Three Haiku from a Day at the Beach, Remembering Dad

Thanksgiving weekend, eight of us family members spanning three generations packed into my Honda Pilot and headed down to the Bolivar Peninsula where I grew up.  We were on a mission to visit Dad’s favorite restaurant down there, and remember him. It was a perfect autumn day to walk the beach and reminisce.

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So of course, I wrote a simple little haiku:

back home at the beach
the day after thanksgiving
remembering Dad

When I looked at the pictures later, I saw each of us drifting in our separate thoughts:

that day at the beach
my son was looking forward ~
I was looking back

Looking Forward or Looking Back

Somehow, Dad was there with each of us, in that place where we have so many memories of him. I know I can always find him when I look out to sea.

the salty air’s kiss
joins the sundancing-sparkles:
Dad’s eternal hug

For a look into what it was like to grow up along the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, check out my days by the water. Dad really liked that poem, and I cherish his comment on the post.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

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.

The Real Nancy (1)
Mom, soon after we moved to the beach in 1974; she really, really loved it there.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Death is Life-Affirming: Hibiscus Haiku

Death is life-affirming.

Family gathers ’round when a loved one dies, sharing memories and telling stories, all a reminder both of the value of the life of the lost one and the interconnectedness of those who remain. We experienced this at Glover Gardens recently when my Dad died, rejoicing in the togetherness of family and friends even while we mourned together. In addition to their continual prayers and love, my cousin’s wife brought a gift to our informal celebration of Dad’s life, a live and blooming hibiscus, with a heartfelt haiku.

your much-beloved dad
like this hibiscus flower
blossomed love and life

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Lucy, my Aunt-Mom and Dad’s widow, took this beautiful picture

I’ve posted before about how we love love love both hibiscus and haiku here at Glover Gardens; this gift was as appropriate and welcome as a hug to smooth a hardship – and so life-affirming! A quick little poem, at the second grade level (I couldn’t resist):

I have a wonderful cousin
who has a wonderful wife.
She wrote a hibiscus haiku
to celebrate Dad’s life.

 

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A white Texas Star hibiscus, blooming for the first time on Dad’s death day

Find more about Dad here.

And here’s a tour through our hibiscus flowers (also shared in this previous post).

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

~ with help from Marsha (haiku) and Lucy (cover picture) and Dad (inspiration) ~

New Jazz Composition, “A Modern Requiem” – a Tribute to a Wonderful Grandfather

Followers of this blog will have read about our last millennial in college, the young musician majoring in Jazz Composition at the University of Texas. I’d like to call Thomas the Glover Gardens resident composer, except that he won’t be in residence much longer because he heads to Austin for his sophomore year in just a couple of days. A prolific composer, Thomas has just completed another original and posted the recording on the streaming service Bandcamp.

This one is really lovely – evocative, thoughtful, pensive – and extra-special to me because he dedicated it to his late grandfather (my Dad). They were close, and my Dad was so very proud of my son’s musical talent.

I hope you’ll click and give it a listen.

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Thomas Frank Harvell and Thomas Wenglinski at Glover Gardens in the summer of 2016

There will be a lot more original jazz to come, and the posts below provide some of his previous compositions, if you just can’t wait.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

cover photo credit to Mallory Frenza

you, amazing you / footprints on our heart-sands (another poem for Dad from a grateful daughter)

IMG_0151you

were an amazing father

you taught me to

believe

in myself

in God in love

in family in miracles

in old movies on a rainy afternoon

in grilled cheese sandwiches

you

got up with us kids

every day before school

making our breakfast

telling tall tales

“killing the biscuits” with the butter knife

you

taught us to love simple things

the sea sky and seagulls

the wind in our sails

July 4 fireworks and hot dogs at the beach

you

were an amazing husband

steadfast when

Mom was sick for decades

you

never complained

or made it about

you

or “took time off”

or felt sorry for yourself

even when she died

you

gave your next wife

the same care and thoughtfulness

and respect

and honor

you

were an amazing grandfather

mindful and present

you

listened more than you talked

making those kids feel like special starfish

you

were an amazing friend

collecting people like seashells

keeping them always

appreciating their beauty

their uniqueness

their worn-smooth spots

you

were an amazing role model

“what would Frank do”

a testimonial from friends

about your wisdom

you

never judged never condemned

but always remained authentic

about your beliefs

accepting without endorsing if

you

couldn’t agree or understand

you

were the most consistent

person I ever knew

like waves crashing to the shore

you

gave your heart completely

the whole package

with no strings

just acceptance and love

you

will be loved and missed

forever

your footprints on our heart-sands

you

amazing

you

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your footprints on our heart-sands
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My Dad and me, Thanksgiving 2015; I still feel his arm around me

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

photos courtesy of Joie, one of the amazing granddaughters of the amazing and wonderful man, Frank

A Poem from Long Ago: “For You, Mom, On Your Brother’s Death”

My uncle Nathan, my mother’s brother, would have been 70 this month. He was only 40 when he died in 1988. Sad and shocked, I wrote this poem for my Mom at the time and it was part of his memorial service.  Just today, I found it while browsing through old files from my Dad’s computer; it is sweet that he kept the poem all these years.

For You, Mom, On Your Brother’s Death

Love, the wind, God, memories:
all intangible,
all to be touched with
thoughts and feelings,
not with fingers.

All so precious:
lives, souls, people.
Does one quit existing
when the breath is gone
     or
simply become an intangible,
touchable with thoughts,
with feelings,
like the wind?

Can we not summon Nathan
by thinking of him?
Is he not crystallized
into being in those
vignettes of him that
we remember?

Isn’t he still the same young
man who made
risqué remarks about the
pantaloons on my
doll Elizabeth,
because I remember
him that way?

Won’t I make a present
of a never-known great-uncle
Nathan
to my children by
conjuring his image,
remembering him that way?


With the wisdom of hindsight, I wish I had spent more time talking with my Mom while she was still alive about how she dealt with her brother’s death. I didn’t know then that I would also lose a younger brother while in my 40s.

Nathan and Steve 1966
Nathan holding my brother Steve; both would die young but leave lasting memories and wonderful children

Reading this (clumsy) early poem of mine again in the wake of my Dad’s death just six weeks ago, I still feel the same way about touching the intangibles, conjuring the images of the loved ones through stories and memories.  My Dad is sitting on my shoulder right now, next to my Mom.

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My Mom, her brother Nathan, and me, 1966; shocking to see that cigarette
Nathan.png
A cocky young Nathan while he was at Texas A&M Galveston earning his degree in Marine Transportation

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook