·        November 2004

Thinking About Dad & Mom & Veterans…


Your success and happiness lie in you....Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

-          Helen Keller


Veterans Day is this week.  Walking this morning I thought about my father, the veteran and how that influenced my own life.  Mother was changed by my father’s WWII service.  She remained behind in the loving community of friends and family while Dad, already the father of three young children, went off to the adventure of war.


Many of my Uncles (and Aunts) did not serve and went through those years relatively untouched by things beyond their small, insular community.  My parents were challenged in many ways and the reward for battling the obstacles was a greater, more global world view.  Even more important, I believe they also developed a stronger faith in God – Many people pray that God will intervene and make some dream come true.  I believe my parents understood that God has already provided for us and continues to meet our needs, so rather than pray for things, hey expressed gratitude for the many blessings they have already received. 


My mother ran the household while my father was in Europe.  The demands of being father and mother to three small children were great.  My father’s daily letters to her were a comfort, but she also felt a need to support him by writing encouraging, cheerful letters.  She carried her daily burdens alone and with considerable grace and she also responded to the new needs of her spouse by taking up her pen to provide him with word pictures he could cling to when home seemed so very far away.


My father realized how difficult I is to be the one left behind.  Though he was far from home, he was stimulated by all the new things he was learning, the people he was meeting and the places he was visiting.  From the start of his military career, he wrote to my mother three letters each day.  In this way, he hoped that Mother would receive a letter each day, even if the postal service or the US Army misplaced one or two letters now and then. 


Father’s letters were filled with amazing details from the type of birds flying overhead to the kinds of crops growing in the fields outside the windows of the train that whisked him off to war.  He detailed the training methods and his opinions on how to motivate soldiers.  He wrote about his personal beliefs and outlined his philosophy for raising the children.  There were affirmations of love and silly poems and notes directed to each of the children. 


Years later when I was a young mother with a soldier (airman) husband serving on a remote island at the end of the Aleutians, my mother would encourage me to write often and to never put pen to paper with discouraging words.  Something in her remarks made me think there had been times when she had wished to write a “Dear John” letter to my father.  She spoke of that though on one occasion, but in my youthful surprise, I did not ask many questions.  I already understood many of the challenges of trying to sustain a relationship with miles and miles in between two people.  Mother maintained that it is never correct to write a “Dear John” letter to a serviceperson.  You must wait until you can manage the task face-to-face.  This, she implied, is part of supporting the war effort.


My father and mother set high standards for themselves and expected much from one another.  On occasion they disagreed on matters and unlike people who yell and scream and call one another names; they internalized their anger and frustrations.  Even from a war zone, thousands of miles away, my father would try to advise my mother on how to handle matters at home and many times he would be unhappy with the way she chose to resolve a problem.  Mother, in his absence, could make choices about how to live and these choices may have felt liberating.


They managed to surmount the challenges of these years of independence and uncertainty.  


Years later when I too became a member of the military, I was able to better understand what my father had been through.  I am grateful I took that step and can now say that I am a veteran too.


I wonder what Mother and Father would say about our impending Peace Corps adventure?


Some Things I have Done Because of my Military Career

  1. Took control of a fighter aircraft
  2. Flew over the Gulf of Mexico watching dolphins in an Army helicopter
  3. Watched Mt Etna erupt on Super Bowl Sunday, just hours after we dined on the mountain top
  4. Toured the Paris police HQ, escorted by Superintendent
  5. Did bit parts and film dubbing in Spain
  6.  Performed in a Renaissance Festival in Italy where someone was killed at the joust
  7. Performed in community theater productions in Madrid (Wicked witch of the west!)
  8.  Canoe raced in Northern MI & cross country skied too
  9. Performed at King Richard’s Faire as the Queen’s Guard (sword fighting!) and another year as a marriage broker.
  10.  Worked at a rape and crisis intervention counselor at several places
  11.  Went to the Running of the bulls in Pamplona several years
  12.  Picnicked in castles all over Spain and camped everywhere too
  13. Got box seats at a Bruins game and sipped champagne
  14. Went to the Red Sox game and got autographs
  15. Spent a month on the coast of Italy, swimming in  the Mediterranean 
  16. Traveled to Morocco by boat and stayed in a brothel
  17.  Spent time explaining recruiting to Colin Powell
  18.  Spent a day with General B.O. Davis and several Tuskegee Airmen
  19.  Coached a Russian general on American recruiting practices
  20.  Led the Pledge of Allegiance and color guard at President GW Bush’s campaign rally in SC
  21.  Attended Queen Elizabeth’s birthday parade – was within 5 feet of her and Princess Di and the royal children
  22.  Stood within 5 feet of the King and Queen of Spain (she and I had matching straw hats!)
  23.  Earned my AA, BS, MA without taking out student loans (while raising kids and working full time!)
  24.  Listened to Helmut Kohl speak at my BS graduation at Heidelberg, Germany the year the Berlin wall came down
  25.  Rode a camel in Turkey
  26.  Traveled in Germany, France, England, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Malawi, Mexico, etc…
  27.  Prepared briefings for Senate hearings
  28.  Married my high school sweetheart (& stayed married too!)
  29.  Applied for the Peace Corps with my spouse (awaiting invitation now!)


  • Thursday, 4 November 2004

A Ramble on Grandchildren and Trees…


The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from domination of outside conditions.

-          Robert Louis Stevenson


Having grandchildren under our roof for an unexpected, extended visit has been a delight.  It has also been a reminder of what hard work it is to be good parents.  I find myself wondering how my own children and I survived our on-the-job training in the art of parenting!  It is rather amazing that everyday, everywhere, people go through the same acts of nurturing and mentoring as they watch children grow and master the tasks that make up our daily lives.


When my husband and I visited my brother in his remote village atop a mountain in Malawi Africa, we walked with a revered tribal headman who advised us that “…young men plant children, old men plant trees.”  I often think about his words.  In many ways, he meant it literally.  We have children when we are young and as we age, we often turn to nurturing plants and trees.  I am struck by how similar these tasks are.  I am also in awe that we are trusted with raising children when we ourselves are young and inexperienced.  One of the things one learns from gardening and child rearing is how fragile plants and children are.  There are so many opportunities to go wrong, despite our well intentioned efforts.  I am equally amazed at how resilient plants and children are.


Test the soil before planting.  It is the soil that helps plants thrive.  It may need additives to balance it and make it the rich earth where a plant can put down roots and be nurtured.


Pull weeds regularly.  Take time to remove stray plants that may choke out the young seedling.     


Apply mulch – a little sh** goes a long ways!


Deadhead or prune as needed.  Pinch off those growths that take away from the plant. 


Nurture plants with regular watering


Enjoy the plants – take pleasure in their daily growth.  They are meant to be enjoyed – show some enthusiasm! 


Share them with others. 


Shower plants with water. 


Planting is an act of faith.  Though we water each day, there is no guarantee that a seedling will thrive and become a mighty oak.   There is no guarantee that we will even see it when it reaches it