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ONE Big Family

Donny suggests that I write a blog post about family and how everyone used to pull together without question to help each other out. It went without saying that grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles never hesitated to open the door for days, weeks, months whenever and for however long the need.

I live with my paternal grandparents as a pre-schooler so that my parents can both work. Putting me in childcare is unthinkable. This is not to disparage childcare. This vital resource is now a lifeline to many but time was when it was not even on the radar. In summers I stay on the tiny chicken farm with my maternal grandparents.

Donny recalls his Grandma Lucy walking him most of the way to school every day. She allows him to make the final short leg independently on his own. She is caretaker for Donny & his older sister Judy so that single parent mom, Mary Elizabeth, can maintain her job as a medical secretary.

Mom sees to it that I spend teen summers with my aunts and uncles who live in distant cities so that I can expand my horizons but also so that I can be an in house baby sitter for them.

All of the above vignettes bring us to the meat of this post. And before you read on it’s not written to be a pity post but rather a reminder of how family connections are such a strong vibrant force.

Last summer daughter-in-law Terri brings a friend and her sons along to family camp. We have a puzzle marathon and over sorting pieces Julie & I discuss living the military life in the South Pacific. She relates how while on Okinawa she becomes pregnant with their younger son and begins experiencing unexpected difficulties. She continues with how hard it is to figure out a plan for the older son with no family to help out.

The light dawns on me that this is what has tugged at my memory of a similar time for our family while we were on Guam. The memory always feels slightly off kilter to me and it never once occurs to me that even with a big loving family there is no one at hand to help out. We are familyless.

I come in from school to find a family friend waiting for me. I am told to pack some things that Mom is in the hospital and I can not stay home alone. There is no family to take me in, they are all thousands of miles away. Dad is on flight duty, he cannot take care of nine year old me. I am adrift, at the mercy of friends.

This friend takes me to a stranger’s house. I sort of know the family because their daughter is in school with me but our families never socialize together. This family just takes me in out of the goodness of their hearts and they are wonderful. They apologize endlessly about having nowhere in their tiny house for me to sleep but the couch. I don’t mind at all they are so nice. I miss Mom immensely but I am cared for and comfortable.

And then I get moved to the house of the friend that had met me after school who for some unknown reason could not take me immediately. It is a comfort to Mom to know I am with her good friends but it is simply awful to me. I like the family when we have dinners together, they are fun and cheerful. But living with them and their two rambunctious boys is pure misery. I have to bunk in the room with the boys and they are terrors. Nothing horrifying happens but nothing good either. I am a begrudged duty done for a friend.

I miss all of my home comforts and Mom. Dad takes me to see Mom on his days off but in those times no kids are allowed in hospitals so it is barely a visit. Mom’s emergency resources are available only at the distant naval base and so that is where she lands. Her room is on the ground level of a small building so Dad lifts me up to wave and blow a kiss.

If Mom had been at the base hospital I could have visited her room window at will. Kids roam the base freely without a care in the world. Mom even sends me to the base dentist on my own once. That story goes something like this. When it’s my turn I reluctantly get into one of the many chairs for what is to come. It’s a room full of dental chairs, mass mouth work. I am nervous and fidgeting. I am less than cooperative. Finally the enlisted assistant, none too happy with his job anyway, stops trying to get me to open wider and says, “I don’t want to be here any more than you do, so why don’t you just leave.”

I look at him thinking he is joking. He is dead serious. “Just go,” he stands akimbo with a scowl on his face. I get out of the chair slowly expecting to be yanked back by him or any other adult in the room before I can make my get away. But it doesn’t happen. I gingerly walk to the door not believing my luck. I keep looking back to be sure. My somewhat savior scoots me along with a hand gesture and then turns his attention elsewhere, glad to be rid of me. I am free! I never tell Mom.

It will be determined that Mom is RH negative and in dire straits as is sister Suzanne. Total bed rest is the only recourse and a complete blood transfer for Suzanne when she needs to be delivered early by Caesarean section or die. The hospital has an incubator, not a new device but it is one that is just beginning to come into it’s own in every day neonatal care and that along with the transfusion saves Suzanne’s life.

Mom will spend more weeks in the hospital and Suzanne even more gaining up to the required five pounds she needs to go home and we can finally be a family together.

