Dad’s Pictures: Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. I’ve had a blessed life, rich with experience and wonderful people.

One of my blessings is a treasure trove of family history I have just inherited. My Dad died recently, and my Aunt-Mom gave me his computer to copy his pictures. Dad was a great family historian, and took loads of photos. The picture archive includes old ones from my childhood that Dad scanned, and I found some from my 6th birthday party. What a gift; too cool not to share with you to celebrate my birthday.


We played Blind Man’s Buff at that little party; that’s Mom below helping us to get started and get that blindfold on tight. I’m the short little girl in the plaid dress with the bow.

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I remember my Dad building the patio cover and the little brick barbecue in our back yard. We lived in Burleson, Texas, and he was an account executive for Exxon. Mom was a registered nurse (RN) but was just about to quit working to be with us kids full-time. They were proud of that little backyard and really enjoyed giving parties like this one.

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We also played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, another game that requires a blindfold. Hmmmm….

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Mom was so beautiful; look at that smile.

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The thing I remember most about that 6th birthday party is Mom helping me get dressed. She said that the puffy sleeves on the little plaid dress (see below) were called “pork chop sleeves”. I thought that was really funny and decided to call them “steak sleeves” instead. My 6-year old wisecrack cracked her up. I’ve never since heard of pork chop sleeves (did she make it up?), but to me, they’d still be called steak sleeves. Fashionistas – are pork chop sleeves a thing?

Family 6th birthday

I have lived a full life to this point and am so grateful for all of the people in it; those who are still with me and those who have gone over the rainbow but left their permanent imprint. Happy birthday to me.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Labor Day: Cherries and Empathy at the Beach

Labor Day weekend of 2000 was the last time I saw my Mom, so many years ago now.

She died just two weeks later, peacefully, in her sleep. She had been ill for so very long. She was only 60.

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The view from the deck; the beach is about 200 years from their house

My family and my brother’s family joined Mom and Dad at their beach home in Gilchrist, Texas that last Labor Day weekend. With three small children between us, we balanced our time between going to the beach and hanging out in the sunroom with Mom and Dad, she in her wheelchair and unable to speak beyond a whisper because of “frozen” vocal cords, and he so grateful for the company. They both reveled in the noisy, joyful chaos of children. Dad grilled several different meats and served cocktails that weekend; Mom sat, surrounded by all of us, with a quiet and wistful smile.

Like always when our family we got together, the background music was the soundtrack from our childhood, an eclectic mix that included The Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, the soundtrack from Guys and Dolls, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Smothers Brothers and Manhattan Transfer.

It was a great time: comfort food, comfort music, comfort people.  All these years later, I have two really strong memories from that Labor Day Weekend, that final time my family of origin was all together: recollections of cherries and empathy.

Cherries

fullsizeoutput_1621We brought fresh cherries to share, a late-summer harvest probably shipped from somewhere in the Northwest to our local grocer. Mom hadn’t had cherries in years; the grocery stores on the Bolivar Peninsula stocked the basics but didn’t have fancy mustards, gourmet cheeses or produce from out of state. She loved those cherries. She ate them with joy, the dark red juice staining her lips and her thin, worn fingers.

Mom was so happy in those moments, maybe reliving a memory of her own, another special time studded with fresh cherries and loved ones. We put on the Smothers Brothers record (yes, an actual record!) to hear their song “Apples, Peaches and Cherries” – take a listen below; it is a really sweet tune. We might have sung along; I can’t remember now. But I will never, ever forget Mom’s face as she reveled in those cherries. It was an awesome feeling to bring her that simple pleasure.

Empathy

Getting ready for our final trek to swim and make sandcastles on Labor Day, we were four 30-something adults herding two toddlers and a 6-year old, making a lot of mess and noise. Mom and Dad didn’t mind at all.  We collected sunscreen and beach towels and water shoes and sippy cups (and probably beer) and set out to walk the 200 yards to the sandy beach.

Something made me turn back, telling the others I’d catch up. I ran up the stairs to give Mom a hug. She was in her wheelchair, in the sunroom, with an open book in her lap, but not reading. She was just staring out the window at our ragtag little group headed toward the beach, every child hand-in-hand with a parent.

Was she remembering the days when she was the parent holding the hands of unruly, eager children anxious to make sandcastles and dive headfirst into the waves? Or maybe just sad that she couldn’t go with us to body-surf and look for starfish and sand dollars? Mom loved the beach so much, and before becoming an invalid the last few years of her life, took a walk there almost every day.

I bent down to hug her, saying:

I know you still want to run and jump and play, Mom, and I’m so sorry you can’t.”

She gave a little sob, and squeezed my hand hard, her fingers still cherry-stained. She was so stoic through all of her illnesses, never indulging in self-pity, never complaining, never allowing anyone to feel sorry for her. If she could still talk, she would’ve shrugged and said, “I’m fine.” I only saw her cry once in the 38 years we had together. But on that last Labor Day, when I offered my clumsy empathy, she accepted it and allowed me to share her pain, just for a few beautiful moments, squeezing my hand while we both cried just a little. And then she motioned for me to go join the others, and I did, not looking back.

