Helen Keller

Several years ago, the Clark Boys were making up stories about Helen Keller on our way too see friends.

Jack: ” Helen Keller lost her sight by looking into the sun when she was little.”

David: “Stop lying Jack. I knew her.”

Jack: “Helen Keller was in World War I.”

David: “No she wasn’t Jack. She was in World War II. She and her husband took over a cannon. When he got injured she took over and started shooting.”

The Stunning Mrs. Clark: “David, Helen Keller was blind and deaf. She couldn’t even see or hear a cannon.”

David: “I must have been thinking of someone else….”

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Caboose Coffee

The stunning Mrs. Clark’s grandfather Donald was the child of a railroad man, and drank his coffee “caboose style.”

Over his entire life, he brought water to boil in a pan then dumped in his coffee grounds – no filters or percolators. After a few more minutes of boiling he dumped the whole mix into this coffee cup. Pitch black. Sherry remembers vividly how there would be a layer of coffee grounds at the bottom of his cup.

Donald died in 1984, so the recipe for his coffee is long gone.

But I had seen references to coffee being prepared on the caboose of a train, and it matched closely what Sherry was able to share with me.  I searched the Internet to locate something similar, but only came up with mixes like “one gallon water, one pound coffee, and one horseshoe – boil until shoe floats.”

Bet he stayed awake!

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Lost Opportunity

Jan Jack May2013

My mother-in-law Jan battled many illnesses for many years.

In May 2013 she was in the hospital after having a brain tumor removed. The recovery for her was a roller coaster; one moment she was fine and recovering, and then the next she struggled with something else. The toll was great, not only on her but also on the family. We could only stand back and hope the doctors worked quick enough to complete her recovery puzzle.

One night Sherry, Jack and I visited her at dinner time and talked for a while. I had my DSLR with me, to take advantage of the skyline views out of the 17th floor windows of the hospital. I also managed to take some profile pictures of Jack. Not long before we left, he lay his head in her lap; Jan quietly moved her hand to his back, her arm adorned with lines of alert bands prompting care givers to be wary of certain drugs or treatment. There were at least four of them, in many colors and different types of writing. It was this touching image of an elderly arm wrapping comfort around a seven-year old’s body that quickly made me think, “Take of picture of that.” But, out of quiet respect for the moment, I put the camera down.

In short, I blew it.

The next day Jan took a serious turn for the worse. She stopped breathing, right in front of the doctor. After being revived she was taken immediately to the ICU for heavy duty care. Then she was sleeping or in & out of consciousness. When we visited her next she was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up; part of me was bummed, and the other part was relieved because it meant she was finally getting some sleep. Still, that missed photo opportunity haunts me.

The question for me revolves around the line between being the observer or being part of the moment. Leaving the camera alone meant that I was experiencing a very special gesture and smiling inside. Taking a picture would have interrupted the silence with a shutter snap; it just didn’t seem right at the time. But now as I think back, I regret that brief moment where the camera sat quietly, because it’s the image that now goes through my mind over and over.

While the diagnosis for Jan was fatal, she recovered long enough to enjoy three more months with her family.  I did get more pictures of her before she died, but none of them were as special as that one moment that I will remember forever.

Lighting The Past

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“Dad? Can we light my candle?” Jack asked me yesterday morning.

I looked to the clear mason jar on the hutch in the living room.  It was magnificent.  The lid was dotted with toy gems, while the innards of the jar were filled with colored granules in a red/white/blue flowing pattern.  Jack’s handiwork had been sitting there long enough for the candle to be invisible to my eyes over time.  “Sure,” I said, despite it being the middle of Summer with the temperature hanging around 80.  “How come?”

“We were never able to use it after I made it, because of Grandma’s oxygen machine.”

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MomSpirations

Earlier today I saw a Buzzfeed Article that showed inspirational-style photos with quotes that your Mom would say instead. Only my Mom wouldn’t have said most of the ones posted there.

So I made my own 🙂

Honor In A Cone

Ice Cream

The man was finishing his ice cream cone as we walked in.

Dressed for Sunday, he was clearly enjoying it while sitting by the window in the sun. The store was busy, and the server scurried around behind the ice cream counter scooping and mixing. As she began cashing out a customer, she stopped suddenly and headed to the door – where the old man was about to leave. Thanks for coming, she said to him – touching his arm slightly as only as friend would do. After finishing the customer’s transaction, she started to cry before helping us.

“That man? His wife just passed away. He came and ordered a cone for each of them and ate both.”

She wiped her eyes. “Sorry,” she said smiling. “It’s totally fine,” I said back.

I was crying too.