Hold on dear summer, I am coming…

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Out walking the evening of the last day of school and came across a newly formed fort blowing in the breeze. 

And right then I felt it! Dear summer’s warm winds and calmer days flow through me.

Everyone needs a summer fort.

A place we can “crawl inside” and let the cares and worries of life,

like a force field

bounce off the outer walls.

Not here life!

Not in my fort!

It’s summer time!

I am heading to my fort soon.

Ahhhh,  I can’t wait.

Quote from past post Dear Sweet Summer:

Sweet summer does not grant us permission to play, she offers the sunshine, the thunder storms, the fireflies, the diamonds on the water, the firelight, the sunsets, and she offers them gently, sometimes so quietly we don’t even notice. Sweet summer stands with her arms held out to embrace and all we have to do is come running and jump in and play!

“Oh hello my dear sweet summer, I missed you…

Beauty shines out!

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“…Have you ever seen a woman with an uglier face than that? I doubt it.

But the funny thing is that …[she] wasn’t born ugly. She’d had quite a nice face when she was young. The ugliness had grown upon her year by year as she got older.

Why would that happen? I’ll tell you why.

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, [and a bald head] but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

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(Dedicated to L who just lost her hair from chemo)

Dahl, R. (1980). The Twits. London, Great Britain: Mackays of Chatham PLC. Illustrator Quentin Blake. (pp. 12-13)

I was a little Skunkneck

My father was wicked witty and claimed he did not have a creative bone in his body. You be the judge…

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He had his own vocabulary that would just flow out of his mouth such as

“Bushwa” which was short for “Bushwa-ishkabible-skyta-brute.”  (The whole thing was used mostly during a tease.) The word was used to disguise something usually ridiculous or not worth talking about. Like “Oh bushwa!”

Terms of endearment were not as you would have expected: lunk-plunk, angle-worm, nongin-plongin, skunkneck, angle-snangle, buttheads, plug-ugly or plug, squirt-neck or squirt, snorkel-dorkle, or little bugger,…

Most of us also had individualized nicknames. One of mine was “jayfer, nayfer, payfer, layfer, scayfer.”

His unique vocabulary mixed into regular conversation without a hiccup.

We looked “cuter than a bugs ear” or “peachy keen.”

When proud he would say it three times: I’m “Proud, proud, proud!”

For reassurance he would always say, “You’ll Do It!”

When we were sick his diagnosis was usually that we had “the “screamin’ scrud snuds.”

But when we were really really sick we had the “hydra-konda-bogus and triple…” I am keeping the rest out on purpose for a future children’s book!

Extremely frustrated or angry he would exclaim, “Oh horse manure!”  or “Amscray! (SCRAM)”

My father used his unique vocabulary to teach us, such as when he would gently remind us to: “Say lovin’ words.”

Or my personal favorite; his explanation for when day turns to night or night turns to day; “There it is sky-blue-pink!”

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My father was not perfect. He said his share of “damn- it’s” under his breath. That was his prominent swear. But he would throw in a “bass-akwards” or a “horses arse” to keep it “cleaner” for my mom. I recently realized that our favorite car singing song that he taught us as toddlers left out the word ass. I do remember my mother looking over at him as I stood in-between them in the big station wagon. (When he slowed he would put his right arm across my body to keep me from falling forward. )

He would mischievously look over at my mom and smile his straight across smile. And we’d all sing it loud and strong and even in a round.

Sweet Sings the Donkey

As he goes to grass.

If you don’t sing better you will be the…

Haw,

Hee-haw;

Hee-haw, Hee-haw, Hee-haw!

My last recording of him on my phone begins, “Hello lovin’ heart.”  I play it often just to hear his voice.

It is interesting to me how silly words and phrases unexpectedly turned into my father’s legacy of love and affection for his family.

It makes me smile my straight across smile just to think of this.

Happy Father’s Day dad.

I thank God every single day I got a good one!