Postscript

Mom and I are on our return trip from Virginia to see very ill Grandma Boschen. It is January. We board the USS Morton in San Francisco and it embarks. The first night at sea is so rough Mom puts our suitcases in the closet to keep them from constantly sliding back and forth across the cabin floor. We have a roommate but she is close lipped and in a world of her own. The next morning shows no improvement in the weather and the table cloths are soaked by the crew to keep dishes and utensils from sliding off onto the floor.

I love it all. Mom not so much. She gets violently ill and ends up in sick bay. A bad case of seasickness is her diagnosis. She cannot keep any food down. The doctors try to get her to eat toast. I am allowed minimal visiting so I know this. She only wants corn flakes. They balk and so she eats nothing. I am left to my own devices.

Mom has moved us the second day to a room closer to other moms and children, much more fun for both of us, but we do not know any of them and before we can make friends Mom gets sick. The other moms feel some obligation to tend to me but barely knowing me and with kids of their own to chase down their oversight is minimal.

At first I am overjoyed, scant adult supervision for a week until we get to Hawaii! But then my drama creating mind kicks in. If I were to fall into the ocean who would know. I wander all parts of the ship seeing if anyone will stop me. They never do. I truthfully do not go deep into the bowels of the boat but do try a few doors and parts of the deck off limits to civilians. Once I decide to go from the dining hall deck to the top deck with my eyes closed. I have barely started before I walk into a huge steel beam with such force that it knocks me down ending my experiment. I am glad to get to Hawaii and Dad.

Being a kid on your own is not that much fun.

Post Postscript

Mom’s stay in sick bay is not entirely seasickness. Early stages of her unexpected pregnancy with Suzanne as she later finds out.

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Bill Northern THE Horse Whisperer

Bill explains energy flow

“I didn’t get my apple.” Bill Northern, rookie dowser, stops in his tracks. He is on his way to the house to have a morning chat with a good friend. Her horse has something for Bill to tell her. Bill looks at the horse who repeats, not TV star Mr Ed style, but direct mind to mind communication style. “I didn’t get my apple today.” Bill nods, heads into the house to report. His friend assures Bill that she has given out the daily apple. And then she pauses, “Wait, no I haven’t.”

And with that Bill Northern becomes an official horse whisper. It’s his first real breakthrough. He goes on to make a career out of talking to horses and reporting their needs and concerns to owners. He and his wife travel to New Zealand first class paid by clients he is in such demand. He works in Hawaii and Florida.

Bill only starts out to be a sometimes dowser and takes a class out of curiosity. He isn’t very good at it and decides that maybe dowsing isn’t his thing. He practices at home but with little success until the day the horse speaks to him. Crystal clear, it is animals, horses in particular, that he is supposed to work with.

I read about Bill in a full page feature write up in The Daily Break of the Virginian Pilot. It is fascinating. I am delighted to see that he lives in Warsaw on the Northern Neck of Virginia which is the neck of the woods where my family hails from. I don’t know him but we are already bonded.

This is in the early nineties. A decade plus later I am seeking counsel with a long time lawyer friend, Gordon Wilkins, for help with my mom’s paperwork. He and his wife (dorm mate from college) live in Warsaw. The three of us are having lunch at a local popular always crowded eat and run place when in walks this person casually dressed wearing a dapper gentleman farmer hat. I notice him because he’s noticeable in a quiet but dynamic way. Gordon looks up just then and says, “Hey, there’s Bill Northern!”

Bill teaching dowsing

I cannot believe this. “You know Bill Northern? I’ve always wanted to meet him!” Gordon hails Bill over to the table and invites him to lunch with us. Bill is happy to do so. He gets his lunch. We all chat. I explain how much I am intrigued by his work. He says that he is getting ready to drive to Florida for some sessions and would I like to go. It’s an honest invitation, not at all a come on. I truly consider it for a moment but home responsibilities, although to their credit Donny & Lewis will support any decision I make, tug me to say not this time but ask me again.

Bill and I connect later when I discover through his webpage that he teaches dowsing classes. Donny & I want to take one. I check in with Bill. He explains that the way it works is if he feels like folks are ready for the experience he will add their name to his list. When the timing is right he will arrange a class of four and alert you. If your calendar is clear you will spend a day learning all about dowsing in the comfort of Bill’s home and he even includes lunch and gives you basic dowsing take home tools. Donny & I are accepted together into a class. Even though I’ve taken several cranial sacral workshops and so know a bit about energy fields, Donny does the best. He’s a natural.

