Remembrance Stories

I had the pleasure of driving my mom to a couple of cemeteries today, to carry out the Memorial Weekend tradition of placing flowers on loved ones’ graves. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the final resting places of my maternal grandparents and my stepfather. Pop and my stepdad Max were both veterans. It was very fitting to honor them and my grandmother, who rests alongside Pop.

My favorite part of the trip though was having my sweet mother to myself. I got to ask her questions about grandparents and great grandparents and a vintage piece that belonged to great great great great grandparents, and hear her stories.

Remembrance Stories

Our first stop was in the tiny town of Lanagan, about 40 miles south of Joplin. My grandparents are buried there. Mom and I climbed the hill to Grandma and Pop’s graves. It was a much steeper hill than we remembered! We giggled and held onto each other as we made the ascent.

Pop served with honor in the US Army, during WW II, receiving the Bronze Star Medal. He and my grandmother were married for almost 50 years. Pop was not my biological grandfather. After he came home from the war, he met my grandmother, who was a widow with three children. Mom laughs when she says he must have been shell-shocked, to take on a ready made family! He was a good hearted, faithful man, and raised my mom and her brother and sister as his own. And grandma was a fun, loving woman who made life an adventure. My grandparents were quite a pair.

Remembrance Stories

Remembrance Stories

As we left the cemetery, my mom offered to show me where she lived in Lanagan, when her biological dad was killed. I had never seen anything in Lanagan beyond the cemetery or the strip of houses and the post office on the main highway. I wanted to see where my mom lived when she was four.

Mom’s daddy, my grandpa Bill, died tragically when he was just 33 years old, leaving behind his wife and three young children. I’ve heard the story many times, about how he died trying to get home in a snow storm. He never arrived. His truck slid off the road and into a pole. He worked at Fort Crowder, to the north, and was about to join the war in Europe, when he had the accident. Although I never met this grandfather, I have a strong spiritual connection to him.

Remembrance Stories

Remembrance Stories

We found the corner where the house used to be. Mom said it was a cute, log cabin style house. It’s gone now. Across the street on the other corner is the church where Bill Gregory’s funeral was held. So close to the house it was, a constant reminder for my grandmother of the tragedy that altered her life. Grandpa Bill is buried in Pea Ridge Arkansas, with the rest of the Gregorys. We will visit his grave soon.

Our last stop was at a cemetery in Joplin, where my stepfather is buried. Like Pop, Max took on a ready made family! He was a hard working, creative man who only had to give his attention to something to make it flourish. He served honorably in the US Navy during WW II.

Remembrance Stories

Remembrance Stories

Although Max had his pilot’s license, he did not like flying over water. So he and Mom never traveled abroad, but they visited all of the continental states in their RV. He was good to my sisters and me, and a wonderful papa to our children. It is strange to see my mom’s name already etched on the stone, but it doesn’t bother her a bit. I want to keep her healthy and with us for a long, long time!

I enjoyed hearing my mom’s stories and seeing the corner where she lived for a time. I asked to hear the stories behind a couple of vintage items that she has given me, and I’m glad I asked! I had two of the stories mingled together.

It is special to me to hear family stories, and imagine those people as they lived their lives, with joys and with sorrows. I want to be the keeper of their stories, while honoring them.

It’s even more important to me to enjoy the living. In asking questions and listening to my mom’s stories, I honor her now, and hear her great heart.

Remembrance Stories

Pop’s Watermelon Comes to Fruition

Sometimes…perhaps most of the time…it is the simple things in life that bring the most joy, the most pleasure. Earlier this year, in July, I realized I had a volunteer plant growing near my back porch. I identified it as a watermelon vine. Apparently, sitting on the back steps last summer, eating slices of the juicy melon and spitting the seeds into the yard, resulted in a healthy plant.

Seeing the plant evoked precious memories of my grandfather, whom the family called Pop. Pop was a gardener whose green thumb nurtured plants and vegetables into bountiful beauties. And Pop had a wry sense of humor. He teased his grandkids, telling us not to eat the seeds when we sat outside on warm summer evenings, feasting on watermelon. If we did, he warned, with a smile on his face, watermelons would grow in our bellies. Not wanting that to happen, we spit the seeds onto the ground near the front porch. Every summer, volunteer watermelon plants showed up in those flower beds, and Pop allowed them to grow.

Those childhood memories made me smile, as I weeded around my own volunteer plant. In honor of my grandpa, I made a little stick trellis and decorated a piece of concrete, using Pop’s quote about spitting out the seeds.

I cared for that plant all summer, watering it often, watching with interest as the vines grew and snaked across the yard. The vines in Pop’s flower beds rarely produced fruit. I didn’t care if my plant did or didn’t. Just having the plant brought back warm memories of gardening with Pop.

To my surprise, and delight, two watermelons appeared on the vines and continued to grow. I’ve been watching the fruits carefully. When the stems turn brown, the melons are ready to pick.

This morning, the sign for harvesting was present for one of the watermelons. The second melon isn’t ready to pick yet. It is still growing beneath my rusty wheelbarrow. But watermelon number one was plucked and carried into the house.

The fruit was small, and beautiful, and appeared perfect in every way. I confess I was a bit nervous about cutting into it, even though I love dining on watermelon. It was a good sign that the melon cracked, with a pop, when the knife bit into it. With a sense of relief I noted the bright red flesh inside and inhaled the fruity aroma. It was ripe!

The melon was juicy and sweet. I chopped up half of the watermelon and added a couple of slices of cantaloupe, grown in my raised bed garden. I sensed my grandfather’s joy and heard his whispered words, Look at that watermelon. You did it.

I also recalled his teasing admonition, Don’t eat the seeds. I know now that the seeds are safe to eat and even have some health benefits. But I grinned, and stepping out onto the back steps, I deliberately spit seeds onto the ground.

For you, Pop, more watermelon seeds to sink into the soil. May they take root and surprise me next summer with healthy plants that bear fruit.

It was the best watermelon I have ever eaten.

Pop’s Watermelon 

It is amazing how an ordinary object can unlock memories and strengthen connection with a loved one. Weed-eating in the backyard a couple of days ago, Greg asked me about a plant that was growing near the back steps. He didn’t think it looked like a weed. I glanced at it and agreed it looked more like a flower, or a vining plant, at least. 

He left that small area alone and moved on. This morning I wondered about the mystery plant and went outside to examine it more closely. It had grown in the last two days and I recognized it immediately. It is a watermelon plant! 

Pop's Watermelon
I love watermelon. I have several plants growing in my raised bed garden. This little vine, however, is a volunteer plant, meaning I didn’t plant it…not intentionally anyway. 

I was instantly transported back to my childhood. One of my great joys when we visited my grandparents, during the hot summer months, was eating cold, juicy watermelon slices. My grandfather, whom we all called Pop, was such a tease. “Don’t eat the seeds!” he would call out as my sisters, cousins and I carried our treats outside to the front porch. “If you do, a watermelon will grow in your belly.” 

Pop's WatermelonPop holding my grandson, Dayan. 

As a wee girl, I believed Pop. I was afraid to swallow those pesky little black and white seeds, carefully picking them out of my melon. If a seed accidentally got in my mouth, I spit it into Pop’s flower bed. Every summer, volunteer watermelon plants would appear among the flowers. Pop didn’t mind. He loved growing things. The watermelon plants were allowed to remain. 

Although I no longer believe that a watermelon will grow in my belly if I swallow a seed, I still tend to spit them out. Which, I am sure, is how that little volunteer plant appeared next to the steps. Last summer I sat on my back stoop many times, enjoying a slice of watermelon and the garden views. A seed that I spat out last summer sprouted. 

Pop's Watermelon
Pop's Watermelon

I cleared away the grasses growing around the plant, lessening the competition for nutrients and water. And then I mulched heavily around the base of the vine. Studying my new plant, I felt very tender toward it. Memories of Pop rose, of those balmy summer evenings eating watermelon on the front porch, and also of my grandfather’s love of gardening. 

Pop always had a huge vegetable garden behind his house and beds of perennials in the front and side yards. He used to let me help him weed and plant and harvest, and I am sure that my own love of gardening was born as a result. Coming into the house one day, sweaty and tired after working in the garden, Pop exclaimed that he needed more help with the weeding. “You need a couple of hoers,” my mom suggested helpfully. (Say that sentence out loud and you’ll understand why everyone laughed.) Pop was quick to answer, “I don’t think so!” 