I knew she would watch me all the way to the water’s edge.

My “run and jump and play” comments weren’t quite the last words I said to Mom, but they are the ones I remember.  I’m so grateful for those few moments on our last day together, when she trusted me enough to let herself be vulnerable, and gave me a glimpse of the ache in her heart about the brokenness of her body.

Labor Day is About…

To me, Labor Day is about appreciating the meaningful and challenging work I have always been blessed with, and of course, barbecue. But since since 2000, it will always remind me of cherries and empathy, too.

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Mom, soon after we moved to the beach in 1974; she really, really loved it there.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Two “First Day of School” Stories

Story #1: Feelin’ It!

There’s my brother and me on my first day of school in 1969 in the photo below. Don’t I look ecstatic? I was so jazzed about getting all dressed up to join other kids and learn stuff all day. I had those stylish white go-go boots, a polka-dot jacket and a fancy lunch box, and I was feelin’ it! (You know, that “look out world, here I come!” vibe.)

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Story #2: Let’s Bring Brufer!

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Mom and Steve, on a happier day

Steve had a less joyful start to his school career a few years later. He did not want to give up the one-on-one time with Mom he’d been enjoying since I started school, and despaired at the thought having to go to kindergarten – it must be some kind of punishment!  I can’t find any pictures of his first day (second child always gets ripped off in the photos dept!), but the images scream out so clearly in my head that I could almost project them on a screen.

Did I say SCREAM? On his first day of school, Steve screamed and screamed and wouldn’t even get into the car. You have no idea how strong and wiry a determined 5-year old can be when he violently objects to something.

My brother and I were very close, and I was, of course, the older, wiser, more experienced one who was used to taking care of him and translating his wants and needs. So I had the brilliant idea to bring along his favorite stuffed animal, a giant St. Bernard named “Brufer”.

Brufer

Older, yes.  Wiser, not so much.  And actually, dead wrong. My “Let’s bring Brufer, Mom!” idea was brilliant only until we got to school, when Steve realized he’d been duped: Brufer was just the bait to lure him into the car and couldn’t go into the classroom.

There was more screaming.

There might have been a scuffle.

Other parents might have stared, and judged.

I really do have empathy for my Mom when I look back on this story.

All’s well that ends well, as they say. Steve made an immediate impression on his teacher that day (!) and ended up being a favorite.  He was so cute!

Postlude

Image (2)Steve went over the rainbow in late 2013 and can’t challenge the accuracy of this story, but if anything, I’ve understated it. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)  If Steve was still with us, I’d placate him with a gently used Brufer like the one pictured above from eBay, and give him guest-blogger status with an invitation to tell one of his favorite stories about me. I wonder what that story would be? I’ll have to wait for heaven to find out.

In the photo below, I’m sure I was just about to stop him from toppling headfirst over the railing. Or was I?

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Happy First Day of School to children and parents everywhere. And, if you want my advice, don’t take Brufer.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

NOTE: this post was created ahead of time and scheduled to go live on Monday, August 28, 2017, the intended first day of school for many districts in our area of Southeast Texas. The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which we are still experiencing (click here), has delayed the first day of school for several hundred thousand children as the water continues to rise in Houston and the surrounding areas. Here is a list of the over 70 Houston-area schools that will be closed on Monday, August 28 and beyond; some of them aren’t even predicting when they’ll be open again, just saying “closed until further notice”. Texas school closings extend far beyond Houston all up and down the Gulf Coast. Your thoughts and prayers for Texas families are appreciated.

Awesome Support After a Loss

When you lose someone you love, you go through changes that you cannot control. Some part of you goes away for a while, trying to process it.  Some other part tries to maintain the status quo, to “be strong”.  You hold some of yourself in reserve, just in case, because the world is not the same and you might need those reserves.  It doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable in any way.  And while you tiptoe through this dichotomous-quicksand-complex bog of feeling and numbness, all of your people reach out to support you, each in their own way.

Some people say things you will always remember and hold dear.  After my brother died a few years ago, my cousin the minister said:UntitledIndeed.  That was just what I needed to hear that day.

A customer of my Dad’s who had become a friend (because that’s how my Dad did business; he was always a trusted friend and never a salesman), a man who I had never met, sent me a card after we lost my brother that said:

he waits for youI can’t express how meaningful those words are to me.

And now, after my father’s unexpected death, the people around me, the stars in my sphere of being, are reaching out in their own ways to support me and my family. It is a beautiful and overwhelming humbling experience.  So many kind and thoughtful gestures, so many meaningful words and messages of support, so many gifts and acts of kindness and service; too many to name.

But a couple I will highlight; this beautiful gift of wind chimes, personalized with my Dad’s name and dates of life.  He was a woodworker by hobby and made me several sets of wind chimes, so it was really special that my colleagues at work gave me this gift. I brought them to Little House in the Rockies, our tiny cabin, and every time I hear them I think of Dad. Click the short video to hear the chimes.

 

Another “gift” was the sharing of this video made by the son of a colleague. It is a lovely two-minute animation about the stages of grief, and is very comforting and peaceful.