Cathie Morrison & Bill. Cathie has tremendous light energy.
Bill explains a point to Lynda Wood

Months later I take a group of girl friends for a class. Bill is elated over my energy field exclaiming that it is so big. Mom brings her dog Molly for a reading. Bill has helped mom with a dog she fostered telling her that the dog needs to be in a one dog family that will fawn over her. Mom is a little skeptical but finds the right home for Ginger and of course Bill is right.

Bill only accepts people with the right energy flow. Once I suggested a friend that actually lives near Bill and he said that she wasn’t ready. Currently two friends have been accepted for Bill’s next class. I cannot wait to hear about it. They are definitely ready and in for an awesome day with the infamous Bill Northern.

POSTSCRIPT: When I ask Bill about Mom bringing Molly to our class for him to assess her, he cordially agrees. As we continue our conversation about whispering with animals in general, I ask Bill if he ever works with cats explaining that we have many adoptees. He shakes his head and says, “Cats lie. They are impossible to work with. If they are very sick, they will tell the truth but that’s about it.”

Bill Northern, horse whipsperer

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The PERKS of Being A Polaroid Camera Girl

camera girlAlways looking for ways to make quick money in college, I beg friend Sharon Gates Buskell to take me on as a Polaroid Camera Girl. It is a perfect job. Polaroid provides equipment, film, and jobs. You just show up, take folks pictures and sell the attributes of the camera.  Sharon agrees and I am in.

I float from one gig to another. Pay is good and somehow much of the film designated for any job gets used before returning the equipment to Sharon. She doesn’t mind. She is the queen of spreading the perks of our job around.

otis reddingAt one of our school dances she brings her camera and takes pictures for a dollar apiece. Otis Redding is the headliner. In those days headliners hung with the crowd and partied as much or more than we did. I snag Sharon just as she reaches the last shot in her last pack of film.

Friend Sandy Baker and her date Stevie Wonder (she called him that because he was short and sexy), get wind of my goal. They want to be in on the action. I agree but I get to keep the picture. (Years later I send a scan to Sandy in Germany where she lit off for right after graduation and never came back). It’s one of the best dollars I ever spent. You can barely see “Respect, Otis Redding” signed on the photo sleeve but it’s there.

polaroidA few years down the road I’m finished with school but still working a few Polaroid gigs now and then. It is the point where I have just met Donny at Church of Our Savior in Sandson. The annual Christmas bazaar is gearing up. Becky Upton has put Donny & I together making games for the kids. Donny makes my bean toss idea into a reality. First of a bazillion crazy ideas of mine he makes real. We have hit it off. But possibly the deal sealer that put us on our lifetime path together is when I volunteer to take Polaroid photos for bazaar goers in exchange for a few dollars to the bazaar funds. I have film. I have flash bulbs. I do not have a camera. Donny offers his Dad’s Polaroid. It has not seen a lot of use and needs batteries. Donny takes me to Sandston Pharmacy where I meet the local druggist, Tony Mehford. He considers us a couple and chats for a long time. And in hind sight I have just had my first date with my lifetime partner. The perks of being a Polaroid Camera Girl.

 

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Happy Forty-Six to US!

We're married! June 7, 1969

We’re married! June 7, 1969

“Edward, can you tell me what Marie is saying?” I am feeding them dinner and while our three year old grand daughter is quite articulate I still cannot quite catch what she is saying. So after several requested repeats I turn to her seven year old brother, Edward, for help.

“Yes,” he replies. It takes me a moment to realize he is telling me that she is saying, yes. Not, yes, that he can help me. Her yes is in the form of, “Of course.” Maybe Edward figured that was too advanced for me and went for yes as an easy alternative.

Before Donny and I get married we chat one night about how so many couples don’t make it, often throwing in the towel without even trying to make things work when the course hits a rough spot. Neither of us want to consider that possibility. And so I say, “How about we give it forty years and see how we feel then.” It’s a deal. That I instantly forget about until Donny reminds me on our fortieth anniversary.

We meet in November. Start dating in January. Become lovers in February. Get engaged in March. Get married in June. Six quick months together and then a life time commitment. This year we are celebrating our forty-sixth year on this fabulous journey.

But back to our fortieth. Donny reminds me of our deal. Shall we keep going he teases. I need no time to think. “Of course!”

 

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