Remembering a life well lived

Today is my father’s 111th birthday. He died before his 60th birthday. shortly before my 16th birthday, so I didn’t know him for very long. His life was a long lesson of tenacity and hard work that I still continue to study. The lessons are more poignant in hindsight, and I better appreciate what he did to support his family.

My dad worked the day he died, irrigating his beloved cotton fields right up to the point of collapsing after getting the water turned off. The one thing he would be unpleased about was that it was mid-growing season and he would not see the final picking. He always saw a job through to the end. I remember that when I take on a task. He was consistent in all he did. He did not suffer fools gladly and was highly critical of other farmers who did not measure up to his high standards. He picked his friends carefully and was always there for them.

One of his friends, Mr. Price, was African-American, or as my parents would say, Negro. When the local feed and seed store would not give Mr. Price a credit account so he could get the supplies he needed to bring in a crop. Farmers work on credit, paying their bills after the crop comes in. Mr. Price would not be able to have a crop without that credit. My dad told the store owner to put it on his account, he would be responsible. However, when it came time to deliver the seed or fertilizer, the company would only deliver to the address on the account. Everything was delivered to our farm and then Mr. Price, who only had one arm, and my dad would reload it onto my dad’s truck and take it a couple more miles to Mr. Price’s farm.

My dad paid better wages to his farm workers, but they had to meet his exacting standards. Everyone wanted to work in his fields. My mother provided water, the workers got breaks, and there was an outhouse on the farm that they could use. All of this happened in the 1950s. And I watched.

I wish I would have had more time with my dad, but I don’t know if I would have learned any more. I am glad he got to do what he loved right up to his death. He never spent one day in a hospital. Fifty years later my sister died in a similar manner, at the end of a productive day, doing what she loved, shopping for her great grandchildren. She came home, took off her shoes, made a cup of coffee, and collapsed. Like our father, she would be happy to know that she finished the day, finished the tasks she had set out for herself. I would hope my life could end in the same manner.


Out to lunch

Last week I drove across town to have a birthday lunch with a  friend who moved to a senior citizen complex at the beginning summer. She had mentioned that we could even eat at the complex, a lunch provided by a Economic Opportunity Commission to make sure the elderly eat well. I declined that offer and picked up the tab at the restaurant where we did eat. I was a bit concerned that she might be low on funds and so had made that suggestion. She did want to me show how nice the property is (it’s very old and in need of some maintenance but otherwise comfortable). I just wasn’t too interested in eating institutional food.

On Monday, the first day of school in the district where I taught all those years, a few of us retired teachers met at a locally owned restaurant on the opposite side of town. The Ladies Who Lunch meet once a month, but on this day in August we feel very celebratory because we don’t have to be at school, and on Monday we took a three hour lunch. We talked and laughed and outstayed all other diners.  

One other lady joined us about an hour later. A few others were missing as they had made plans to be elsewhere on the first day of school.

Some days in August

This first full week of August has gone so fast. I can’t tell you what I did as it all seems a blur, lots of small chores, tasks that are of little importance but all needed to be done. There were many connections with people which I appreciated. A friend stopped by with a book and small stuffed dragon for me to use with first graders. I stopped by the home of friends who were hurt in a horrific car accident a couple of weeks ago and talked with the brother who was mowing the lawn. The friends are still in Las Vegas, the husband in the hospital awaiting more surgery, the wife in a rehab unit working to get stronger. They still have a long road of recuperation.

On Friday I drove across town (30 miles, round-trip) to have lunch with a friend who also has an August birthday. We share a celebration lunch midway between our two birthdays. This year she recently moved to a senior citizen village and wanted me to see her new apartment. We had lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant that is an institution on that side of town, 45 years in the same location. Maybe my taste has changed, or perhaps the restaurant isn’t as good as it once was, but I wasn’t impressed with the food.

Then there is all the stuff happening on the national stage. I cannot even begin to wrap my head around what is happening in this country. A couple of weeks ago it was Gilroy and then within a few days El Paso and Dayton happened. Will anything change? If recent history is any indicator, no, nothing will change and there will be more of these horrific incidents. We are in a public crisis.

School starts here on Monday and with that, fall plans take shape.

Friends and food and fellowship

After that busy July, I was back at church this morning. Back into a routine, or at least getting there. I had signed up for coffee fellowship which brought me back with a task to accomplish.

I like doing coffee fellowship. It’s fun to think of something to serve and then how it will be served. (Today I had carrot cake, purchased from the bakery at a local grocer.) Will I add any additional beverages to the coffee, tea, and water. (I did not today.) What paper products will I need and do I already have them in my hall closet, stashed away for times like this? (Today I pulled out napkins and tablecloth purchased earlier in the year–red and yellow.)

Today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day so I also picked up a few dozen at the bakery when I got the cake this morning. Both cake and cookies were a hit with only one piece of cake and two cookies left on the serving table.

People sitting around tables, chatting, eating, building community. I will gladly do coffee fellowship. It makes for a better world in these very hard times.

Another town is added to the list

Last Sunday the shooter was at a local food festival on the west coast. On Saturday morning the shooter was at a busy shopping center, where people were doing back to school shopping. In Texas. Isn’t Texas one of those states where people can open-carry guns using the argument that when we ban guns only the criminals will have guns and the good guys won’t be able to take care of protecting the public? Yet, we aren’t hearing about the good guys drawing their weapons and protecting anyone.


That’s the number of mass shootings in America since the beginning of the year.

We celebrate the small things in small ways

I know those who want a big, splashy birthday celebration, no matter the year, and feel like they didn’t have a birthday unless there was a party. I’ve never had birthday parties, what with a birthday in the middle of summer when the demands of farm life kept everyone busy, either in the fields or in the kitchen, canning, to stop and have a celebration. Some years I got a fancy cake, produced between batches of quart jars of peaches or apricots. This year I bought a small square cake to celebrate the day. I really like good cake.

Again, after sending 40+ cards to others during the course of a year, I got one card in return. That was the big disappointment for this birthday. Each year, when very few cards arrive, I say I’m going to quit sending cards to others. This year, just like my vow to use the library and quit spending money on books, I’m making the pledge to quit sending cards and save the money. It feels miserly, but if I don’t send cards, I won’t be disappointed when none arrive in my mailbox. I’m going to assume that my cards meant little to nothing to those to whom I sent them.

Terry and I had dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant. Just like many places here in Fresno, it had closed for a couple of weeks in July due to the heat and lack of business, but had reopened just in time for my birthday. Terry had been at his volunteer job all day, taking care of end of the month reports and chores. He informed me at dinner that he had been able to take the stairs, two steps at a time, the first since his heart surgery 10 months ago. His cardiologist backed off one of the blood pressure meds which seems to have helped him to be clearer headed and more surefooted. It was a moment to celebrate.

Poof, July is over

July was a busy month with lots going on. It really hit me today when I was doing laundry after we handed the grandkids off to their mother. There were a number of loads of clothes, and at one point I thought that some of the items were from the week of Vacation Bible School as I knew I had worn the item then.

Thinking this as I moved clothes from the washer to the dryer, I suddenly thought, that couldn’t be possible since VBS was the second week of July and we were now at the first day of August. These were clothes I had worn last weekend when we were back in San Mateo. It was all a blur.