More to come as this processing continues.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (except the Stages of Grief video)

memory-honey (another poem for Dad)

i’m a bee right now, landing on memory-flowers
maybe i can make them into honey
maybe that’s a way to share you

with those to come
those you never knew
those like me who want more

an endless jar of memory-honey
sitting on the pantry shelf of my heart

halcyon father-daughter days
golden and sweet
transformed into words

you were the essence of goodness and light
that’s why I want to share you

with those to come
those you never knew
those like me who want more

~ i’ll be making memory-honey for the rest of my days

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This is just another little poem from a grieving and grateful daughter – I’m sure there will be more as I process this new life in the world without him.  Thank you for reading it and allowing me to share my remarkable Dad. For more about him and the amazing childhood he and my mom made possible:

A bittersweet note here is that many of these posts include comments from my Dad.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

ten times forever (haiku for Dad)

Readers of this blog will know that my Dad died unexpectedly less than two weeks ago. Like anyone who loses a loved one, I’ll be processing this for a while. Not in a maudlin or “poor-pitiful-me” way; its just that my world has changed forever. Aside from sadness and nostalgia, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the gift of having a wonderful Dad for so many years, one who loved me (and so many others) with his whole heart. And so, a haiku:

joy-sorrow feelings
how long will i love-miss you?
ten times forever

 

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Enjoying each other’s company at a party in 2007

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

 

Mourning the Loss of My Father and Muse

The Glover Gardens family suffered a huge loss last week when my father died unexpectedly. He was an amazing man.

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Obituary

Thomas Frank Harvell, 78, climbed the stairway to heaven on June 21, 2017. Mourning him while knowing he waits to be joined, are Lucy Harvell, daughter Kim Glover and her husband Tom, grandsons Thomas Wenglinski and Brandon Glover, granddaughters Melyssa and Joie Harvell and their mother Noemi Edington, stepson Matt Kiely and his wife Dawn, grandsons Everett and Ryan Kiely, and two-time mother-in-law Ruth Holt. He is also survived by his siblings Kenneth Harvell, Lynda Brashears and Connie Donnelly and their beloved families. Preceding Frank in death were his first wife, Nancy Harvell, his son, Steven Harvell, and his father and mother, Thomas Ezra and Memery Harvell.

Many others from all parts of Frank’s life join the immediate family in this complicated mix of sorrow and celebration: the extended Harvell, Smith, Cleckler, Holt and Hiatt tribes, lifelong friends from his childhood in hot and dusty Sweetwater, Texas to his many decades further south in various parts of hot and muggy Southeast Texas, a host of fellow believers from all of the churches where he was a member, and colleagues and customers from his years of technology sales with Motorola and Kay Electronics.

Frank loved without judgment, with his whole heart. With his profound sense of loyalty, honor and integrity, Frank’s rock-solid advice was frequently sought and almost always taken. A believer, his faith sustained him through family crises and illness, and he never lost his hope or sense of humor. Frank’s character and sunny, sturdy, pragmatic attitude drew others to him, and he was a true servant leader. He was active in church leadership and taught Sunday school for almost all of his adult life.

“Family man” is an over-used phrase, and yet it is just right for Frank. His intense devotion to his first wife Nancy never waivered, from their early poor (and extremely happy) years, to their tranquil days at the beach in Gilchrist, and through her later decades of illness. Sometimes he was both father and mother to Kim and Steve while they were growing up, and he embraced this responsibility. After Nancy’s death, Frank was blessed a second time, this time with the sweetness of a late marriage to Lucy.

Not one to sit still, Frank worked as a part-time consultant for Kay Electronics and Motorola well into his 70s. (He didn’t want to retire until his last client did.) After retirement, he had more time for his hobbies, including travel (both with and without grandchildren), woodworking, vegetable gardening, reading, photography and following his grandchildren on Facebook so he could brag about them. Together with Lucy, Frank was a super-volunteer, serving various churches and charitable organizations. Over the past few years and until his illness, when they weren’t organizing food drives, or community repair days for shut-ins and the elderly, or fundraisers, Frank spent nearly 40 hours a week helping to revitalize and re-launch Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM).

In addition to his fundamental goodness and old-fashioned manners, Frank was downright funny. His gap-toothed grin and quirky quips will always be remembered. He loved music, old movies, southern food and grandchildren and was always happy to share a story from his innocent childhood, or a lesson he learned from the parents he revered. His smile and stories will be missed by many.

Frank is now at peace after his yearlong illness and is probably either playing the trumpet with the Angel Gabriel or enjoying a chicken fried steak with St. Peter. On Saturday, June 24, at 3:00 p.m. a memorial service will be held at Tomball United Methodist Church, 1603 Baker Drive in Tomball, Texas to honor his most wonderful life. And then afterwards in the fellowship hall, snacks will be served while we gather to comfort each other, share stories and celebrate this remarkable man. He declared recently, “When I go, hold a party!” Frank’s legacy is for us to laugh often, love without judgment, live with joy, and hold our families close.

More to come on this topic; my Dad was my muse. Did I say he was a remarkable person?  Here are some of the posts he inspired, either directly or because I knew he would take pleasure in them:

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook