Life’s Questions from the Front Porch

May 14th, 2016 by DeeCee | 0

A year ago today, I sat on my father’s porch on Sugar Hill for two hours, content after a noontime meal of grilled hot dogs, Campbell’s baked beans, and macaroni salad from Connie’s Market. He liked to cook for me, and I always enjoyed the step-back-in-time warmth of eating off the well-worn melmac plates of my childhood. Cold well water washed down coconut washboard cookies. Life was good. DianeJoeOnPorch

We let the conversation weave, wander, ebb and flow for a couple of hours. My father would say that at eighty-nine, he had solved the world’s problems many times over from that old porch looking out at Tyler and Round Top mountains. We worked on a few more that day too.

His 90th birthday was coming up in June, and while not a world problem, it caused him great stress deciding how to celebrate this milestone. We settled on a picnic on his lawn, a milestone in itself – a party at his house for the first time in over fifty years. He wanted to be sure that his close neighbors were invited, along with old friends from his working days at the Wyalusing Hotel. As always, the discussion turned to food, but the menu remained undecided while sure to include homemade coconut cream pie and German chocolate cake (even though he didn’t eat many sweets, or so he always claimed).

Party planned, we moved on. Should we cut down the overgrown lilac and spirea bushes in front of the porch? Maybe next year. Would Chesapeake ever pay for the gas they had been taking from the Joe well for the past eight months? Probably, but it’s a long time to wait when you’re almost ninety. How’s Tyler doing? Good, enjoying city life, but coming home for a visit on Friday. Are you using the step rails up to the porch? No, trying not to! I sure miss Aunt Marie, don’t you? Yeah, it’s been three weeks today since the funeral.JKP on steps

We lingered on, talking longer than usual, waving at the few cars that passed and watching the hummingbirds flit in and away. And then, two days later, my father suffered a stroke, which took his voice away from him; which took his voice away from me. His mind remains sharp, but there will be no more long talks on the porch. Our “talks” now are mostly one-sided, frustrating for him since he can’t express himself fully. His fiercely independent life came crashing down that day a year ago when the stroke took him to the floor.

Can we expect to live life to the fullest until our dying breath? Not always, as my father knows. It’s clear that his sense of injustice about his situation is strong despite his age. I’m grateful that he proved stronger than the stroke, but carefully refrain from asking if he agrees. As my husband and I ask each other once in a while, “What’s it all about?” Perhaps, we’ll never really know, but it would be a good question to ask again on another fine day in May on that Sugar Hill front porch.

Saying Goodbye to My Mother

Dec 6th, 2014 by DeeCee | 0

DoreenPortrait~1946My mother surrendered to lung cancer in June, but spent three more months under its brutal control before its final release. In July, while her mind was still good, I tried a couple of times to talk about what was coming, but she teared up and shook her head. So, we passed each day together as though there would always be one more day to say goodbye.

“I’ll be back as soon as I get the tomatoes canned,” I told her that last morning. When the call came later in the day, I turned the burner off and pulled my jacket on, knowing there would be no more days for a last goodbye. I’m hopeful that her final journey took her home.

With Love, Always

I rode my bike too fast on the gravel road below our house
So you picked me up and dried my tears

I watched the lightning flash and waited for the thunder’s crash
And you held me close and calmed my fears

I cried because of something someone said or did or didn’t do
And you always knew just what to say

I grew up and away and apart to find a life of my own
So you let me go, with love, always.

And then so many years later, we found ourselves repeating
An echo of the past, repeating …

You walked across the room and fell, so weak and weary
So I picked you up and dried your tears

You asked, what am I going to do, what am I going to do?
And I held you close and calmed your fears

You cried, I think, because you couldn’t voice the things you’d left unsaid
And I prayed to know just what to say

You grew away and apart with each passing day, to find a new life
So I let you go, with love, always.

 

For Doreen W. Potter 7/8/1930 – 9/10/2014
With love, always from her daughter, Diane Potter Seymour

Hold It Right There!

Oct 4th, 2014 by DeeCee | 0

“We should get someone else to help us,” I said as we went out the door …

That’s me talking when my husband decides that he’ll make do with me as an assistant; like the time he convinced me to climb to the peak of our house roof to help with the TV antenna. “Hold it right there!” he shouted as the wind whipped, and I gripped the shingles so hard my toes hurt.

Or, it’s like the time he decided that we could put the giant cabinets on the wall in the garage without help. “Hold it right there!” he said, while he looked for a screw, as my knees melted toward the floor, and the weight of the cabinet settled firmly onto the flat spot on the back of my head.

“Hold it right there!” my husband cried, as we struggled to push his 1967 Corvette body up the ramp into the enclosed trailer. CorvettebodyHalfway up the ramp, he yelled this familiar phrase as he let go and ran to the front of the dolly to steer it clear of the ramp side wires. I bravely stood my ground; knees locked, arms straining, palms pressed up against the only two spots on the car I was allowed to touch. He quickly hooked ratchet straps to the front of the dolly, and with him ratcheting and me pushing, we moved it up just far enough so the dolly and body sat in that delicate balance between safety and should-have-got-someone-else-to-help disaster.

I moved to the front of the body and switched from pushing to pulling. Just as I was beginning to feel sure that we could finish the job, I looked down between my feet and saw the ratchet straps go totally slack. “What in the world are you doing?” I shouted (or maybe it was XX!! X** XX**!?)! “Hold it right there!” he yelled again. “I have to untangle the ratchet straps!” So, with legs spread wide in a wrestler crouch, I held on and hoped my puny muscles and ample bottom end would be enough to counter the downward pull of 600-plus pounds of precious fiberglass.

The car survived, and so did I, but this morning he mumbled something about putting the engine in the car. “We should get someone else to help us,” I said as he went out the door. I don’t think he heard me …

I Love You Bunches

Aug 24th, 2014 by DeeCee | 2

My mother planned to leave home one night last week.  She packed eight pairs of socks, two sweaters, the TV remote, and her address book.  By the time she reached the door to her room, she had forgotten where she was going.

Home is the Wyalusing Valley Retirement and Personal Care Home where she waits to see whether lung cancer or dementia wins their nasty battle.  I try not to take sides.  So, I wait with her each day, watching as she slowly slips further away.

When I left today, I said as I say everyday, “I love you bunches.”  Today is the first day I’ve had to say it twice before she quietly said, without picking up her head, “I love you too.”  At least she didn’t see me cry.

Still Blue

Apr 29th, 2012 by DeeCee | 0

Image by cdsessums

My heart races faster
as I walk into that off-limits place
once full of joy and now only sadness.

My tears well up slowly
when I touch the soft cotton shirts
with their dinosaurs, baseballs, and bears.

My tears roll slowly down
as I reach for the bright blue truck
just waiting for tiny fingers to make it run.

My tears slowly blind me
as I imagine a different beginning
for a new life so anticipated, so soon ended.

My heartache crushes in
so hard that I move to a safer place
where colors range wider than sad baby blue.

For our first grandchild, Austin Holcomb Seymour, born still on January 18, 2012.

Joe Paterno: Give Us Time to Mourn

Nov 13th, 2011 by DeeCee | 0

Image by pennstatelive

I’ve listened for over a week now as the media has crucified Penn State students, alumni, and fans as uncaring and out of touch with the rest of the country.  Why are so many supporting Joe Paterno when he apparently failed to follow up on the abuse?  Why are they upset about Paterno being fired?  How can they think that football is that important?  Why aren’t they focused on the abused children?

I think the media’s missing the point.  No decent human being could hear the horrific news out of Happy Valley without being outraged by abuse of young boys.  No decent human being could read the Grand Jury’s report without grieving for the lost childhoods of Victims 1 through 8.  Nor could anyone read the report without agonizing over why so many people, who could have stopped the abuse, apparently failed to act.  Surely, most Penn State students, alumni, and fans are decent human beings.  I think that I am also.

So, why am I still mourning not only for the young men, but also for Joe Paterno?  It’s complicated.  In the early years of marriage, my husband and I spent a few days each summer in State College shooting in the PA State Archery Championships.  We stayed in the dorms and competed on the Blue Band practice fields.  We ate ice cream every night at the Creamery.  We bought Penn State sweatshirts and wondered if any of our someday kids would go there.

Never really die-hard football fans, we began to watch Penn State games as a way to link us back to the good memories we’d made together.  And then years later, our three sons attended Penn State as students, so State College once again became a mini-vacation destination, complete with lunch at Ye Olde College Diner or dinner at The Tavern.  Slowly, we wove the town, the team, and JoePa into our lives.

Whether he wanted it or ever intended it, sometime over his sixty years at the institution, Joe Paterno became the face of the university and all that is good about Penn State.  He accepted a reasonable salary and lived a modest and quiet life.  He stressed academic achievement to his players and created an atmosphere which helped them succeed. He and his wife shared his financial success with the university and community with generous donations.  JoePa became the favorite uncle, the respected father, the revered grandfather, or the trusted friend to hundreds of thousands of people who created their own memories at Penn State.  When the news first broke about the scandal, the media just didn’t give us time to mourn for JoePa.

Most of the media and much of the nation clamored immediately for Joe’s head for his apparent lapse in moral responsibility.  They screamed nasty judgments on those of us who wavered about what to do about Joe.  They claimed that we just wanted to win more football games.  Forgotten or ignored was how it feels to learn that someone you love and trust may have behaved inexcusably.  I took four days to pass through the five stages of mourning.

Denial?  JoePa must have acted responsibly; the media must be wrong.

Anger?  The media should give him time to defend himself before persecuting him.

Bargaining?  Give him more time to explain what happened and I’ll still support him.

Depression?  After reading the Grand Jury report, it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario that give’s Joe an absolute moral pass.

Acceptance?  Joe had to go.

I came to that decision with a heavy heart, but still hope that Paterno can prove that our trust in and respect for him were well placed. Imagine that your allegiance to JoePa mirrors your relationship with your father, grandfather, brother, uncle, or good friend.  The decision to stand by him has little or nothing to do with football.  It doesn’t lessen our concern for the abuse victims.  It doesn’t make us bad people.  It just makes us good human beings sticking by someone we love at least until there’s no possible reason to believe.

 

 

Made in the USA – Good and Cheap

Oct 18th, 2011 by DeeCee | 0

Image by dok1
American Flags on an American Car

Yes, Americans can produce products that are both good and cheap, and I mean cheap in a good way!  I recently stopped for the first time at Hilsher’s General Store in Port Trevorton, along the Susquehanna River about eight miles south of Selinsgrove.  I’ve gone past it hundreds of times, never realizing what a gem I was missing.

In one stop, you can eat homemade chicken and dumplings, stock up on local cheeses, buy a candle or knickknack for your mother-in-law, pick up those hard-to-find nuts and bolts for that job you’ve put off, buy muck boots for monsoon weather in Pennsylvania, pick out paint for your patio, and prepare for fall with feed to lure the deer in and buy a grinder and seasonings in hopes that the feed does its job.

Hilsher’s wraps a wonderland of miscellaneous goods around its Ace Hardware core.  It’s a Walmart before Walmart became too big, too predictable, and too much “Made in China”.  You can wander though Hilsher’s and find products and brands that you haven’t seen in years or have never seen.  I found two new-to-me brands of “Made in the USA” products and wondered why they aren’t on Walmart shelves.

Rada Cutlery knives – I bought a parer, a tomato slicer, and a bread knife.  They are sharper than any knives I’ve ever owned – sharper than my German-made blades and definitely sharper than the Farberware and Chicago Cutlery knives, which Walmart brings to us from Asia. Competitively priced from $5.50 to $9.00, give the Rada Made in the USA products a try.

Onguard Industries muck boots – with the recent flooding in the northeast, I was just one of many trying to find rubber boots to wear while hauling mud out of basements.  I had given up finding boots not made in Taiwan or China until I happened into Hilsher’s.  I was so excited to see “Made in the USA” stamped on the side of the boots; I bought three pairs and surprised my husband and father.  We’re all amazed at how comfortable, well made, and “cheap” they are at only $16.99 a pair.

It’s kind of sad that finding something made in the USA is such an exciting occasion.  Rada Cutlery and Onguard Industries prove that companies in the U.S. can make high quality products at competitive prices.  Our biggest challenge is to find these companies and products.  Check out these websites (Oh, and check out Hilsher’s General Store too!):

Made in USA

Made in USA Forever

Still Made in USA

Americans Working

Save Our Country First

Written with my friend Missy B. in mind.  Keep up the good fight!

Rotten Rules and Hot Pizza

Jul 29th, 2011 by DeeCee | 0


Image by Newbirth35

I like my pizza hot. So, when I sat down today in the middle of the afternoon at one of my favorite pizza chains with my slice of pepperoni, I eyed it suspiciously. Where was the glorious pepperoni grease that should be lying in the little indentations in the cheese? Why didn’t the entire surface shimmer and shine from the reflection of fluorescent lights overhead? What caused the first-bite tip of the pizza slice to curve up, not down as it should, across the paper-plate edge?

