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Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

Thank you, Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite, for your Inspiration Monday prompts. It has been some time since I have written, but I just couldn’t resist the title No One Remembers But Me. It took me back to a time long ago, a walk down memory lane.

NO ONE REMEMBERS BUT ME 

When I close my eyes, I see the two of us, Mom and me, sitting together on the enclosed front porch of our small, white, two-story house. The supper dishes are washed and dried. Lunch is put up for Dad’s long day of logging in the woods tomorrow. I can faintly hear Dad talking to Mr. Brud Gilbert, also a logging contractor, as they sit at the kitchen table, the makeshift desk Dad always uses for his part-time bookkeeping work. My sister, Lu Ann, is off playing with her friend, Marlene, and my brother, Ernie, is swinging from the Tarzan rope in the huge tree behind our house.

On this warm and sultry evening there isn’t even a hint of a breeze coming from the porch screen door or the large, wavy, meticulously clean windows that give us a view to all the goings-on around this part of Main Street. The stifling air doesn’t bother us, though, as we sit together watching sporadic traffic pass by. We recognize each car, know who is in it, and know most of what is happening in their lives and the lives of their families. We even know their joys and sorrows on their personal roller coaster ride through life.

Through the screened porch windows we see Mr. and Mrs. Bouvier drive by at all of fifteen miles per hour, perhaps heading to tell someone who has not yet heard, about the invitation they received a few months back to attend John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s presidential inauguration  My paternal grandmother, Mae Lumbert, driving like the hot rod she is, whizzes by in her red VW bug, in a hurry to pick up someone in need of a ride to church services this evening. Mom comments on what a kind woman Grammie is. A couple of minutes later, Butchie Nadeau and Harold Coro fly by on Butchie’s old bike. They both have fishing rods in their hands and Harold is hitching a ride on the front handle bars. We wonder if they are going to crash before they get to the Moose River bridge. Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Smith float by in their large black car. Whenever I see Mr. Smith, it reminds me of the story Dad told me about working for him at Smith’s Hardware Store for a while when he was just out of high school. At the young age of eighteen he needed the work. He was already married to my mom and I was born just after he graduated from school.

Mom looks over at me with a twinkle in her eye, and starts to sing one of her old French songs. The words are coming from deep in her heart. I know them because I always listen intently, not only to her words, but to her voice, a voice untrained to some, but, beautiful to me, and full of love and fun. These are the very songs someone taught her when she was a child sitting with her family and friends on the front piazza at the boarding home her mother, my grandmother, owned and ran.

As she finishes her song, Mom glances my way and asks what the meaning of this song is. I translate the words from French to English for her. She smiles at me, an intimate mother to daughter smile and changes her question. What can we learn from the words of this song? I think for a minute about the song and what it teaches me, what the meaning behind the words are. This song is about a girl who ignores her parents warning not to go dancing on the old rotten wooden bridge. The consequences are disastrous. Sometimes I almost want to cry because some of these French songs are sad. They teach lessons about hard times in life, and hurts and disappointments that result from our choices. We talk a bit about how to make decisions that will benefit us in our own lives.

Mom winks and then starts to sing another French song. This time it is light and funny. I smile and start to sing along with her.  We laugh together because we both know that I can’t carry a tune for the life of me. I can’t even tell the difference between a good singing voice and a bad one. It doesn’t matter, though. Mom loves my voice just the way it is. She always tells me if a song comes from the heart that is what matters.

No one remembers but me…

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WINTER’S WHITE

Crisp, harsh, cutting air
Limbs and boughs dressed winter white
Worn boots and gloves await

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              Leo Veilleux, Charlene Lumbert Bisson, Rollande Veilleux –  August 2010

A GENUINE GOODBYE

Last weekend I drove just under four hours to my hometown, Jackman, a community nestled in the mountains of the northwestern part of Maine. It is a secluded wilderness where beauty surrounds you at every turn. A variety of life, flora and fauna, is abundant and always available to enjoy. No matter where your eyes look, you can see trees, lakes, and forest land. Dirt roads leading into the quiet of the woods can bring you the calm you sometimes crave and a treat you rarely get to see, a glimpse into the world of moose, deer, and bear, along with other members of the animal kingdom.

Jackman is the place my heart will always know as home, where my earliest memories were made, where I learned at a young age the meaning of love, the meaning of family, and the meaning of being genuine.

As I drove past the Attean look-out area a few miles before town, I knew I was getting close. To the left, at a distance, I could see acres of trees surrounded by a pristine blue-gray body of water, Attean Lake. Dozens of different shades of forest greens and browns set the scene. Most painters would consider it a dream to set their canvas up high on the look-out and paint the picturesque setting ahead. For me, it meant only one thing…home. My heart tugged and nostalgia set in. All I could think of was…home, I’m almost home. Memories began flashing through my mind like the old-fashioned View-Master I once owned as a child.