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My dad taught me to love words

I have somewhat of a walk to my mailbox. This day was not particularly different as I trudged up the hill to get bills and junk mail.  A large envelope stuck out as the red mailbox door hung below. I jerked the stiff package to pull away its edges caught on the insides of the mailbox and dropped some of the letters on the ground. I picked them up on by one and then looked at the package. It was addressed to me.

‘A package!’ the thought thrilled me. Then in an instant the memory of my dad poured through my body like a warm comfy morning. ‘Dad’ I choked back his title inside my mind. I looked up into the blue sky. “I miss you.” I said out loud to empty space. The feeling of deep homesickness wrung like a knot in my stomach again. Will that feeling ever go away?

I clicked the mailbox closed and began the walk down the hill but I was not there.  I was instantly transformed to me as a seven year old little girl holding a package from the mail.  I let the memory flow because that now was the only way to bring my father back and make him alive to me.

“I got a package!” I yelled.  I traced the letters which spelled my name Jennifer Calvert. Inside held a treasure which would become an intimate part of who I am, but would also carry the potential of lessons to be learned throughout my life time. My mother always used a serrated knife to cut the tape binding then step back so I could tear open the box and peek inside.  I grasped the binding and pulled out Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. There was a distinct smell as I pulled out my book from the mail.  New paper mixed with glue and cardboard dust. But I did not open it.  That was a ritual that would be performed later.  I carefully walked over and placed it on the hallowed spot; not in grand central station in the family room where all six children congregated to watch Star Trek on afternoon TV, but on the special living room couch where we were only allowed if we were quiet and clean. Then I waited. I waited what felt like an eternity. I played with my Jessica doll. I rode my bike. I walked on the white fence that surrounded my house until I jumped off before I hit the ivy. I colored at the counter as my mom hustled around the kitchen conjuring up good smells while preparing supper for a family of eight. I would sneak in the living room to make sure my new book was still there on the couch.  It seemed also to be waiting anticipating its contents to be enjoyed.

And then I heard the familiar whistle. The creek-crack of the old screen as it hit a little too hard. And the heavy footsteps through the back hall where my dad always entered the house, jingling his keys and continuously whistling.  He did this to alert all of us that dad was home.  Everyone scrambled to give him a hug.  Well, the teenagers were either in their rooms or too cool to get up.  My dad always brought home something from the grocery store and he would set the bag on the counter then tousle hair, squeeze shoulders, pat the dogs and then continue to lift and squeeze kids. He then would walk into the kitchen and kiss my mom and snitch some food. I followed my dad back into his bedroom feeling too excited to wait any longer, spilling the news from my mouth.

“I got my book! It’s Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss!”  I began jumping on my parent’s bed. My Dad was sitting on his cushioned rocking chair and reached down to untie his brown work shoes. He stifled a yawn but then he answered with some mustered up enthusiasm.

“Let’s read it after dinner.” He said, just as he always did when my books arrived each month in the mail. We went on adventures together without even leaving the house.

He put on his brown slippers and he held my hand as we walked down the hall to dinner.

In a family of six children the house is rarely a monastery of silence. The family room and kitchen area were always in constant state of movement and  noise; the dogs barked; the television was always on; the food cupboards were constantly opened and shut along with the refrigerator. It was like pop corn kernels in a pot constantly popping.  But my dad always closed the two sliding wooden doors from all that noise and movement separating us from all the hustle-bustle.

I had my dad all to myself.  I sat next to him or on his lap on the fancy living room couch. It was then that we broke into that new binding with a crack. The hum of the first words, “Signed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg…” began to hypnotize us and the magic spell of reading aloud began. We were cloistered from the world in a little quiet bubble as we floated inside a book together.  We felt sad together as Horton sat on that egg in the rain and snow.  We felt frightened together when the hunters all pointed guns at Horton’s heart.  We hooray-ed together as the egg hatched and Mayzie the lazy bird suffered the consequences of her neglect. We voiced out loud in tandem the famous words repeated in the text, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant…An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent” (Seuss, 1940). Then we would close the book and sit; my dad and me.  Right there on that fancy living room couch. My dad felt warm and safe.   Something wonderful and powerful had happened.

