Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Melody!

That's me, twenty-five years old and pregnant with my one and only child. On the evening of July 28, 1974, I went to bed as usual, only to be startled minutes later by a loud pop and a gush of water. Got back out of bed, threw some curlers in my still wet from a shower hair, and sat under the hair dryer. David headed to the store for donuts and cigarettes, then sat playing his guitar while waiting for me to get done. Then it was off to the hospital, where we waited for our breech baby to make her appearance, thankfully without a c-section.

At 4:47am on July 29, 1974, our beautiful daughter, Melody, was born. As with every mother since time began, I can't help but go back to that day in my mind, remembering most of it as if it was yesterday.

I had had a miscarriage in my early 20s, which I would find out many years later was most probably caused by my being hyprothyroid or having uterine tumors. I would also have miscarriages after she was born, and a hysterectomy five years after, so she was, indeed, my miracle.

Adding to the excitement of being pregnant with her was the fact that, since I myself was adopted, she would be the first blood relative I had ever known or touched. And, not surprisingly, I couldn't help but imagine what my birth mother might have felt knowing that she would give birth to a baby that she would be giving up.

Can any mother forget those early days in the hospital, the joy of holding that little bundle? Is there a mother anywhere who isn't scared beyond belief, especially the first time, and who doesn't worry about their ability to mother effectively?

I never tired of holding my girl, touching her, especially those tiny delicate hands, and looking deeply into those big brown eyes. So many things lay ahead of us ... tantrums, laughter, tears, dreams, the humdrum of daily living ..

First ice cream cone ...

First birthday ...

Early love of a good book ...

A budding musician ...

Fashionista ...

potty training ...

first terrible illness (acute cerebellum ataxia) ... terrible twos (and threes, and fours) ... first bike ... kindergarten ... first period ... first talent show (Eidelweiss on a flute) ...first date ... first trip to a gynecologist ... first kidney stone (and second, and third) ... first teenage job (which she applied for and got before even telling us about it) ... first car (which she bought and paid for herself) ...prom queen ... filling out college applications ... first trip driving by herself from Georgia to Colorado (I knew the true meaning of fear!) ...
Before I even knew what had hit me, in a blink of an eye, her childhood ended, the teenage years were safely passed through, she was off to college, working as a school counselor, married ... and becoming a mother herself.

My lovely daughter, no longer a little girl, but a woman for many years now.

I know I've said this in every birthday card since you were born, but the message will never change: I'm so incredibly thankful for having had you in my life, and for the close relationship that we continue to share. You are the most joyous gift I have ever received, the thing I am most proud of in my life. I would never have thought that I could love you any more than I loved you on that first day in 1974, but my love for you has grown with each passing year. It's absolutely incredible that a human heart can hold all that love, which you will find out for yourself now as you watch your own boys grow to manhood.

Happy birthday, Melody. How is it possible that you are 35 years old? Wasn't it just yesterday ... ?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What is it about clouds?

What is it about them that makes us stop in our tracks and utter simple words like "cool!", "awesome!", and "wow!"?

Our neighborhood was treated to this cloud/light display at sundown last week, and we just stood in the back yard, turning around in every direction, awestruck as if we'd never seen anything like it before.

I don't think any further commentary is needed ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Remembering my Dad

Last Father's Day, 2009, was my first Father's Day without my dad. And I almost forgot to remember. I didn't write about it here because I was too embarrassed and ashamed.

I know, I know. How can a daughter forget that? Well, it's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it. Some of it I explained in my post Luck of the Draw or Destiny.

I was adopted in 1948 at three months old by Tom and Irene Ecklund. They divorced a couple of years later. I lived with my adoptive mother, who was a drunk and a slut (and I'm not exaggerating on that), until I went to live with him and his second wife, Edna, (aka the wicked stepmother). When I was in the fourth grade or thereabouts, he hired a private detective to follow us (my adoptive mother and I) around, and got enough evidence to get custody of me. I had visitation with Irene for a couple of years, until she screwed up, at which point visitation with her was stopped, and I wouldn't see her again until I was an adult.

