Tag Archives: memory

Cults and Memories

The past, mothers, religion, improv, and relationships are coming up a lot lately in a mesh of memories and reminders. Relationships are challenging when you have depression and social anxiety. Flashes of memories or just the feelings from the past can sweep over you when triggered and your mind is confused but your body is set in the reaction to something years long gone.
My family was very religious, restrictive, and poor. Unlike some of my siblings, I did not do home schooling at any point. I attended private religious schools. However, I was expected to follow my parents rules of dress, behavior, music, work, speech, and life and not participate in most of what my fellows at school did. Simultaneously being told I needed to be more open and friendly because I was shy and felt isolated from others I was expected not to integrate or enjoy the things they did. My clothes were a source of mockery, along with my speech impediments and that I wasn’t allowed the entertainments those around me shared.

I am a reader. I always have been a reader. But my choice of books was highly restricted. I read everything I was allowed multiple times, even the encyclopedias and dictionaries. But once my options opened when I left their home, I realized that despite the apparent attempts at a good education I was woefully lacking in knowledge, experience, and variety. I began to read a wide variety of books and materials and continue that to this day.

Each incident at school was the start of a chain of emotional events and trouble I knew to expect. In many ways, the expectation was worse than the series of punishments. The schools had orders to use swats for any offence they felt worthy, which is broad and covers most things including failing to turn in homework I completed but didn’t give them. I would ace a test and go to receive my swats for not doing the homework to prepare for the test I aced. Walking dejectedly to the office I knew it was only the first because when I got home I would would get a lecture separately from each parent and swats again from one of them.

Rarely did I do anything truly deserving of punishment because I had a very clear understanding of the consequence and reward ratio. I felt I had a hard enough time without adding extra issues for limited reward. Of course, that means when I did choose to do something the punishment was fairly pointless because I knew what it would be and chose to act anyway. I had already determined the risk to reward ratio was in my favor.

The lives around me were like another world to me that I watched from a distance without relating or fully understanding. From the girl whos parents dropped of hundreds for her to go shopping in the mall alone after school or to take her friends out to the kids sharing the newest dance moves in the halls I could not participate. I was quiet, shy, and introverted and places like a shared locker room were a terrifying thought. Numerous times I opted to accept detention for changing in the nearby restroom rather than endure mockery and embarrassment in the locker room. I also had it drilled into me not to undress in front of others so a locker room was a problem.

Conversations were hard because we shared nothing in common other than classes and those were mostly boring and too easy so I didn’t really pay attention. At some point there was always the risk conversation would veer toward my mother and her cancer, which was not something I wanted to discuss. Religious people would imply either that they were praying which was obviously not working or that if she actually had faith she would not be sick. The added issue that she was a test patient because we couldn’t afford treatment much less any extras or luxuries. I absolutely was unwilling to discuss where the food on our table came from because that was a mockery I knew I could not handle. How do you feed 7-10 people on $20 a week, sometimes more, sometimes less? The poor ladies of the church had a list of stores that discarded usable food and mom had an agreement to collect discarded vegetables for the horse. We sorted through the horses vegetables to see what could go on the tale first.

Many times I remember sitting in a parking lot while my mother composed herself or cried in the one place no one could see. After a horrifyingly degrading day trying to meet the needs of the family or accepting charity she would go home to dad’s anger and screaming rants about anything and everything. She would go home to 2 children in constant medical car and her own terrifying medical care. She would go home to the holes in the floor and walls and the car held together by duct ape and wood. She would go home to watch me cower from dad’s anger and my brothers acting out. Failing that we would go to church, where we spent more evening than not to be told how we were all sinners and needed to give more, do more, be more, bring in more people, and earn a place. We went to the church where I was yet again alone and mocked and here knew the question of my families lack of faith and why they were poor and sick would come up. I knew there would be taunts and often physical confrontation. These happened at school but more consistently at the churches.

Each service I listened then as mom taught me I went home and studied. I read their books and teachings. These always led to questions that if I asked someone other than my parents resulted in something to the effect of me being a girl child that should learn my place and be silent and do as I was told. Years of memorization and reading led me to no other conclusion than the religion was a compounded grouping of modifications stolen from older teachings and chosen by various leaders in the worst periods of history to best control, dominate, and instill fear. It is a religion based on fear and control. It is a religion that teaches the only reason to be a good person is to avoid punishment not because it is right. Each test of the history I was taught led to the inescapable conclusion they had manipulated the teaching to show a lie and manipulate the views of the children they took into their care.

What I saw from the outside was a cult that manipulated participants to view the world through a filter and with careful blinders. They were trying for the isolation of those in the retreats but in the city so they could better raw more people.

My mother was a brilliant and strong woman trapped in a world that treated women as a lower level being. She did all the work for a doctorate but was denied the degree because she was a woman at a baptist college. She was a writer and a researcher by nature, a leader and communicator but denied the right to lead, teach, research, or speak freely. The man was the head of the household and the wife was expected to follow him, obey him, accept his behavior, and not question or attempt to teach men. With permission a woman could teach other women or children but that would be shut down if they questioned her teachings or behavior outside class. Children were under her rule but punishments were the prerogative of the man, as were the rules she was to teach. Girls were expected to be obedient, submissive, silent, and learn the proper behaviors of a good wife. I refused to learn any wifely duties at every step, only many years later learning some of them were fun skills when used for your own pleasure or business rather than in service to a master.
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Cooking

I love to cook. I love the ingredients, the flavors, the smells, the history, and the tastes. I spread my ingredients out and chop and prep running several dishes at a time until I have a meal or several meals ready. My goals are to have good food within a certain flavor profile for as many servings as I need and to have no ingredient waste if possible. I try to prepare lunch for several days and take the remainders for my meal that evening I prepare them. I want colors and flavors textures and scents. Food starts when you smell it and see it and the richness of the flavor is increased by the richness of the colors, scents, and texture. Some things I love the flavor of do have troublesome smells or textures but they are worth it.
I really learned to cook here in Hawaii the first time I lived here. Obviously, since I was in my 30s I did cook prior to that. But food wasn’t the same kind of interest. There were times I worked hard to prepare and learn complicated dishes and meals but I didn’t’ really understand them. I didn’t understand flavor profiles, cultural distinctions, the historical and cultural reasons certain dishes are what they are, why some substitutions work one place and not another. I loved good food but had not yet developed the love of ingredients, history, cooking, and the rich value of food and sharing food.
After I moved back to the mainland I had a really hard time adapting to what was available in stores. They are the usual things to people there and to many of the dishes I ate but not to how I learned to relate to food. Since I have returned here I find myself once again enjoying my time picking vegetables in China town or visiting the various stores I love to find ingredients at. I am coming back in to the pleasure of just cooking something because I want to not just so I can feed my family. I don’t come home too tired to think about cooking or to a kitchen I am unwilling to cook in. The kitchen here is small but clean and decently stocked with pans and needs.
Now I buy a few ingredients and spread them out to prep. I can take a couple vegetables, a protein (today it was tofu and mushrooms), a base like starch or purple sweet potatoes or kamut, and whatever I happen to have in my cabinet for spicing and flavor extras to create a series of different dishes for the week. Each is put into it’s container and sealed for the freezer and a bit is put on my plate for dinner. I spent $7 today and made dinner and 4 lunches by adding rice I made while I ate lunch and some spices from my cabinet.
I love that feeling when I finish eating something really good and know I have several meals ready for lunch in the freezer and when I look back to check the kitchen it is clean and ready for the next person with no sign I have been in there. I had only a few vegetable tips to discard and I could use those for broth if I had a way to store them.

Last week my flavors were mostly Italian leaning and this week they are more Thai or like those you see in Buddha bowl recipes. The week before I made each one different (to be able to do that with the same few ingredients pleases me.) Sometimes I have an ingredient I don’t know the name of because all the signs were in Chinese. I have used some of them many times and am familiar with them even if I don’t know what to call them. Others are new and that is always fun. I have learned usually to tell how to substitute or how to cook/prep something new by examining it.
I love food and cooking. Good food is calming and pleasant to enjoy. The ingredients have a history and a story. They are connected to cultures, people, and history of our lives. These foods rose out of cultures and impacted the changes in cultures. Food are the foundation of sharing and communication in many situations. They can be a way to connect or smooth interactions. Food is important and it is a foundation of society.

Why do I Write ?

Today, another writing exercise. This is a sort of stream of consciousness based on what is around me and a question. It is unedited and random.

