Something Wistful This Way Comes

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Man, it’s a hot one…like seven inches from the midday sun…” Yeah, that’s the Bay Area these past few days. If I was on the coast like I was before I moved, I would bemoaning the heat and anxiously awaiting our lovely natural air conditioner. But I’m not. I’m in Concord. No hope for fog out here. Hang in there, Donna!!

Concord…not where I expected to end up. I knew a move was coming late last year, and I had hoped to move up north where I’ve been trying to relocate for decades, probably deep down since 1971 when my family moved from Santa Rosa. In 1993, my own family and I tried to get situated up by Windsor near a small church we wanted to minister with. But no such luck…no such opportunity, no door opened. Again in 2006, after my divorce, I wanted to take the profits from my East Bay home and buy a place in Santa Rosa. I put an offer on a little home (with lots of rooms), counter-offered even and still none of my offers were accepted. I ended up back on the Peninsula….not where I wanted, but definitely where Providence led. Definitely, Donna!! (See other blog – Positively Providential)

Finally, last winter knowing that my SSF job was ending in the spring, and, coincidentally (providentially if you will), my apartment lease was up at the same time, I became proactive for the first time in my life. I took the reins. All the kids got on board to move up to Santa Rosa. I knew a firm that I was SURE to get a position, a position with comparable pay. I was looking forward to returning to the quaint town I lived in as a young girl, all my fond memories of holidays, seasons, schooling and community are rooted in Santa Rosa. I was pretty happy that I was finally planning and doing things the “right” way. I even had my finances in place for this move.  Go Donna!!

However….it did not happen like I planned. I don’t know now…with three strikes against this desired move…if I will ever get up there. Let me tell you what did happen. I didn’t get the job nor the others I applied to and interviewed for. No job, no move. Only one promising job prospect came my way, and that was in Pittsburg. Pittsburg, really!!? I didn’t want to go to the East East Bay…I wanted to return to a place that had the elements of home to me. I wanted to be near the river, where I would feel close to my dad. But after all the Santa Rosa efforts failed, I just told the Lord, I will go where you lead. Yay, Donna!!

Once I yielded, things fell into place quite quickly and perfectly. The new job was available the day after my limited term position at SSF ended. An apartment was secured with ease. Ellie finished her course work right before our move, so she didn’t have to commute to Baden, and Eloisa was able to get into an independent study program to complete her freshman year at home. And away we went! Bye, Donna!!

We’ve been here for almost two months. I thank the Lord for the cooler weather we had through May, and I am so thankful for the crisp, cool air conditioning at my new job. I feel the Lord has welcomed me over here. My first day at work, I went into the break room only to be greeted with a coffee aroma, an aroma just like the one at my first construction job 40 years ago, a job I worked at with my dad. I’m sure it was just a plain pot of Folger’s, but it smelled like that old brand, Farmer Brothers. One of those deja vu olfactory experiences. Very cool, Donna!!

God knows I love bluebirds, and in Pacifica, I took lots of pictures of our Scrub Jays. Right before I moved, someone posted a pic of a Western Bluebird. I didn’t know there were any bluebirds over in this part of the state. So I looked them up and found that some were nearby in Antioch. One lunch I took a jaunt up to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park camera in hand, and I wasn’t even in the parking lot, when, lo and behold, there’s a male Western Bluebird perched on a fence post just waiting for me to take his picture. Welcome, Donna, bienvenidos!!

Finally, something wistful this way comes…so, this morning. I’ve been taking public transit to work since we’re in between cars, and this morning I took the local bus from Concord Bart all the way to work, two buses, lots of stops. The AC on the bus was freezing and looking out through the bus’s tinted windows to a slightly overcast sky, I was somehow transported from being in late Spring to feeling like I was in late Fall. It was weird. And, then, all of a sudden, all those lovely, wistful sensations of my most pleasant memories, many of which come from Santa Rosa, splashed over me. As I enjoyed and bemused this very pleasant experience, I thought, maybe, maybe God is bringing me home, bringing me to a place where those feelings and sensations reminiscent of late ’60’s Santa Rosa can be cultivated or experienced over here. Maybe my home is forward not backward, maybe….something wistful this way comes. Maybe, Donna!!

“The belonging you seek is not behind you – it is ahead.” 

Maz to Rey, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

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She Walks In Beauty – My Mother

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I looked over my blogs and noticed I hadn’t written a lot about my mom. My dad, yes; but my mom, not so much. As much as my dad was formidable, boisterous and gregarious, my mom was the opposite. She is quiet, hardworking and constant. And funny. But her humor is subtle and understated.