Pop's Watermelon

Pop's Watermelon

Inspiration arrived, joining the feelings of tenderness and nostalgia. This little vine is special to me. I decided to treat it with great care. Using garden twine, and twigs left over from Maple Tree, whose gifts continue to be so useful, I created a little trellis for the plant. The twig trellis is decorative really, yet I had so much fun crafting it, and the young plant looks adorable twined around it. 

When I cleared away the grass crowding the vine, I uncovered a small triangular slab of concrete resting against the steps. I had another creative idea. 

Pop's Watermelon  

Using colorful art markers, I created a memorial for Pop by including his humorous words. The garden plaque reminds me of my grandfather, and those magical summer days of my childhood. It also reminds me that there is still magic to be found in my life, if I just stay open and know where to look. 

I don’t know if this little watermelon vine will produce fruit. I remember that only one small watermelon ever appeared from the many volunteer plants that grew in the flower bed. That’s okay. Pop allowed the vines to thrive and I will do the same, regardless of the outcome. 

I am grateful for my grandfather, and for the plant that stirred such memories today. Pop would be pleased that I still spit out watermelon seeds, and that I love gardening as much as he did. This plant is for him. It’s Pop’s watermelon. 

Pop's Watermelon

Surrender 29: The Love of Grandfathers

I grew up with a grandfather that the whole family called Pop. For most of my life, he was the only grandpa I knew, and I cherish my memories of him. He taught me about gardening, allowing me to work alongside him, garden hoe in hand, learning about vegetables and flowers. 

 George Harnar, Pop, who served his country during WWII 

My other grandfather, my dad’s father, passed away when I was a small child. I have a few dear memories of him: sitting cradled in his lap, watching him talk, fascinated by his chin stubbled with gray whiskers, playing in his large garage while he tinkered on a car, the intriguing aroma of his pipe. His nickname, selected by my oldest cousin, was PooPaw. 

  Dennis & Grace Lauderdale, PooPaw & Granny

I recently acquired a photo of Poopaw, a gift from my cousin William. He and my grandmother are so young, captured on their wedding day. I treasure this picture, as I didn’t have one of my Lauderdale grandfather. 

I was in 3rd or 4th grade when I realized I had another grandfather, my mom’s dad. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident on an icy road long before I was born. My mother was just a little girl. I learned his name was William, and his family called him Billy. My grandmother remarried later, to the man I knew as Pop. 

  Billy Gregory, playing the violin with his brother Lloyd on the mandolin. 

Although I knew neither of my biological grandfathers well growing up, in the last few years I’ve thought about them often. I am intuitive. My abilities frightened me as a child, and as a result, I grew up with a great deal of fear. While still a little girl, I used to wake up in the dark, which was a terrifying experience for me. I’d sometimes feel someone sitting on the edge of my bed, rubbing my back in a loving and gentle way. Comforted, I’d turn my head, expecting to see my mother. There was never anyone there, that I could see anyway. But that presence brought me a measure of peace. 

Only after I faced down my fears a few years ago, and fully accepted and embraced my intuitive self, did I come to understand who that presence was. My grandfather Billy, whom I never met while he lived, has long been my protector, fulfilling in Spirit what he could not do in life. He has often watched over me, a quiet strength in times of need. I now call him Papaw Bill. 

I fully understand that for most people, my perceptions of Life and Spirit are beyond what they’ve personally experienced. That’s okay. It is only because I so completely accept myself and no longer hide who I am, that I can share my own experiences now. There is a quote that I love, by Sandri Alexander, that says, “Behind your greatest fear, lies your greatest gift.” I am finally realizing what that means for me. My intuitive abilities, because of my lack of understanding, created my greatest fear. As that fear crumbled away, my intuition was revealed for what it was…my greatest gift. My essence. The truest part of who I am. As I journey as a whole person, I am discovering what I am to offer to the world. 