Why do I write? That is an interesting question, and one I
am not certain I can fully answer. I write to express myself. I write to get
the words out. I write to remember. I write to describe. I write to share. I
write to heal. I write because writing is part of who I am. I am not writing
but writing is and writing is happening. As Writing the Bones said “writing is
writing.
The sun is out. The ac is on. Heat wraps around you with a
wet blanket. It isn’t hot like I remember as a child. The stifling, heavy heat
that press on you and pushes tendrils into you sapping all your energy is
pervasive in Texas and Louisiana. The damp heavy air makes the heat oppressive
as it nears or passes 100 degrees. Mosquitoes and gnats swarm and bite causing
you to bleed and itch into your dripping sweat. Plants wilt in the sun and
often in the shade. You can’t water during the day or you burn them but you
have to water or many plants will die from the heat and dehydration. This same
dehydration will hit you if you spend to much time out in it when hiking,
working, camping, walking, or playing. People frequently fail to notice just how
dehydrated they are. In some areas the dry air draws the moisture out of you. In
others the heavy, wet humidity causes you to sweat it out.

A pounding echoes through the shop as the crew loads and
unloads materials and preps those that need pre-assembly or dismantling. Hearing
the sound outside the glass door my mind tries to picture what they are doing
and what equipment they are working with. I am uncertain what crew is here
today, although I have seen several of them coming in for equipment or paperwork.
Having taken the time to get a tour of the shop I know what equipment we supply
and assemble here. It helps me to follow the calls and conversations around me
if I know the materials we are working with. Having grown up on construction
sites and reading blueprints all the details make sense but the names are a
blur and a mystery. I don’t remember names. I remember the sounds of metal
alloys as they are worked or hammered. I remember the sounds or the specific
tools. I remember the smell of sawn wood and how the acrid touch of arsenic
touches the treated boards lending a different smell than the white pine or the
rich cedar smell.

Distance

Distance. My last post was the distance of those that lost their place. This is about distance within society and relationships. Sometimes we feel distant from someone we see every day. Other times we feel close to someone at a great physical distance. Other than a few nieces, nephews and cousins I am distant from my family. For years some of us lived in the same area but we rarely saw one another and after mother died we were increasingly distant. My husband and I are physically very distant but we talk every day and text all the time, we are not distant. We don’t have the emotional distance that is the standard in my family or his. My job is new so there is a natural distance of strangers that must be together every day and interact on a proscribed pattern. My roommates are each in their own worlds with little contact between us. We are distant in a whole different way.
Having moved back here again I feel the great distance to the mainland friends. However, when we lived in the same state we all worked and rarely saw each other. So, is the physical distance the source of that distance? Recent years have brought a new battle, with depression. That is part of the distance. Social anxieties and my natural introvert tendencies are also factors. My distance is often of my own devising and probably often in my own mind.
Crowds have always been difficult, sometimes to the point of physical pain or illness. I don’t make friends well, so moving many times, often great distances, allowed my circle to shrink from small to near non-existence. When you don’t make the casual friends most people have, you tend to have fewer but closer friends. To suddenly realize they consider the outsider and casual acquaintance you feared you are is not so much a shock as a blow. You are not surprised but you don’t know where it leaves you.

Gaiman at one point says that events are cowards. Like events, stresses tend to leap out at you all at once rather than one at a time. We all have stress and problems. How many can add up before you feel like you are being killed by the death of a thousand paper cuts while a mountain falls on you.

Many people add a little distance to those around them when a major stressor hits. By the same token some people distance themselves from people undergoing large amounts of stress. When debt becomes a problem or their marriage is strained that may become a verboten topic and one less thing friends are party to. A fight at work or uncomfortable relationships there are another type of stressor. Illness, auto problems, children, family, sick pets, trouble with neighbors, natural disasters, fear, debt, lost of income, each thing adds up a little or a lot and affects you and those around you. Each thing adds distance somewhere.
When work stresses you out and you come home angry it affects your family. Each thing adds to or changes the distance somewhere. Often that distance is more inside you than outside or it is in response to the changes in your behavior. But that distance feeds the fear, depression, anger, and pain. Distance creates distance.

Okay, so I feel distant and far from friends. But, as I settle back into the peace of living here where I choose to be I can admit that the distance is no greater here than it was anywhere else. I can allow myself to admit the distance is my own pain, social anxiety, and fear of being hurt more. Recognizing that allows me to acknowledge when I am creating a distance that I choose not to develop and to change my actions and reactions, thus breaking the triggers and changing the stories. The distance here is the same in every meaningful way as it was there but I am taking action in my responses.
Distance in society and relationships is a constantly changing thing with each layer and interconnected connection flowing with changes in the others. Our work life impacts our emotional state and our energy levels. What we eat, read, enjoy, and where we go affects our relationships and energy levels. I quit drinking and found my circle of active friends changed because we had different interests and pastimes. When stress levels are too high I find it hard to maintain the social connections that could help my mental state. But all of those things are also impacted by the many facets of the lives of each other person involved.
We live in a web of constantly changing distance that is as much internal as external.