One of the funniest stories I remember I wrote in another blog: My sister and I were at my parents’ house one day. Standing at the kitchen counter, we were engaged in a serious and riveting conversation about what we all discuss in the kitchen: hemorrhoids. Who knows who was the afflicted, but our conversation covered causes, symptoms, side effects and various and sundry methods of treatment. My mother entered the kitchen while we discussed the burning, itching and pain. She listened for a bit. And, in a humph, she pronounced her expert therapeutic remedy: “Just put a little Vaseline on it; and, for Pete’s sake, stop licking it!” No, Mom, we’re not talking about cold sores. Although she didn’t intend that to be funny, it certainly was.

Living with my dad was no picnic. I remember the tumultuous times which she endured with dignity and strength…but there were times when he pushed her across the line. That’s when the plates and pots began to fly. I’m sure that quieted him down. I suspect she regretted those times, but she was human…she is human.

My dad liked to be the center of attention, and I think my mom was content to be in the shadow. As I remember all my dad gave me, all that I attributed to him to the creation of my personality, I realize the things that are the dearest and the most important to me are the qualities and characteristics I received from my mom.

Three biggies I got from my mom – faith, family and literature – continue to dominate my world. Her faith in her church is such a stronghold that it even kept me grounded, well as grounded as I could be (as a restless and reckless hare) until I found my own faith. Only God knows how much I owe to her prayers. My mom is so Catholic…not the devout zealot who prays and penances painfully, but the one who echoes and reflects the beauty and joy of the old denomination though aware of its shortcomings. A sensible saint.

My mom taught us “Ohana”. Family…like what little Lilo said, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” My mom taught me Ohana generosity. When a neighbor girl would come over hungry, I thought my mom may shoo her away, but she didn’t, she invited her in and fed her. That one act of kindness taught me to always keep my door open. Even when there were times when I didn’t have enough, I tried to exhibit her Ohana generosity.

Growing up there was one book – one book –  that I remember reading, my Mom’s literature book from her Honolulu Catholic high school. In this book, I discovered Shelley and others whose poetry became seeds, seeds which would bear fruit in my own writing and can be seen in my little library that I am creating. One of my favorite poems from that book, She Walks In Beauty, defines my mother:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
-Lord Byron

My beautiful mother’s raven tresses she cut after she got married. But her cheek and brow remain “so soft, so calm, yet eloquent” and her smiles still win and her tints still glow as she embarks into her ’90’s. Now she has some peace, and her love continues in innocence.

Thank you, Mom, for these priceless gifts. Gifts I hope to pass down to my children. Happy Mother’s Day.

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The Flower Fades

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Daffodils have been abloom in Pacifica this past month. I love this flower — it is so delightful, so innocent, so cheerful, yet, sadly, so short-lived. At the end of January, the green shoots are standing tall. I was excited to see them. I knew the flowers were coming. Seemingly, overnight, the blossoms bloomed. There they were, in their yellow glory. But, now, the stalks are leaning and the flowers are beginning to fade.

Isaiah writes, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…” Daffodils as well as all flowers represent the brevity of life. I remember the lives that have faded from my life, and one life, especially, that was cut off before it was fully abloom.

As you know, my dad died four months ago. The hardest death I’ve experienced. Everyday, I think of him…and the ache…the sense of loss…the sadness overwhelms me. He was no daffodil, he was like, as my niece Katie described, the redwoods he loved. He lived a long life, his flower never faded, but the tree was struck down by the Great Inevitable; and the subsequent loss has shook our family like no other event. His presence will be missed, his voice, though many times formidable, is sought for…many changes are going on in my life right now, changes I’d normally ask his advice on. He was the one I turned to for stability, for wisdom, for continuity. The strong pier I latched my little barque to. And now it’s flooding, and the pier is gone. Thankfully my Heavenly Father provides an eternal mooring.

My uncle died six years ago. He lived a full and active life. His bloom lasted as long as one would expect. He was a teacher who was a perpetual student. His home was filled with thousands of books, a haven for a bookworm like me. His homes were the places where I fell in love with books, and for that I will always be thankful and blessed. He traveled, he entertained, and he only slowed down a month before his blossom faded.

My friend’s fiancé died six years ago as well. I didn’t know him very well, but I know my friend, and in many ways I knew him because of the reflection of his life in hers. He brought her so much joy and happiness and through her happiness, I could tell he was a great man, a beautiful flower — a flower that sadly faded too soon. A bloom that is painfully missed to this day.

Finally, this day seven years ago, my family and I (and many others I know) remember a flower that didn’t have the time to fully bloom or ever fade. He died at 22 just reaching the full, vibrant bloom of youth. He was a beloved son to his mother as well as other women, including me. He was a beloved brother to all my children, all ten of them. Many of them mentioned that Jesse was the only one that knew them. He was like that – he noticed you and he listened to you.

I was an overprotective homeschooling mom in the middle of a divorce when this kid came bounding down the stairs with my boys into my home. I smelled trouble. So I was apprehensive — but this kid’s irrepressible charm and contagious smile won me over. At a time in my life when I felt not only invisible, but defeated, dejected and definitely down in the dumps (I was progressing in my housekeeping, though), Jesse noticed me too, he even called me “sexy” when I felt and I am sure looked quite the opposite. I am still amazed at the capacity and depth of love that not only my children, but their friends felt for this young man. And to this day…we miss our Jesse, our “Jelly Donut”.

Leo Buscaglia wrote: “What love we’ve given, we’ll have forever. What love we fail to give, will be lost for all eternity.” We who loved Jesse, Robert, Uncle Bill and Dad will always have that. This life is so short….the blossoms bloom for a short time, then the flowers fade, let us heed the psalmist’s admonition: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom that will cherish our brief stay here on earth, and those who are among us. 

The daffodils and the Scriptures agree.

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This Beautiful Country

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I love books! I mean, I really love books.  Many times I would rather read than eat, that’s how bad it is.  When I have extra money, I’d hit up the used book section at Florey’s or even splurge on a new book purchase.  One day a few years ago, I had some money, like maybe $30 (now that’s a lot for the used book section) and I stopped by Florey’s.  I found some nice used books and was very pleased.  But I was in for a pleasanter surprise. Coming out the bookstore, I saw the sign – 2 DAY LIBRARY BOOK SALE at the Pacifica Library.  Oh my gosh!! I still had an hour to kill before I had to pick up the kids and at least $15 bucks left.  And the sun was shining in Pacifica! Don’t you just loved those days when the stars align just for you!

With great anticipation, I scooted up the little hill to the library and even found a parking space. I spent the next 45 minutes hungrily searching the various sections and left with a bagful of goodies that only cost about $13.  Of course, I should have used the money for something more practical, like extra boxes of oatmeal or topping off the gas tank, LOL, I mean pulling the indicator out of the red.  But I am a hopeless book addict.  I have decided that if I marry again it will have to be to a man like the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”.  I fell in love with him when he gave Belle his fantastic library.  Now that’s a man after my own heart!

My love for books was born in my grandmother’s Richmond District living room.  She had a wall full of books, the built-in bookshelves stretched from her lovely carpeted floor to the high ceiling; and for a young girl, it was larger than life and filled with so much potential.  Similarly at Uncle Bill’s Russian River cabin, he had dotted the entire cabin with small bookshelves so everywhere you went you were sure to find a silent companion.  I am not comfortable without books around me.  They are my constant companions, and they don’t talk back!

No movie, no second-hand account, no Cliff Notes can convey the clear impressions of a great literary creation.  Forever etched in my mind is Aeneas’ wrestling over whether or not to plunge the sword into Turnus’ breast in Virgil’s Aeneid.

“I know my death deserv’d, nor hope to live: (said Turnus)
Use what the gods and thy good fortune give.
Yet think, O think, if mercy may be shown-
Thou hadst a father once, and hast a son-
Pity my sire, now sinking to the grave;
And for Anchises’ sake old Daunus save!
Or, if thy vow’d revenge pursue my death,
Give to my friends my body void of breath!
The Latian chiefs have seen me beg my life;
Thine is the conquest, thine the royal wife:
Against a yielded man, ‘t is mean ignoble strife.”

In deep suspense the Trojan seem’d to stand,
And, just prepar’d to strike, repress’d his hand.
He roll’d his eyes, and ev’ry moment felt
His manly soul with more compassion melt;
When, casting down a casual glance, he spied
The golden belt that glitter’d on his side,
The fatal spoils which haughty Turnus tore
From dying Pallas, and in triumph wore.
Then, rous’d anew to wrath, he loudly cries
(Flames, while he spoke, came flashing from his eyes)
“Traitor, dost thou, dost thou to grace pretend,
Clad, as thou art, in trophies of my friend?
To his sad soul a grateful off’ring go!
‘T is Pallas, Pallas gives this deadly blow.”

Or when, in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More explains to his daughter, Margaret, why he cannot sign the Act of Succession, that by taking an oath he holds his very self in his hands.

When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then — he needn’t hope to find himself again.

And he adds later in the play these sublime words.

Listen, Meg, God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If He suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and, yes, Meg, then we can clamor like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it’s God’s part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping. If I can take the oath, I will.

Or the divine act of kindness by hungry little Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, when after she found a coin in the gutter and bought half a dozen hot cross buns only to part with five of them to one hungrier than she.

“Bless us–no,” she answered. “Did you find it?”

“In the gutter,” said Sara.

“Keep it, then,” said the woman. “It may have been there a week, and goodness knows who lost it. You could never find out.”

“I know that,” said Sara, “but I thought I’d ask you.”

“Not many would,” said the woman, looking puzzled and interested and good-natured all at once. “Do you want to buy something?” she added, as she saw Sara glance toward the buns.

“Four buns, if you please,” said Sara; “those at a penny each.”

The woman went to the window and put some in a paper bag. Sara noticed that she put in six.

“I said four, if you please,” she explained. “I have only the fourpence.”

“I’ll throw in two for make-weight,” said the woman, with her good-natured look. “I dare say you can eat them some time. Aren’t you hungry?”

A mist rose before Sara’s eyes.

“Yes,” she answered. “I am very hungry, and I am much obliged to you for your kindness, and,” she was going to add, “there is a child outside who is hungrier than I am.” But just at that moment two or three customers came in at once and each one seemed in a hurry, so she could only thank the woman again and go out.

The child was still huddled up on the corner of the steps. She looked frightful in her wet and dirty rags. She was staring with a stupid look of suffering straight before her, and Sara saw her suddenly draw the back of her roughened, black hand across her eyes to rub away the tears which seemed to have surprised her by forcing their way from under her lids. She was muttering to herself.

Sara opened the paper bag and took out one of the hot buns, which had already warmed her cold hands a little.

“See,” she said, putting the bun on the ragged lap, “that is nice and hot. Eat it, and you will not be so hungry.”

The child started and stared up at her; then she snatched up the bun and began to cram it into her mouth with great wolfish bites.

“Oh, my! Oh, my!” Sara heard her say hoarsely, in wild delight.

“Oh, my!”

Sara took out three more buns and put them down.

“She is hungrier than I am,” she said to herself. “She’s starving.” But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. “I’m not starving,” she said–and she put down the fifth.

The little starving London savage was still snatching and devouring when she turned away. She was too ravenous to give any thanks, even if she had been taught politeness–which she had not. She was only a poor little wild animal.

“Good-bye,” said Sara.

When she reached the other side of the street she looked back. The child had a bun in both hands, and had stopped in the middle of a bite to watch her. Sara gave her a little nod, and the child, after another stare,–a curious, longing stare,–jerked her shaggy head in response, and until Sara was out of sight she did not take another bite or even finish the one she had begun.

I came across the lyrics of this old hymn from Lilias Trotter’s Parables of the Christ Life. Written by Gerhard Tersteegen in the 18th Century, these words seep down into my soul like a sweet rain on thirsting ground:

Gently loosens He thy hold
Of the treasured former things—
Loves and joys that were of old,
Shapes to which the spirit clings—
And alone, alone He stands,
Stretching forth beseeching hands.

And finally, the serene, sublime words – “he restores my soul” – of the shepherd-king from his most famous psalm. Words that have found a resting place in billions of hearts over the centuries. Words that have guided many souls from this life to the next. One of David’s greatest legacies, one of God’s greatest gifts to man.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Such treasure, such beauty….however, I am but a poor dilettante traveling the rich borderlands of a vast continent of literary landscape.  I have only scratched the surface. There are places I have yet to travel; happily, I have the rest of my life to go and enjoy this beautiful country.

Misty Water-Colored Memories

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Today is Super Bowl Sunday. A big day in the Moore household growing up. From late August to January, football dominated the television on the weekends. College ball on Saturdays, pro ball on Sundays. I was more familiar with the likes of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas than I was with any female athlete…until, of course, Olga Korbut in 1972. In order to get any attention from my father, I had to be athletic. I could play baseball, football, basketball and swim by the tender age of 12. I had two older brothers to compete against, so I had to try.

As the months have passed since my father’s death, I find many memories falling by the wayside. The acrimony, the fighting, the disagreements and the emotional misunderstandings, for now, have minimized. The memories of playing catch, watching football, talking about construction and the various moments when my father stood tall stand out. I didn’t realize that I’ve been missing this person for quite some time, even before his death. My dad, who I could call when times were tough, would listen and be supportive. Even when my ex was arrested, my father, who ordinarily wouldn’t miss an opportunity to hurl a criticism, was supportive of me, and even said, “I’m not gonna kick someone when they’re down.”

But Super Bowl….always a day I talked to my dad. If I wasn’t with him on Super Bowl Sunday, I called him many times. Football was one of the avenues we could walk side by side. We would scream and yell at the TV, my mom too…not screaming at her, but she was screaming too. It was fun watching the games with him. I miss my dad today more than I did on his birthday last week. It’s hard to watch football without hearing his voice…albeit swearing most likely. This game ran through his veins.

Today I had to venture into the City to drop off a kid at the bus. I passed out all my cameras to the others in the car and ordered them to take some good city shots. I don’t often get into town, so when I do, I like to be camera-ready. We passed by Third & Mission. Ellie mentioned that Eva worked right there near Moscone Center. I responded that I worked at that high-rise hotel next to the church, and your grandfather and his father worked right on this corner as well. History lesson.

To wander through the City on Super Bowl Sunday only exacerbated my father’s absence. We drove all the way on Geary from Downtown to the Beach. We hoped to grab burritos at Gordo’s, but parking is cursed on Sundays around noon. Took a slight bypass on Clement so I could swing by my grandmother’s place on 36th Avenue. Misty water-colored memories of enchanted Christmases long ago.

Great Highway was closed, so I chose to jump up to Sunset and drive to Sloat from there. Passed S.I. and all the memories of going to high school games with my dad…at Kezar. Even though I should have been embarrassed to go to those games with my dad, I don’t remember being that put out. I was just glad to go.

Today I am explaining some of the game to my youngest. She doesn’t remember football being a part of her life at all, she said she should watch football more often. That’s a good idea. But today is the last day of the season….we’ll have to catch up with the boys of autumn later this year.

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Be Still, and Know…

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Today’s devotion from Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert was wonderful. I mean, I was nearly weeping in the bath from its extraordinary beauty. She shares a quote from my Scottish brother in the Lord, George Matheson, who I happen to share a birthday with. I wish I could write like he did. Such beauty, cadence and meaning are captured in these words. As I read, I glanced up at the only wall hanging I have in the bathroom…a cheap wall decor from Ross, yet with these priceless words: Be Still, and Know.

One of my items on my bucket list would be to write a devotional. However, when Mrs. Cowman has already collected these kinds of entries, I doubt whether I have anything to add to her collections. So, here is January 15th’s devotion from Streams in the Desert. Enjoy!

“And the Lord appeared unto Isaac the same night.” (Gen. 26:24)

“Appeared the same night,” the night on which he went to Beer-sheba. Do you think this revelation was an accident? Do you think the time of it was an accident? Do you think it could have happened on any other night as well as this? If so, you are grievously mistaken. Why did it come to Isaac in the night on which he reached Beer-sheba? Because that was the night he reached rest. In his old locality, he had been tormented. There had been a whole series of petty quarrels about the possession of paltry wells. There are no worries like little worries, particularly if there is an accumulation of them. Isaac felt this. Even after the strife was past, the place retained a disagreeable association. He determined to leave. He sought a change of scene. He pitched his tent away from the place of former strife. That very night the revelation came. God spoke when there was no inward storm. He could not speak when the mind was fretted; His voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the hush of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God sweep by. His still night was his starry night.

My soul, hast thou pondered these words, “Be still, and know”? In the hour of perturbation, thou canst not hear the answer to thy prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come long after! The heart got no response in the moment of its crying – in its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But when the crying ceased, when the stillness fell, when thy hand desisted from knocking on the iron gate, when the interest of other lives broke the tragedy of thine own, then appeared the long-delayed reply. Thou must rest, O soul, if thou wouldst have thy heart’s desire. Still the beating of thy pulse of personal care. Hide thy tempest of individual trouble behind the altar of a common tribulation and, that same night, the Lord shall appear to thee. The rainbow shall span the place of the subsiding flood, and in thy stillness thou shalt hear the everlasting music.  — George Matheson

Tread in solitude thy pathway,
Quiet heart and undismayed.
Thou shalt know things strange, mysterious,
Which to thee no voice has said.