“Oh Dad,” I whispered out loud as I stopped and looked at the sky coming back to the present. “That was a very long time ago.” ‘How could I know as a seven year old the powerful gifts you would leave lingering inside of me that would last an entire lifetime which began by a simple gesture of time, togetherness and the love of a good story.’  I allowed the memory to linger as I stepped quietly back into the house trying to feel him close once again.  He’s only been gone for four months now.  I walked to the silverware drawer and got out a serrated knife. I cut the tape binding and reached inside.

“Look Dad, it’s my text book for school!” I knew he would smile. Then I walked into my living room and placed it on the couch…and waited. Even though I knew he would not come. After dinner I sat alone on the couch, picked up the book and broke the binding. Then something warm flowed through my body and I knew he was there.

Will you come with me sweet Reader? 

I thank you. Give me your hand.

(The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle, 1883)

Delicately hand-picked

A little old man walks out a back door and slowly makes his way to the garden. The sun casts early morning shadows across the yard tended gently for fifty five years.

His eyes heavy and weary give inspection of simple yard tending needs that he still has strength to complete.

That needs a sweep.

The hummingbird feeder is low.

He shuffles over to the rose garden to scan each bud choosing an adolescent Tiffany Rose; peach with a touch of yellow. He carefully reaches, uncertain of his footing then balances. He ignores the buzzes of bees who wake up early to begin their gathering. He takes hold of the stem between thorns and with feeble hands bends it back and forth, back and forth until the flower breaks free from its life source. He shuffles back into the house placing the flower in a prepared vase next to his sweetheart’s chair of 67 years, where she will see it when she is wheeled in after she awakes. It was a ritual that was as ordinary as breathing.

The rose was still sitting in the same spot, in full bloom when I flew in for his funeral.

I had a romantic for a father. He left my mother love notes and roses from our garden my entire life. He would always bring them to whomever was close for a quick fragrance evaluation before he presented the delicate hand-picked flower to my mother.

It was always in the morning.

It was often propped up next to their bedroom door.

Parents do not always realize the small gestures they choose which teach volumes about who they are and what they love.

Roses always remind me of my dad…

Tears over Silver Fillings

My father was a dentist.

His office was very much an extension of our home.

His toy box sits in my entry hall; with the same lid that falls and hits your head when you peek for a prize so you have to hold it up with one hand.

My dad was the most gentle dentist I have ever known. (And with four brothers and 6 next generation in the dental field, I know a lot of dentists!)

Once he gave himself a shot right in the front of his mouth with the needle straight up towards your nostril, just so he could empathize with patients getting one there…

Empathy and compassion was something he did quietly…

His patients loved him.

My dentist is not any of my relatives. I live too far away. It is difficult for me to sit in his chair and not look into drawers, pull out the mirror and hide instruments… just for fun…

My dentist wants to take out all of my amalgam (silver) fillings so my teeth will look “pretty.” There is no need; he just wants to purchase another car. He has walked out of my exams in a huff just because I won’t agree to change out those “unsightly” silver fillings.

They are my dad’s!

Years earlier I sat during different stages in my life with that green napkin around my neck while my dad drilled out black holes invading my teeth and gently replaced the decay with silver. That was the very best offered in the day. He hated to anesthetize me (shot) but he knew one pinch was easier than the other alternative.  I remember sitting in “the” chair looking up into his glasses as he focused on my teeth. He looked so serious as I stared up into his face trusting him completely.

He would sit back to pick up an instrument and sometimes squirt the assistant just for fun.

I told my dentist I didn’t want to change any of my silver fillings EVER! They were from my dad and they work just fine. He hates it when I say that.

Yesterday I was forced to change a silver filling because I chipped it. My dentist held up the mirror at the end and gloated, “See how much nicer that looks!”

Yep, it was white alright!

I cried on my way home from the dentist because a piece of my dad that was right there in my mouth that morning was just erased.

 I hate going to the dentist now.