Neverwhere and Distance

Taking the bus to work allows a lot of time to read. One of my books this week is Neverwhere. I am reading it again for a book club but it has been a favorite for years. One idea has especially stuck with me for years. That is how easily one falls from society and how hard it can be to return.
On the streets near my place you see a lot of homelessness. Mostly people ignore them, avoid them, and fear them. I often wonder why. What is it their fear? Sometimes I wonder if part of it is the fear they could easily be in that position themselves. Does it feel contagious or dangerous to get to close or acknowledge them? This is part of the the idea in Neverwhere. The act of acknowledging them, of helping them causes him to lose his place in society and fall through the cracks into the city under the city.
I understand this. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with homeless in many cities. There is a distance, a sense of separation from society that feels insurmountable. Being there either with them or as one of them you feel like you are in another world, a harsh and dangerous world far removed from the life you so recently knew. People rushing by have no connection to you and look down with a demeaning disdain and fear of contamination. Parents pull children away like you will eat them or infect them. Women move across the street like you are a threat to their safety.

By contrast, living in the high rise and living on the farm were vastly different from each other but they are connected. There is a pleasant and casual hostility between the sections within society, a rivalry of place and meaning. It is vastly different than the alien world underneath that none of them want to acknowledge.

The department head at one job asked the group how many of us were 1 or 2 checks from being homeless. Less than 5% could say no and most of those shared expenses with families. Working every day, many with multiple jobs, most with two or more family earners, many in school, most sharing expenses, yet we all lived paycheck to paycheck. Each of us knew that we needed every single check just to survive.

When that is always in the back of your mind (And how could it not be niggling at you to some extent) you see those homeless and know that you are one injury, illness, pregnancy from being where they are. Maybe the fear isn’t fear of them but fear of our economy and society that will not protect those on the edges. Would your friends be there if you went on the street? Would they blame you for being lazy or understand what happened? Would they help or would the distance grow? Would you be able to let them help or would your shame increase that distance?
I volunteer at a public garden and many people walk there or take the bus. Nearby is a walking underpass everyone avoids and says is unsafe. But the only reason anyone has ever given is that the homeless sleep there and need to have regular purges by the city. Daily I see homeless people. They are desperate, hungry, dirty, often broken. Many have given up. Sometimes they make me uncomfortable with smell or actions or talking to themselves but they don’t make me afraid.

But I approach them as someone that feels a distance from society and those around me at work, in stores, on the bus, on the beach. I still struggle to relate and communicate as a part of society. They talk about sports, family, nights out drinking, casual friendships, and simple lives they assume everyone relates to. Groups have always been hard for me anyway but life has made that more true rather than less. My degree was gained in classes with students half my age. My family is distant, callous and judgmental. Friends are far away. I worked my way to a high rise apartment and fell more than once in life. I have lived in many cities and in many parts and sections of society from the farms to the law offices, the hospitals to the construction sites, the streets to the high society events.
When people around me talk about how hard it is to afford living I remember mom sitting in the car calculating how she would feed 8 of us on $10 for the week. I remember selling cookies or anything else she and I could make so I could afford to be a part of the business meetings. When they talk about taking time off work or leaving their jobs or their 18 year old needing to look at getting something I remember I was a model at 14 and carrying lumber before 12. I remember working 5 part time jobs to pay for school and still being buried in school debt now. I remember driving my shiny new Mini and my limping 40 year old Honda. They talk about fearing the homeless and I remember the van of guys trying to grab me and the old man shooting the shotgun at the kids picking blackberries and us running unsure if he would really shoot us. I remember fights in the street and quiet nights answering phones in the room beside the morgue. I remember gardens and farm animals. I remember dark streets and formal dresses. I remember dying friends and casual game nights. I remember motorcycle trips and camping in the cold. I remember hospitals that couldn’t tell me what was wrong because there was no point in testing someone with cheap insurance and hospitals with spacious private rooms for comfortable recovery for those with the right insurance. I remember losing my job knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and just leaving to avoid it. I remember using a public bathroom to get into my suit or formal dress so I could be at the event and smiling or the interview. I remember mother crying after a hellish trip to get to a meeting because she realized everyone there just had dinner, dressed, drove over and was reasonably calm and feeling normal and she was desperate, stressed and exhausted. The car caught on fire on the way there, her cancer treatments were possibly coming back, she had a migraine, one child was sick and another hurt, dad and she fought that day, a storm slammed into the house as we left for the meeting but there was no rain when we arrived and everyone else was dry, the floor in the bathroom collapsed and the mortgage company wanted to take the house.

Distance. It will never fully leave me. I can never completely escape the feeling I may not belong and that those around me can see it. Even when they cant and I know it, I feel like they can. I feel the distance so I can’t escape it. So, I understand the idea of falling through the cracks.

Distance

Returning to life

The desk was cold and hard. the room was noisy, but in a distant way that crashed like waves on the bubble she felt around her. Being here was odd, fascinating, wonderful, scary, and felt like an impossible blend of familiar and strange.
Returning to university had been hard but she was glad she had acted on her decision. sitting here waiting for class to start she watched this room full of kids half her age and smiled. In some things she related all too well and in others it was like dealing with another species that grew up on another world. She has friends in this room and others she barely knows. A few she barely tolerates but that is the nature of a university. This is not her first or even her second. It also won’t be her last but she will graduate here.
Emotional distance has kept her going for some time now. Getting here hadn’t been easy but it was worth it. That morning she had been up early as every other day to get to one of her 5 jobs. Every break in class was an hour or two she could be at work and tuition was high. The sun from the window behind her caught the sparkle on one girl’s toe as she moved then on her finger. Watching the girl she recognized the ring from work that morning. Washing the dishes in the cafeteria was soothing in a way but sometimes the private university students were rude to staff they considered beneath them. This girl she remembered came through not long after the hilariously stoned boy that had been shocked by her hand reaching out the window for his plates.
A voice broke into her watching as someone realized she was there and joined her. The group project was halfway done and the team needed to meet soon. On her other side sat a friend from last night’s gaming session. These kids were bringing her back and although they didn’t know it, healing her.

After the past few years seeing the world with college students in this small, secluded place was exactly the separation from life she needed. Community college had been good. She had finished both programs. But she hadn’t gotten the certificates because she left before the optional test. Community college was still in Houston though and that was the last place she wanted to be. Here she was in the world of this small school and these people that saw the world fresh and light with none of the darkness she had seen in the world.

Darkness was there but here she could remember how to find the balance inside to deal with it. Here she could remember the important things not what business and society said was important but rather those things that make people smile or laugh. Learning with them and teaching in the writing center reminded her that helping and teaching healed both people.

Walking

Looking back on it later she remembered heat, dry grass, walking, and the realization that something had to change.
Walking along the side of the road in the dry grass was mind numbing. Heat pressed down on the leather jacket and pants. Her hair was damp from sweat and the T-shirt clung wetly to her skin. The heat was almost visible and the humidity was so high you could feel the air touching you. She could feel a sunburn even through the jacket.
It felt like she had been at this for quite some time but she wasn’t certain how far she had gone or how long she had walked. Starting in Hempstead she had headed first for Houston then decided to go to Rosenberg from the edge of Houston. That was a drive she had done many times and even in a car it felt long.

A couple of short rides and fending of men that felt a ride meant they deserved sex and she had lunch in Rosenberg. Her ex girlfriend was pleasant and commented how much calmer she was when wired. watching her ex eat as they talked she never even wanted any of the food.

Now, she was walking into Houston. The roads were mostly empty of businesses in this area but more would start showing up soon. Horns honked and hate was hurled from windows at the woman in motorcycle gear walking in the summer heat. Golden grass was so dry it was noisy under her feet and snapped rather than bending. Heat shimmers rippled around her and she was thirsty all the time.
It felt like long stretches of road weren’t there because she didn’t really remember walking them. She just walked in the direction she was going and kept moving. Thoughts rolled continuously but grew increasingly random and sometimes she wondered if she had missed a point of logic somewhere. Sleep was a distant memory she had avoided longer than she could really count. Speed and constant movement kept her going. She remembered weeks of going from place to place, pool hall to pool hall, friends place to stranger’s party, hotel lobbies to university campuses, and always looking for entertainment. When one group stopped being active and got sleepy or boring there was always something else to do.