While the crowd of petty hustlers
Grasps at vain and paltry things,
Thou wilt see a great world rising
Where soft mystic music rings.

Leave the dusty road to others,
Spotless keep thy soul and bright,
As the radiant ocean’s surface
When the sun is taking flight.

(from the German of V. Schoffel)

 

 

Where, O Where Could Our Walgreen’s Be?

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Celebrating the tenth anniversary of my first publication in the Pacifica Tribune!

January 14, 2009

I recently returned to Pacifica after living in the East Bay for fifteen years. Many things remained the same, many things changed and many things were changing.

Mazzetti’s still makes the most delicious chocolate-slathered, custard or whipped cream filled eclairs. The air still has its lingering fish aroma, and the salty wind still blows fresh and fierce off the mighty Pacific.

Of the things that have changed: Seavue Theater is long gone, but not my memories of the Sunday matinees for a dollar where you saw not one, but two movies. Best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The gas prices are no longer 76 cents a gallon, and the old Manor McDonald’s sign, the one indicating how many billions were served, is gone too. The Five and Dime where you could get a bag of popcorn for ten cents – gone. Sadly, these places that hold many fond memories have gone the way of many things from the 70’s.

However, the things that are changing are the most exciting to note: Manor McDonald’s built a whole new structure with a playground. (That’s not fair; it wasn’t there when I was a kid!) I considered it my sacred duty as a former employee to pay homage during its grand opening last August (2008). Safeway is reinventing itself, with a new Starbucks, no less.

Perhaps the most anticipated change is the construction of the Walgreen’s where Seavue Theaters used to be. In the East Bay, my kids and I would go to our neighborhood Walgreen’s every week after church. It was one of our weekly routines. All the clerks knew my kids, and it was walking distance from our house. So cool. So, when I saw the “Coming Soon – Walgreen’s” sign, I was certain I made the right choice to return to Pacifica. It was a sign! We love Walgreen’s.

However, now when I drive down to Manor, I feel I am being teased with the unfinished building. I had hoped it would be completed in time to do all my Christmas shopping like I used to do in our East Bay Walgreen’s. Alas, it was not to be. I long to peruse the weekly ad, and cash in on the specials. I can’t wait to get to know the sales clerks. Maybe, even, one of my kids will work there. But for now: When, O When will our Walgreen’s open?

 

A Sober Thanksgiving

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The blog below was written in 2013. Even five years later, there is much to be thankful for. Although this Thanksgiving is a somber one for me personally, and for our state due to the immeasurable trauma from the fires, there is some room for thanksgiving.

November 2013

Wow, Halloween came and went. October came and went. What a whisking whirlwind the beginning of fall was. I was driving up Skyline Drive just two nights ago….early November…and I saw a Christmas tree in someone’s window.  Whaaat?? Already. There is a special holiday that sometimes gets drowned between the ghosts and goblins, and the tinsel and trees. My mom is saddened that Thanksgiving is overlooked. Well, this next column is dedicated to the sentiment, the emotion, which has its own holiday, a sentiment that I hope my children cultivate, and an emotion that Henry Ward Beecher so delightfully expresses:

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

I’ve strove to be grateful and appreciate all that has come my way. I know I take much for granted, but there is much for which I am deeply and truly grateful. Here are a few things.

Over five years ago, I had to go on assistance. This was a hard decision to make and I had to swallow a lot of pride, but it was necessary for me and my family. Actually, I should have done it much sooner. I want to say thank you to the taxpayers who support this government that provides this service to those who are in need.  I am slowly weaning myself off assistance and am glad to be working and paying taxes to replenish at least a fraction of what I used. Nonetheless, I am thankful to have had this resource available, and I thank the community for supporting this program.

I am thankful for the many friends I have in my life. To those who have given me emotional and prayer support as I raise these kids on my own, I thank you. My Facebook friends have encouraged me in my writing. Thank you. I am thankful to my family and all the help they have given me. And, of course, my ten children and one son-in-law. In countless ways, great and small, they bless me, they love me, they honor me and they are my greatest gifts.