Which brings me back to my grandfathers. I had powerful ahas about PooPaw and Papaw. My gifts of intuition come to me from both of them, through the Lauderdale and Gregory lines. Both died young, PooPaw at age 52 and Papaw at age 33. My mother was five years old when her father died and I was five years old when PooPaw died. 

I know that as a child, I would have greatly benefitted from their stories of their own experiences, as intuitives. I believe that’s one of the reasons Papaw Bill has visited me so often. What I realized just this week, is that PooPaw has been a presence in my life as well. My two grandfathers, ever near, loving me from beyond the veil, from the realm of Spirit. And Pop, charged with the task of being my substitute grandpa, loving me and caring for me as well. He too “pops” by occasionally for a Spirit visit. I recognize his presence by the whiff of tobacco that I get. 

I have stood daily in my studio, before the picture of PooPaw and Granny Grace, sending them love and gratitude. And suddenly this week, I wanted Papaw Bill’s photo too. My mom has that great pic of him playing his violin and today, I stood at Walgreens, waiting for the prints I ordered from her photo to be processed. As the time passed, and I could hear the technician struggling with the machine, I surrendered to what was. If I needed to, I’d come back another time. I wanted that picture today, however tomorrow would be fine too. 

More help arrived. Whispered consultations ensued. Perhaps a swift kick to the contrary machine was delivered. I stepped forward to say it was okay…I’d return in the morning. At that moment, the tech approached with a grin, package in hand. “Here you go,” he said, “no charge. Sorry for your long wait.” He refused my offer to pay. 

In the car I opened the package. Five copies of the photo were inside! They gave me extras. I had what I wanted, and I could share with my sisters. 

I smiled. “Thank you Papaw. And PooPaw. And Pop. My grandfathers…thank you for everything.” 

  

Day 188: Summer Vignette in Pop’s Army Trunk

Pops army trunk e

I love doing vignettes. It’s like working a puzzle. All the pieces are there but I’m never quite sure what the final picture is going to look like. That’s the fun part, trying different pieces together until they all fit, and I’m satisfied with the look. For my first today, I created a fresh summery vignette in my grandfather’s metal army trunk.

I uncovered the old trunk late last fall. My grandfather, affectionately called Pop by the family, passed away in 2007. My mom stored his army trunk here at my house and now has let me use it in my decorating schemes. I spent time sorting through the papers, notebooks, scraps and bits that had occupied the rusty trunk for many years, storing them away in a plastic bin. I enjoyed fixing the trunk up for the holidays, which was actually the first such vignette I had ever done with a vintage piece. That fun experience led to other first vignettes. Although I created a holiday scene in the trunk last year, this is the first time I’ve used the trunk for any other decorating.

The vignette that I created last Christmas focused on pieces that connected to my grandfather and his life. I included stars, trees, and a vintage gas can. I loved the treasure hunt I was led on to find the right pieces and the finished look. I hope Pop will forgive me for giving his army trunk a very feminine look this time around! The sticks of willow and the living green plant tucked inside the bird cage remind me of Pop though, who had a knack for growing flowers and vegetables of all kinds. Some of my fondest memories of him are of watching Pop work in his garden. He would allow me to tag along and ask questions and as I grew older, help out in the garden. I’m sure that my love of gardening and getting my hands dirty can  be traced back to those days spent trailing after my grandfather as he coaxed green plants to grow and produce.

Pop in uniform e

Pop was a very special man. He served his country bravely during WWII, coming home with a bronze star. When Pop met my grandmother, she was a widow with three young children. My mom remembers seeing Pop in his uniform and thinking he was so handsome. She prayed that this kind man with dark hair and eyes would be her new daddy. Her prayer was answered. He not only raised three children as his own, he was also a wonderful grandfather to the grandchildren that arrived later. He very rarely talked about his time spent in the army. It used to bother me to see tears run down his cheeks when he shared stories from that challenging time.

I will enjoy walking by the trunk multiple times during the day and thinking of Pop as I glance at it. Rather than storing this piece in a closet, out of sight, I’d rather have it serve a purpose here in the open. The trunk is an object of quiet strength, endurance and rugged beauty, offering to serve simply, creatively and completely, without a fuss. Those traits sum up Pop very well too.

Pop and Dayan e