At some point a clock in front of a bank flashed the current temperature of 115 degrees and her brain suddenly wondered when was the last time she ate and why had she not noticed how hot it was. This couldn’t be healthy. Another mile or two down the road she was sure it had been days, as many as 2 weeks but there had been protein drinks in there and a diet drink here and there. That couldn’t be good. Her body was still wired but coming down. She could remember every time it had tried to come down recently and she had taken more to roll it a bit further. It hurt to come down. When she came down she had to see her life and feel her body, recognize where she was. She couldn’t avoid the depression and voices when she came down. Looking in the mirror she saw a stranger and had no idea what to do about it.
There was a whole foods in the parking lot and as she thought she decided she needed the smoothie shown on the sign. With no other options available she stopped at the payphone and called a friend to get her. She didn’t know if he would but she knew he wouldn’t try to get something from her because she needed help.
Sitting there and slowly drinking the smoothie, she waited. mind numb and crashing she just waited. When they reached his place she went to sleep. Sometime a couple days later she began to realize what happened and what she needed to do. Change came in with the heat of summer and walking that may have been hours and may have been days. Life, she realized had been waiting there all along.

A memory of winter

Campus was quiet. The crackle of ice and drips were the loudest thing she heard where voices and movements of more than fifty thousand students usually filled the space with a constant background hum that had become the baseline for quiet for her. this small section of campus, a square hidden on the back corner was never as busy but even for this week, silence was something she had never felt here. Everything glittered and glowed in the diffuse white light of a winter day like few that came to this region. Every plant was a shining light against the white ground. Trees drooped and arched, reaching down to better show off the icy coats that were so rare here. Chill wind did not usually make her smile but nothing was going to ruin her enjoyment of an empty city, that for once didn’t press on her mind with the constant assault and pressure of thousands of people within every block living and moving around her. Outside campus most of the city was still there but they hunkered down in their homes, pulling their minds and attention inside, away from the dangerous storms and destructive ice that blanketed the city. Roads glittered, empty and quiet. Even the interstates were peaceful in their lazy paths. Occasional sirens broke the silence marking the location of any that ventured out like birds calling warning to the flock and stiring snow flurries in their rise that would blanket the space and cover all traces of their disturbance. Her heavy cloak caught a gust of wind and wrapped tight around her, it’s black a stark shadow in the jewel tinted day. Tendrils of hair peeked out near her hands, having tangled in a gust of wind when she reached out to touch the chill trees beside the campus clinic.

Goodbye to My Father

Today I am talking a break from showing my photography or paintings, jewelry or woodworking. Saturday past was my father’s funeral. I was unable to prepare something or speak then so I am working on this now. I needed to see everyone, walk in my parents home, touch their lives, dig through the pictures and memories with the family; I needed to process.

When mom died, I knew what I felt. We were close, she was my support, my friend, my mother. We had talked about it and worked through it before. After, I couldn’t deal with my family. Mom told me before that she thought I would have that problem and that it was okay. Now dad, how do you respond to his death.

Our family lost my sister first of the immediate family. That hit dad hard. Mom wanted family together but understood in all the strong personalities, different beliefs, and everything else our family was often best in smaller groups. Dad felt all that was part of being a family, family should be together good and bad, loving or fighting, happy or sad. Janet was distant as long as I can remember. Dad hated that. They couldn’t be in the same room together without fighting for long but that wasn’t the point; she is is daughter, his first, the one he worried about every day. I think of the relationship my oldest niece has with her mother, even now that Janet is gone and I think of dad. The same sense of family is family, you love them, you honor them, you want to be with them under any circumstances even when they make you so mad you can’t speak. Allora shows the best of her grandfather.

Next was mom. You can’t say that hit dad hard; it broke him. How could it not? My youngest brother, Paul, said in the service that he didn’t want to make the day about mom but you can’t talk about dad without talking about mom. You hear that and think…they did everything together. But that doesn’t even touch the reality of it. Dad told me that mom was the foundation of him, his life, our family, everything. He honestly felt he was nothing without her. He loved her with every part of himself. He loved all of us kids whole hardheartedly, like his oldest, Janet, his kids were part of himself. But his wife was the core.

I have heard countless people ask each other who they would have married if not their spouse or what would they have done. Asking dad that was pointless. He had no other thought. He made the decision and asked until she agreed. She said no several times. I understand that part, I may have made a mistake earlier but I couldn’t have chosen anyone but my husband. I can’t even picture or seriously consider the thought of life without him. So I understand that dad passed some things on to us.

Jon, my oldest brother said that we are realizing now as we get older how much we learned from dad. He’s right. I always knew my art, my woodworking, my willingness to drop and go when I felt it needed, and my willingness to try anything came from dad. But I see his love, his heart, his strength, and his unbending individuality also. Mom added a whole other dimension to all those with one of the strongest personalities and wills anyone has met. Like dad, I will try to fix anything from a motorcycle or car to a desk, from the wiring of a house to a sick cat, from a strangled office to a friendship. He was willing to try so he was usually successful…at least to a functional point. He could build with intricate amazing art and strength unmatched and then he would turn around and fix mom’s headlight on the Cadillac with a 2 x 6 board.

Friendship was a recurring theme in the service. Dad was a friend for life. It didn’t matter whether he agreed with you. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about you. It didn’t matter what you wanted. Once he was your friend, he was your friend. I many times saw him cry because something happened in a friends life…a friend that hadn’t spoken to him or let him in their life for years. It didn’t matter, they were his friend. He felt for them and wanted to help. Dad always wanted to help. He always did what he felt was right. No-one ever agreed with him. He never fit in. But he did what he felt was right anyway.

He was hard, harsh, loud, brash, stubborn, unbending, but he was passionate, loving, loyal, honest, strong, hardworking, creative, intelligent, and open. Dad never hid anything – not what he owned, what he felt, what he said, what he did. He was honest whatever the cost. I watched them build several companies from nothing. They worked hard and held not just themselves but anyone that worked on their site to a level of integrity and honor that kept many crews off their jobs. But they were so honest, they were hurt when their clients were not. They lost everything to churches that took them and it broke their hearts as much as their lives. We would go back to having nothing but more than that they felt those churches had betrayed everything a church should stand for. Dad worked every day, worked hard, and did his best to make his work result in something that was a part of someones life not just a structure.

I worked on decks with him, I designed decks with him. I worked on metal buildings with him, designed them, drew them, worked on the site with him. I work on churches with him. When mom started cancer treatments I wasn’t in school yet so I went often with dad to work. I learned to draw, to design, to listen, to feel the needs, to understand the function, to work, to carry wood, to stack materials right, to find the people that knew the things you needed. Dad drove across town coffee pot to coffee pot stopping at jobs he had finished years ago, at suppliers, at friends, at engineers, at stores, at print shops. He would talk to anyone, and everyone was treated the same. He expected people to be honest like him even though he would say otherwise. Some of those people remained friends until the end. Dad stopped at the churches especially often.

At the service Mark Thrift said that he understood dad because he tried to understand him. He and my parents were close most of my life and that mutual understanding and trust was the core of that. He was right, you had to want to understand dad, he didn’t come easy. He made no effort to bend to your expectations. He was who he was, take it or leave it. Push him away and he would just pack and go. You couldn’t change him and you couldn’t push him but you could touch his heart and you could earn his loyalty. His heart was always open. Most people heard his loud brash mouth or saw his gruff ways and left it at that. But that meant they never actually saw dad. His passion, artistry, strength, honesty, loyalty, love, intelligence, and family were the parts they should have seen. Ignore his piles of stuff, his hothead reactions, his harsh exterior…just don’t push him.

He left his mark on all of us. We have good traits and bad from both parents and we are proud of that. I see those same traits in my nieces and nephews. They can also be proud of that. I want them to know their grandparents loved them, wanted them to be able to stand tall and proud to do what they felt they should. Dad and mom both would tell them they came from strong blood, passionate blood, creative blood, hardworking blood, with a wanderlust, a core of loyalty, and a heart worth being proud of. Take those strengths, add those from your other families and be who you are. That is what your grandparents wanted. They hoped you would agree with them but they taught us to make our own decisions, to stand solid, to work hard, and to never back down. They taught us to be honest to a fault, loyal through anything, passionate in relationships and life, and creative in whatever you do. Embrace your strengths and know when to ask someone else for information or help. Mom always said it was better to say you would find out than give a wrong answer. Dad always directed them to mom. I hope you all find a partner as loyal as dad and as supportive as mom, as honest as them both, as passionate and as hardworking as them both. Embrace who you are and what you came from. Accept the good with the bad and know that both give you strength. Our family has hurt each other and reacts strongly but we always love each other and we are always there for each other in the end. Dad and mom have left their legacy in all of us and all of you, know that can help you through anything