“I’ve never gotten cold pizza here before,” I said to the manager.

“One of our two heat lamp bulbs is burned out,” she replied, “but I’m not allowed to buy one locally. I have to put in a request with the company. The approval could take a week depending on who’s in the office and then it takes two weeks to get one delivered here once it’s ordered. The funny thing is, the lamps are available now and are cheaper at the hardware store right here in town.”

I took my pizza back to be table and savored the first few hot bites, intrigued by the heat-lamp bulb dilemma. I went back to the counter.

“Can you order more than one lamp at a time?” I asked.

“Yup, I order six at a time,” she answered as she slid the chicken-bacon ranch under the one remaining heat lamp bulb, which necessitated the sacrifice of the meat-lovers’ to the dim outer reaches of the lamp’s heat arc. I imagined myself sitting too far from the campfire to stay warm and made a mental note to make my slice choices by lamp position for the next three weeks until the new bulb arrives.

Back at my table, I finished my now semi-warm slice, but before heading home, I went back to the counter, hoping that the manager didn’t think me a stalker.

“If you can order six lamps at a time, why don’t you always have at least one spare on hand?” I asked, sure that I already knew the answer.

“I’m not allowed to order new ones until we’ve put the last one in service. Sometimes the second one burns out right after we put the last new one in.” She smiled, shook her head, and went back to work.

I cursed the anonymous, rule-making office-sitter out there somewhere far from pizza ovens, heat lamps, and hot-pizza loving customers.

“Perhaps there’s a reason for the rules,” I thought. “Perhaps there are only two heat-lamp bulb making individuals left in the world and they aren’t teaching anyone their trade and they’re both ninety-seven years old. Or, perhaps heat lamp bulbs each contain 17 grams of gold at $1,632 per gram making the price of one lamp $27,744 plus other materials plus production labor plus depreciation plus profit plus salary for another anonymous rule-making office sitter at the heat-lamp bulb-making plant.”

A quick Google search dashed my desire to bring reason to the rotten rules. Multiple suppliers are available for industrial grade infrared bulbs to keep my pizza slices cozy for 5,000 hours, or approximately 1.39 years based on my estimate of hours of actual bulb operation. Prices range from a modest $6.99 per bulb up to a luxury model at $17.99. Tomorrow, I’m heading down to that local hardware store to buy a heat lamp bulb to donate for the benefit of all hot-pizza loving people in my community. Maybe I’ll donate two. Three weeks is an awfully long time to wait.

Mutton Comes Home Again

Aug 24th, 2010 by DeeCee | 1

Mutton, the best cat that has ever lived and will ever live died last night.  (See A Cat Story).  The vet handed his still-warm body back to me so that Gary and I could take him home for the last time.  We cried and held hands during the six-mile ride.  Once home, we pulled the soft towel away just far enough to take one last look at his smoke-gray fur and curled up paws.  Today, we’ll bury him in the corner of the field outside my kitchen window and shed more tears.

For fifteen years, he’s made us smile with his calm and trusting ways.  His life is woven tightly into our family memories of all those years, so he’s sure to come home to us often and especially during family gatherings.  Mutton on mole watch at the edge of the field, Mutton battling with my mom for a spot on the couch, Mutton on the pump room concrete begging for a brushing, Mutton …

Mutton (AKA Mutton-Man, Tubby, Tubman, T, T-Man)
Loved by all who knew him
1995 – 2010

On Growing Old

Jul 20th, 2010 by DeeCee | 0


Image by MemaNH (busy)

“They’re all dead,” he finally concluded with as much irritation as sadness in his voice.

I drove a couple more miles on the narrow blacktop in silence, passing another old farmhouse; sorry to let it go by without introduction.  He spoke first.

“Guess they’re all dead now except Old Joe.”

My dad exaggerated a bit, but at 85, he’s one of the last voices of his generation still alive to recall the names and faces of those who once lived behind the walls of the old farmhouses we passed.  One day he too will be gone, forgotten by all but those who loved him best.  And so it will be for all of us.  Growing old beats the alternative, but it sure must get lonely when you’re one of the last ones to leave.