Finally, and supremely, I am grateful to the God who is. I am grateful for his creation that I thoroughly enjoy. In Pacifica, we are beyond spoiled with natural beauty. The ocean with her perpetual pounding, peridot-colored waves is but an earthly example of an eternal entity. I am grateful to a church that has been entrusted with the Gospel, the good news, and its noble and transcendent themes: redemption, reconciliation, eternal life and love. All I can do is echo the psalmist’s declaration: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Even in my trials and afflictions, I can be thankful, I stumbled on this verse from Psalm 119 during a dark time of my life: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” (v. 71) As difficult as it was to be thankful for the trials in my life, I have learned that those times have yielded the precious fruit of patience, trust and an increased faith.

I hope my children learn to be grateful and be thankful for all the benefits, as well as the difficulties, that come their way each day.

“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Epilogue…

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In the many birthday cards my parents have given me over the decades, my father would often write the chapter of life I was entering. On his birthday in January 2018, I wrote on my Facebook page, “Happy Birthday, Old Man…here’s to Chapter 86!” I feared it might be the last, … and it was. Hence, the title of this blog.

Years ago, my father asked me to write his obituary. No doubt we were fighting at the time, so I retorted strongly, “You don’t want me to write your obituary!” He smugly asked, “Why?” “Because I would tell the whole truth, and you’re not gonna like that.” And off we went into another argument.

Well, today, I’m gonna tell the truth, but not the whole truth…so, please help me…God. I am going to use some of his very own words to sum up the man.

When I was little, I looked up to him….literally, of course. I felt safe when he was home. I felt he could solve all our problems. I thought he was the smartest man I knew. Then I became a teenager…and my parents didn’t seem to know that much. It would be decades before I realized how much they did know, how much they suffered, how much they sacrificed….

I loved my father, I loved him when I hated him. For years, he was my rock. I knew he loved me unconditionally, despite his inability to express it. In my fifties, I came to realize my father was just a man, a man fraught with all the weaknesses of being human, and then some. Weaknesses I share with him. Did I love him less? No, in fact, my heart grew to love him more, even when I knew he would never change, even when things were very difficult. I can thank God’s grace for that.

I used to look askance at the Serenity Prayer, thinking it was kinda trite….well, in the nine years I lived with my parents, I came to cling to the words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” God did indeed grant me his wonderful serenity. A serenity that enabled me to help in my dad’s final, difficult months, help with some compassionate patience (not all the time, mind you) and that also provided me with a wonderful, gracious final moment with him. “Until we meet again, Dad….”

The past couple years have been brutal. My father’s descent into dementia was exacerbated by his worsening COPD. The COPD is what did him in, but the dementia is where we lost him. One moment he was his rascally self, the next he was sickened with paranoia and anxiety…just wanting to go home. All of us, in a rousing, frustrated chorus for over a year, tried to reassure him, “You are home.” But, in his mind, he was not.

There’s only one story I’d like to tell. In the summer of 1983, I went to Belgium with a summer missionary group. As we all know…my father was not the “nice, quiet, peace-loving man” like John Wayne in “The Quiet Man”, a movie he loved. He was robust, loud, gregarious, pugnacious and often worried a great deal. Every family member can tell a story in which he helicoptered them, sometimes calling authorities to make sure they arrived at a destination and were all right. So, now, here I’m off to Europe. Pretty far away. I know he was a little nervous. So I wrote out a scripture verse for him with strict instructions to read it everyday, especially when he got worried.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”    –Philippians 4:6-7

I had a great time in Belgium even though the first month I received no letters from home. I wrote home expressing my homesickness….and the following card – a card which I treasure now, a card that I copied and gave to my dad on one of his recent birthdays – sums up the man, sums up the things he loved. A card that could almost be a self-written obituary, if you will. This is the Dad I miss even today.

7/14/83 – Thursday – 7:07 p.m.

Dear Donna:

I just got home from work and your letter dated 6/31/83 arrived today in the mail. I know how you feel, I was overseas for almost two years & you always look forward to mail from home. I was homesick the whole time I was overseas. I even sneaked home Christmas of 1952 for a few days. You will also learn that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world, the Russian River Area & the land of the Redwoods is the most beautiful countryside in the world. (proof on the reverse side of this card.) And always remember “There’s No Place Like Home.”

We all miss you, especially your Dad, please let us know about your travel schedule, i.e. dates, time & destinations. In other words, when are you coming home? Your city, your block, your house, your room, your bed keep echoing the refrain “When is the Jibser coming home?” I keep telling them, she ate someone’s big toe & then she split. (ha ha!!)

The weather here has been gorgeous, quite hot at the River, 100° plus & 80° right here on the Coast. I’m looking at the Pacific Ocean right now, right outside our window, its almost sunset here now. It’s going to be a lovely sunset.

Joe Hurley’s father-in-law, George McKeever, passed away Sunday, he went all thru College (St. Mary’s of course) with my Dad, they were very close friends. I went to the Funeral Mass yesterday morning. During the Offertory, the choir sang “Danny Boy” & at the conclusion of the Mass when they carried the casket to the outside of the church, the choir sang “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, very, very moving, even though old George was 93, he was the last of the “Old Gaels”.

Well, anyway, that’s about all for now, I will write soon again, everyone says hello & all miss you very much. Hurry home.

Love, Your Dad

P.S. I read the card every night!

You’re really home now, Dad. But, your city, your football field, your river, your wife, your kids, your grandkids, your great-grandkids and the many, many friends you’ve left behind all miss you; but with a somber gratitude, we know you have finally gotten home. May you rest in that peace that transcends all understanding. We’ll be along soon.

Thank you, Dad, for all you gave me and my children. You’ve given me a legacy which includes being Irish, a San Franciscan, a river rat, a Gael and a Moore as well as the rich construction legacy you inherited from your father that I now enjoy. I hope your legacy and your parents’ legacy will be carried on by my kids and my grandkids. Aloha…

Free Pizza* recorded a song in my dad’s memory:

“Goin’ Home”.

https://donnafentanes.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/goin-home1.mp3

*(John Moore, Eugene Fentanes and Audrey Maloney)

 

 

The Warmth of the Sun

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It’s one of my favorite Beach Boys songs. Like “In My Room”, it’s haunting melodies underscore the quintessential feeling and mood one feels while drinking in the congenial rays of a friendly sun. As autumn dawns, the warmth of the sun, when it does shine on the Northern California coast, especially in Indian Summer, is a truly invigorating, kind and soothing phenomenon. Unlike the brutal summer sun, as welcoming as it is after a cruel winter, it becomes unyielding and unbearable when it beats down into triple digits.

Today is the beginning of fall. Like my fellow fall-a-philes, we look forward to the shorter days which are bordered by crispy cold mornings and brisk evenings while filled with a warmth of the sun that beguiles the season. Autumn is “the season between summer and winter comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of September, October, and November or as reckoned astronomically extending from the September equinox to the December solstice,” or as we “poets” muse,  “a period of maturity or incipient decline”. While the days shorten, the year faces its end and the leaves fall and die; this season, and the warmth of its days, for some reason invigorates the soul and all its creative impulses.

The colors associated with this season construe earth, nature, home, if you will, at least to me. Browns beckon us to the dust from which we were formed. Burnt yellows and oranges warm our hearts like a small fire. Deep forest evergreens envy their deciduous cousins whose deaths make such a spectacular display.

It’s been a tough couple years, years fraught with demanding work, family discord, parental decline, loved ones’ depression and, sadly, death.  So much so I haven’t been able to appreciate the little rays of warmth that have shone through the storm clouds. But as I get older, I am learning to appreciate those very rays, those rays which are, indeed like photosynthesis, life giving.

My office is away from the main hub of activity where I work. I have to walk over to that office a couple times a day. Despite the cool summer we had on the Peninsula, many mornings the sun would shine in such a gentle fashion that I’d just look up and let the warmth of the sun wash over me.  Like the plant converts the sun’s energy into life, so the rays from the sun convert my sadness into joy,  my darkness into light and my pandemonium into peace. It’s amazing that this free resource of peace surround us daily.

I took a little trip up north for just a day. I needed to get away and stop – just stop – no activities but sitting on the pier, lounging in the river and soaking up the trees, the birds, the smells of days gone by and, of course, the gentle end-of-summer sun. I told my niece I was enjoying the ministry of nature. The difficulty of the past few years reminds me of a story from Mrs. Cowman’s devotional, Springs in the Valley.

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Coolies had been engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what that first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: THEY KNEW what they needed to restore life’s balance; too often, WE DO NOT.   –July 11

One of the reasons why I like photography is that I can capture some of these free resources that surround me whether it is a spectacular Pacifica sunset, a cool morning by some “still waters”, a plucky stellar jay, Erin’s sunflowers or the last blackberries of the summer, to name a few. All these little things, like the warmth of the sun and the colors of autumn, help me sustain my life and perspective in a big way, and allow my soul to catch up with my body.

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