  • Honey Come Back – Glen Campbell (#19)
  • The House Of the Rising Sun – Frijid Pink (#7)
  • I Ain’t Got Time Anymore – The Glass Bottle (#36)
  • I Am Somebody (Part 2) – Johnnie Taylor (#39)
  • I Found That Girl – The Jackson Five
  • I Just Can’t Help Believing – B.J. Thomas (#9)
  • (I Know) I’m Losing You – Rare Earth (#7)
  • I Really Don’t Want to Know – Elvis Presley (#21)
  • I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family (#1)
  • I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & The Family Stone (#38)
  • I Want to Take You Higher – Ike & Tina Turner (#34)
  • I (Who Have Nothing) – Tom Jones (#14)
  • I’ll Be There – The Jackson 5 (#1)
  • I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper – The Flaming Ember (#34)
  • I’ve Lost You – Elvis Presley (#32)
  • If I Were a Carpenter – Johnny Cash & June Carter (#36)
  • If I Were Your Woman – Gladys Knight & The Pips (#9)
  • If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot (#5)
  • (If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? – Ronnie Dyson (#8)
  • Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin (#16)
  • In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry (#3)
  • Indiana Wants Me – R. Dean Taylor (#5)
  • Instant Karma (We All Shine On) – John Ono Lennon (#3)
  • Isn’t It a Pity – George Harrison
  • It Don’t Matter to Me – Bread (#10)
  • It’s a New Day (Parts 1 & 2) – James Brown (#32)
  • It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14)
  • It’s All in the Game – Four Tops (#24)
  • It’s Only Make Believe – Glen Campbell (#10)
  • Jennifer Tomkins – Street People (#36)
  • Jingle Jangle – The Archies (#10)
  • Joanne – Michael Nesmith & The First National Band (#21)
  • Julie, Do Ya Love Me – Bobby Sherman (#5)
  • Kentucky Rain – Elvis Presley (#16)
  • Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me – Robin McNamara (#11)
  • Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) – Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers (#6)
  • Let A Man Come in and Do the Popcorn (Part 2) – James Brown (#40)
  • Let It Be – The Beatles (#1)
  • Let Me Go to Him – Dionne Warwick (#32)
  • Let’s Work Together – Canned Heat (#26)
  • Let’s Work Together (Part 1) – Wilbert Harrison (#32)
  • The Letter – Joe Cocker with Leon Russell (#7)
  • Little Green Bag – George Baker Selection (#21)
  • Lola – The Kinks (#9)
  • The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles (#1)
  • Long Lonesome Highway – Michael Parks (#20)
  • Long Long Time – Linda Ronstadt (#25)
  • Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma – The New Seekers (#14)
  • Lookin’ Out My Back Door – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#2)
  • Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse (#5)
  • Love Land – Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band (#16)
  • Love on a Two-Way Street – The Moments (#3)
  • Love or Let Me Be Lonely – The Friends of Distinction (#6)
  • Love the One You’re With – Stephen Stills (#14)
  • The Love You Save – The Jackson 5 (#1)
  • Lucretia MacEvil – Blood, Sweat & Tears (#29)
  • Ma Belle Amie – The Tee Set (#5)
  • Make It Easy on Yourself – Dionne Warwick (#37)
  • Make It With You – Bread (#1)
  • Make Me Smile – Chicago (#9)
  • Mama Told Me (Not to Come) – Three Dog Night (#1)
  • Maybe – The Three Degrees (#29)
  • Midnight Cowboy – Ferrante & Teicher (#10) (instrumental)
  • Mississippi – John Phillips (#32)
  • Mississippi Queen – Mountain (#21)
  • Montego Bay – Bobby Bloom (#8)
  • Most of All – B.J. Thomas (#38)
  • Mr. Bojangles – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (#9)
  • My Baby Loves Lovin’ – White Plains (#13)
  • My Sweet Lord – George Harrison (#1)
  • Neanderthal Man – Hotlegs (#22)
  • Never Had a Dream Come True – Stevie Wonder (#26)
  • No Matter What – Badfinger (#8)
  • No Time – The Guess Who (#5)
  • O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps (#8)
  • Oh Happy Day – Glen Campbell (#40)
  • Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (#14)
  • One Less Bell to Answer – The 5th Dimension (#2)
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young (#33)
  • Our House – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (#30)
  • Out In the Country – Three Dog Night (#15)
  • Overture from Tommy (A Rock Opera) – The Assembled Multitude (#16) (instrumental)
  • Patches – Clarence Carter (#4)
  • Peace Will Come (According to Plan) – Melanie (#32)
  • Precious, Precious – Jackie Moore (#30)
  • Psychedelic Shack – The Temptations (#7)
  • Puppet Man – The 5th Dimension (#24)
  • Question – The Moody Blues (#21)
  • Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head – B.J. Thomas (#1)
  • Rainy Night In Georgia – Brook Benton (#4)
  • The Rapper – The Jaggerz (#2)
  • Reach Out a nd Touch (Somebody’s Hand) – Diana Ross (#20)
  • Reflections of My Life – The Marmalade (#10)
  • Remember Me – Diana Ross (#16)
  • Ride Captain Ride – Blues Image (#4)
  • Rubber Duckie – Ernie (Jim Henson) (#16)
  • Save the Country – The 5th Dimension (#27)
  • See Me, Feel Me – The Who (#12)
  • Share the Land – The Guess Who (#10)
  • She Came in Through the Bathroom Window – Joe Cocker (#30)
  • Shilo – Neil Diamond (#24)
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder (#3)
  • Silver Bird – Mark Lindsay (#25)
  • The Sly, Slick, and the Wicked – The Lost Generation (#30)
  • Snowbird – Anne Murray (#8)
  • Solitary Man – Neil Diamond (#21)
  • Somebody’s Watching You – Little Sister (#32)
  • Something’s Burning – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (#11)
  • Son-of-a-Preacher Man – Aretha Franklin (#13)
  • A Song of Joy (Himno A La Alegria) – Miguel Rios (#14)
  • Soolaimon (African Trilogy II) – Neil Diamond (#30)
  • Spill the Wine – Eric Burdon & War (#3)
  • Spirit in the Dark – Aretha Franklin (#23)
  • Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum (#3)
  • Stand By Your Man – Candi Staton (#24)
  • Steal Away – Johnnie Taylor (#37)
  • Still Water (Love) – Four Tops (#11)
  • Stoned Love – The Supremes (#7)
  • Stoney End – Barbra Streisand (#6)
  • Stop the War Now – Edwin Starr (#26)
  • Sugar Sugar – Wilson Pickett (#25)
  • Summertime Blues – The Who (#27)
  • Super Bad (Parts 1 & 2) – James Brown (#13)
  • Sweet Mary – Wadsworth Mansion (#7)
  • Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (#16)
  • The Tears Of A Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (#1)
  • Tell It All Brother – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (#17)
  • Temma Harbour – Mary Hopkin (#39)
  • Tennessee Bird Walk – Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan (#23)
  • Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) – Sly & The Family Stone (#1)
  • That’s Where I Went Wrong – Poppy Family (featuring Susan Jacks) (#29)
  • (They Long to Be) Close to You – Carpenters (#1)
  • The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King (#15)
  • Tighter, Tighter – Alive and Kicking (#7)
  • Travelin’ Band – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#2)
  • Trying to Make a Fool of Me – The Delfonics (#40)
  • Turn Back the Hands of Time – Tyrone Davis (#3)
  • Ugena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World) – The Temptations (#33)
  • United We Stand – The Brotherhood of Man (#13)
  • Up Around the Bend – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#4)
  • Up on Cripple Creek – The Band (#25)
  • Up the Ladder to the Roof – The Supremes (#10)
  • Vehicle – The Ides of March (#2)
  • Viva Tirado (Part 1) – El Chicano (#28) (instrumental)
  • Walk A Mile in My Shoes – Joe South & The Believers (#12)
  • War – Edwin Starr (#1)
  • We Gotta Get You a Woman – Runt (Todd Rundgren) (#20)
  • We’ve Only Just Begun – Carpenters (#2)
  • Westbound #9 – The Flaming Ember (#24)
  • What Is Truth? – Johnny Cash (#19)
  • Which Way You Goin’ Billy? – Poppy Family (#2)
  • Who’s Your Baby – The Archies (#40)
  • Winter World of Love – Engelbert Humperdinck (#16)
  • The Wonder of You – Elvis Presley (#9)
  • Wonderful World, Beautiful People – Jimmy Cliff (#25)
  • Woodstock – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (#11)
  • Yellow River – Christie (#23)
  • You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – Elvis Presley (#11)
  • You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) – Gladys Knight & The Pips (#25)
  • You’re the One (Part 1) – Little Sister (#22)
  • (You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String – Chairmen of the Board (#38)
  • Your Song – Elton John (#8)
  • Your Time to Cry – Joe Simon (#40)

The roads in Michigan are so well marked. Really. Every single one of them. We’ve spent two days following maps, courtesy of Trout Unlimited, outlining all of the access points on the Upper Manistee and Au Sable Rivers and haven’t gotten lost once. And that’s saying something.

Granted, the majority of them are sand and gravel, but there’s always a sign marking every intersection. They even have real names, like River Road. If Hoosiers marked these roads they would have an occasional sign, and it would say something like 1000 West, or 250 North, and we would still be driving around.

The roads have been just about as empty as the one in the picture. I bet we haven’t seen more than four or five automobiles other than ours, which is probably why we came across the neatest thing. This was one of those times when I long for a super human lens for my camera.

We drove up slowly as we saw a huge “something” on the side of the road. As we got closer it moved into the bush. We thought it was gone, but it wasn’t. “It” turned out to be a huge turkey staring back at us from the woods.

Then one turned into three gobblers and four hens. The gobblers were in full strut, what I have found to be their mating regalia.

They let me get out of the car and snap a few pictures before they headed off deep into the woods.

This was almost as cool as watching some tiny little bugs hatch and drop into the river, and into the waiting mouths of some hungry fish. Well, no. This was way cooler, but don’t tell John I said that.

The purported purpose of this visit, according to John, was to scope out the rivers in preparation for a trip later this year. I believe the true mission was to make me feel comfortable with a fly rod and reel, wearing all kinds of gear, waist deep in the river in a pair of waders. That’s right. Waders.

Mission accomplished. I’m ready. At least now I know I won’t be the only turkey out there.