During the next seven or eight years, after I went to live with him permanently, I guess we lived a relatively normal if somewhat boring life, certainly different and more healthy than the one I had lived with my adoptive mother! But the marriage wasn't a happy one, and the stepchild/stepmother relationship was very combative and dysfunctional. At some point Daddy started spending most of his time in the garage, but he and I continued to have a good relationship. In 1966 I graduated from high school, went to a year of college, got married, and moved from Texas in 1969. After that, I saw my dad once a year for the next forty years.

The funny thing is, even to this day, I feel like I hardly knew anything about him except for the basics. But then again, does any child know a parent beyond the basics, and those things we learn about them during our life together? He was born in 1920. He grew up in Iowa. He had a sister who he didn't get along with and who he saw only a handful of times in his adult life. He was in the Navy during WWII, and though he never saw battle, he was a radioman. He was an 'electronics representative' in his adult life, a traveling salesman of electronic equipment to places like Hewlett-Packard and General Dynamics. He loved anything to do with electronics and ham radios, and would talk your ear off about them. He was a Mason, but any involvement with them was mostly a piece of paper saying that he'd paid his yearly dues. He said he was a Methodist, but rarely went to church. He was friendly and loved to talk, but had no friends.

He was married three times, with the third time being the charm that happened after I was married myself. Ferne (above) gave him a ready built family of a grade school daughter and two adult sons. In fact, he said that his oldest stepson, Bob, was like the son he had never had, and I'd venture to say that Bob knew Tom the man much better than I ever did. Sadly, about twenty years into the marriage, Ferne developed metistatic breast cancer in the form of a brain tumor. She died within a year, and he was never the same.

When I would visit him in the years afterwards, he just never seemed quite right. His eccentricities became even more pronounced, he was drinking more, and many times I could hardly wait to leave. It never occurred to me that he had alzheimers. He would eventually end up in a nursing home with a broken hip, and that was when they discovered that he had alzheimers.
Three years ago, he got kicked out of his nursing home in Texas. He had broken two rules: he gave the door combination to another patient (he had watched to learn the 1-2-3 code), and he himself went out and rolled his wheelchair into traffic. I had him flown here to Georgia and placed in a nursing home just fifteen minutes from my house. For the first time in forty years, I would once again have a father in my life. One with alzheimers. Who eventually accused me of stealing his money and his car. During the year and a half that he was in the nursing home here, I went from visiting him every day and taking him out on field trips, to having to force myself to go see him two or three times a week.

When the alzheimers finally took over completely, his body began to fail and he forgot how to eat. We put him in hospice, and on July 13, 2008, my daughter and two grandsons and I were with him when he took his last breath. And then I got on with my life as it had been before he came here. And then I almost forgot to remember him on Father's Day.

What I remember most, and remember most fondly and vividly, strange as it may seem, about my dad, is the couple of days leading up to his death. He was unable to talk or move his body, and at one point I asked him to wiggle his eyebrows up and down if he knew what I was saying. I asked him if he heard and understood what I had said - and he wiggled his eyebrows up and down! So even though he couldn't talk, and was unresponsive in general - seemed, in fact, to be in a coma but with his eyes open - I knew he was still in there. I was able to hold the phone up to his ear to let him listen to Bob talk to him, and his Texas grandchildren and stepdaughter, and when I would ask him if he heard and understood who was talking to him, he would wiggle his eyebrows up and down. And I was able to tell him that he was not alone, that I was there to see him on his way, and I knew that he heard me.

On the morning of his death, I should have had the room quiet or maybe some soft music playing in the background, but instead we had cartoons on the tv for the boys! In hindsight, I wonder if he was screaming in his head to turn it down or turn it off, but hope he took comfort in the fact that the daughter and granddaughter who loved him, and who knew that he loved them, were there to mark his end, as well as the two great-grandsons who he was so proud of and whose visits he had so looked forward to while here.

I wish I could think of something more profound to say about my dad, something more than just a rambling account of a few basic facts. Of course, I have many father/daughter stories. We were close, but notthisclose. We shared a life, but in many ways we were strangers. I often wondered if the 'disconnect' I felt with him was because I knew I was adopted (surely I'm not that shallow?), or if it was just from the distance of miles and years (which I think is most probable). To say that he was eccentric would be an understatement. On a good day he could drive me and anyone else to the brink of insanity! Doesn't everybody's dad have characteristics that drive them crazy?!?

But... he was an honorable man. A good man. A decent man. A kind man. And during a time in my life when I had already become the victim of some very unscrupulous people, he did what even many 'biological' fathers don't do ... he stepped up to the plate. He stood by me. He looked out for me. He fought for me. It would not be too far of a stretch to say that he 'saved' me.

So on this day, the first anniversary of his death, I would like to tell him again: Daddy, I love you. Thank you for all you did for me. I was lucky and blessed to have had you in my life, and, I promise, I will never truly forget you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Riverbend Festival - Chattanooga

Every June, Chattanooga holds the Riverbend Festival, nine days of fun and music. For $28, you get a pin that gets one person (kids free) into all nine nights. You can take your chairs and blankets, but, of course, have to purchase your drinks and food there. It's probably not a lot different than dozens of summer musical festivals across the country, except that it's located on the Tennessee River, and has five simultaneous stages of music.

Each evening, beginning about 5pm, there are musical groups set up on the different stages all along the riverwalk area next to the Tennessee River, with each night's headlining group on the Coco-Cola Stage at 9pm. They try to represent all genres of music - rock and roll, country, blues, zydaco, jazz, folk, even a Faith and Family Night. One year we had Vince Gill as a headliner, and another Trisha Yearwood. This year the headliners were Willie Nelson (who sorely disappointed), Little Richard (David said he also didn't deliver), Montgomery Gentry (really rocked), Train, Three Dog Night, B-52s, Steve Curtis Chapman, and the Commodores. And dozens of other groups on the various other stages.

Regardless of who we see, and whether we go every night or only a few, it's worth every penny. You make your way thru the throngs of people to the stages or the grassy areas, set up your chair or blanket for the evening, and either sit and people watch or walk around. The stars come out, a cool breeze comes off the river (or it's hotter than hell), the boats that have come to watch from the water are floating near shore. The whole package is wonderful. Most of us only see the headliners on the big screen, but that's ok, because the real headliner is the river itself, and the bridges and horizon.
Conner and Pawpaw. I love this picture. What is it about watching people you love, especially of different generations, walking from behind? It's a long walk (at least to me and the kids!), so it's one foot in front of the other ...

We walk by this historical building on our way from parking to the festival grounds. We actually walk by many photo-worthy views, but when you're with more than one other person, all of whom walk faster than you, and you don't know what streets to go down, you need to just keep walking!

This is my daughter, Melody, and three year old Conner. The kids really enjoy going to Riverbend, though all the legs can be a little intimidating. You want to carry them or hold tight to their hand.

These are sand sculpters of the headlining acts, which were fascinating, especially to the kids. The also had an area where he kids could play in the sand.

I didn't go to the last night this year, so have no photos of the fireworks finale, but last year it was like something I'd never seen. I was so choked up, near tears. They time it to a montage of the music that was played all week, and it just takes your breath away. Just thinking about it now makes me say that next year I won't miss it, no matter how tired my legs are from walking up and down those hills to get to and from our car!

If you're in the area the first week of June next year, you'll have to join us at Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. I think this particular festival is so special because of the variety of music over the nine day period, and especially the the coming together of people from all walks of life, very young to very old, to share the common factor of music in a family atmosphere. Beer is served, and there are always those who overdo it, but all in all it's about quality time with family and friends, neighbors and strangers. I don't think you'll find anything to beat it these days for $28!

What the ...?

I just did a post on the Riverbend Festival that I told you about last time (when I wrote about the museum) ... and it published with the draft date. So if you want to read it, go to the post before the one about the museum! What the ...? What should I have done to change the date? I tried to copy and paste it to another post with the current date, but it wouldn't let me do the photos, so I didn't want to spend 30 minutes redoing everything. Any info appreciated, and maybe I can move it to it's correct spot!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chattanooga - museum

Every year in June, Chattanooga holds the Riverbend Festival, nine days of music and family fun in the riverfront district, which I'll post about later. (A reminder, you can click on photo to enlarge for enhanced viewing.)

What you do is find a spot on the grounds, then either sit and people watch while waiting for the main musical event at 9pm, or you can walk around to see other musicians on different stages throughout the evening. Or, as Garrett and I did, walk to the museum, which overlooks the festival area.

This is my husband and daughter. I just wanted to give you a sense of the entry to the festival. At the end of the booths is a mass of people.

The Hunter Museum of American Art is located in an historical mansion and a sleek contemporary building on the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River. The mansion is a brick neoclassical building. It served as a family home for Ross Faxon initially and then for Walter Henson, Anne Thomas and finally her nephew George Thomas Hunter, for whom the museum is named. The building itself represents three distinct architectural stages: the original 1904 classical revival mansion which has housed the museum since its opening in 1952, a brutalist addition built in 1975, and a 2005 addition designed by Randall Stout which now serves as the entrance to the museum.

This is a wooden sculpter of a horse. There was no info on their website about it. It's cool.

This is a replica of ... something. I should know, but I'm drawing a blank. Something to do with a factory or industry that was once here? See what looks like a chimney on the right rear? Anyway, it's on a little hill, and Garrett climbed up to see it and get his picture taken with it. On the way down, he slid on the gravel. And knocked me over like a bowling pen. Literally. On my ass. A nice young man standing nearby helped me up, helped me gather the batteries that came out of my camera and the contents of my purse. And my elbow was bleeding and hurt like hell, cut and filled with dirt and gravel. "Garrett, good grief! Now do you see? This is why we say things like 'it's not a good idea to climb up there'!" "Mawmaw, it was an accident! I slipped! I'm sorry!", as he helps me clean up my elbow, him near tears and contrite. "Well, I appreciate your apology, and I know it was an accident, but good grief! It was an accident waiting to happen from the get go! What was I thinking, letting you go up there?" (Though this is what it's there for, and many kids climb up it.) (Also, I was thinking 'photo op for my blog!' My bad.)

This is the museum lit up at night. What you can't see, unfortunately, is the river behind it, with lighted boats and lights of the stores on the other side of the river in the Market District. Also, the back is very modern, but I didn't get a photo of it in the daylight.

I'm not exactly sure what this is, and didn't think to take photos of all the info plaques. I think it's something like hugging turtles in bronze. (So, this goes to show you that art is subject to the interpretation of the viewer, as here's what the museum website says: Tom Otterness often uses humor to comment on social issues. Free Money is the centerpiece of his series that explores the problem of poverty and the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." In this piece, whimsical figures represent the everyday working person, rather than particular individuals. Here the couple jubilantly dances on a sack full of money, causing us to wonder how they got the money and if they acquired it through legal means.) Good grief, again! Who'd have guessed? I'm laughing my head off as I read what I said I thought it was and what they say it is! What the hell was he thinking?!? Do artists just pull this stuff out of thin air to impress or confuse us?

Don't know what to say about this. A giant oil can with wings? On a pedestal? Hmmm. Note to self ... next time, take a photo of those plaques. Nothing on the website. Maybe something to do with the oil industry? A commentary on ....?

You really need to see this up close and personal to appreciate how cool it is. This is Garrett standing inside, and the next one is what it looks like when looking up. All lit up like Xmas.

It really boggles the mind, at least mine, that not only did someone imagine this, but someone was able to transpose it from an idea to a display! How does one do that? I'm sure it's some kind of scientific thing that I'd never comprehend, but it's awesome to look at.

This is a relatively new addition, a walking bridge over Riverside Dr., connecting to the Walnut Street Bridge that goes over the Tennessee River. To see it at night is awesome. The plexiglass (or whataever it is) on each side is see-thru to the street below and can make you feel a little goofy or discombubalated.

Sorry you weren't here to share this event with us! I'll post photos of the Riverbend Festival itself later ... I have to do a lot of photo shop work and pick and choose a good representation.

Oh, and thanks for coming back ... I haven't posted in a while as I was busy with kids, gardening, and animals. And just wasn't in the mood!