This particular trip was bittersweet. I was not the only one heading north. Many others were also on their way, driving from different parts of Maine, from other states as far away as New York and Connecticut, and even from across the border, in Canada. Our hearts were heavy as we journeyed north, but the heaviness often gave way to thankfulness as we reminded ourselves what a privilege it was to have known someone who so profoundly touched each of our lives

My uncle, Leo Veilleux, was a genuine man. There was not one fake or superficial thing about him.  What we saw was what we got! He was genuine in friendliness, generosity, unselfishness and helpfulness. He also had a deep love for people. This trip home was for him, for his memory, for his family, and for me, too. I wanted to say goodbye to him, to someone I had loved and who had loved me.

His wife of forty-four years, ma tante (my aunt) Rollande, the perfect complement and life partner for him, grew up in Lac Megantic, Canada. She was there, waiting to greet all of us. Standing beside her were their four children and six grandchildren. Visiting was from 8:30 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. with a celebration of his life service at 10:00 A.M., a trip to the cemetery, and then a buffet luncheon for all at a local restaurant.

We arrived at 9:00 A.M. There was a line of people almost out the door by the time we got there and it never stopped. I have never seen anything like it.  By the time 10:00 A.M. came, the front yard was still full of those wanting to express their condolences and inside packed beyond overflowing with over three hundred people sitting as close as possible, and standing in every conceivable corner that could be used.

This was a clear testament to the kind of man my uncle was. Everyone loved him. He made each of us feel comfortable and special.  When he talked with us, he didn’t focus on himself. He turned his attention to us. What a lesson we can all learn just from this one simple life skill.

A number of us then attended a brief ceremony at the cemetery. There was a soldier standing at attention by the grave. A lone bugler stood thirty to fifty yards from the grave playing Taps. They unfolded and then refolded the flag, and gave a final salute as the flag was passed to his wife, Rollande. It was poignant and heart wrenching. His family stood there, in the coolness of the autumn day, their hearts breaking, but together as a unit.

We then went to the Hillcrest restaurant, a beautiful spot on the crest of a hill just outside of town. By the time we arrived from the cemetery, it was packed solid. They had prepared for 260 people, and, again, there was standing room only. I did not mind having to stand. I was proud of the love he was being shown. It was evident by the amount of friends coming to bid him their goodbyes. This was the best kind of reciprocation for his years of genuineness.

Because he worked in the service field, Uncle Leo came into contact with the public on a regular basis. He met many of his out-of-town, life-long friends this way. One person he met while he was working at Pomerleau’s store happened to ask him for advice on how to take care of the deer he had just tagged. My uncle, who was a jack-of-all-trades at the store, had also learned how to butcher and prepare meat. He offered his assistance. That was the beginning of the Veilleux/Paquet friendship. This year marked a friendship twenty-nine years strong for the families. This particular friend’s adult son spoke at the service.

Another person from ‘out of town’ but with a family camp in the area (Ellen Carruthers Darsch, daughter of Lil and Ed Carruthers)  wrote this: “Even when you are not from Jackman, Leo Veilleux always made you feel like you were born there and one of his best friends. Jackman has lost a special person. My heart goes out to Rollande and his family.”

Was there a place you asked him to go with you? Was there a wedding you wanted him to attend? Was there a party waiting for his laugh? Was there someone needing help cutting up a deer or moose? Was there a family in need of food? Was there someone in the hospital who could use a visit?  Was there someone wanting to see a moose for the first time? Was there a new person in town?  Uncle Leo was there for all of them.

Children, too, especially loved Uncle Leo. Ma tante Rollande always cared for children in her home. These children came to love both of them and called them Mama and Papa just as they had heard the Veilleux children, and, then, recently, the Veilleux grandchildren call them. Now, the second generation, children of the parents ma tante had taken care of, were cared by her, too. ‘Papa’ would bring them to pre-school and drop them off. All the other children, when seeing him, would get ready for some serious high-five hand moves. If one of the ‘real’ parents happened to drop off his own child, the children would say, “But where is Papa?”, totally disappointed that their high-five partner wasn’t there today.

When one parent tried to explain to one of the children ma tante cared for how things would be different and explained that ‘Papa’ wasn’t here anymore, those big eyes looked up and said, “But, we have to go over there and hunt for his glasses. Papa needs his glasses to read the newspaper. We can put them near him.”  Yes, out of the mouth of babes real love is manifested.

The Jackman community will feel a huge loss, too. He was on many boards, involved with the ambulance system, the hospital, the Jackman Regional Center and many other things I don’t even know about. He was a huge presence and an asset to the town. Whenever someone called, for whatever reason, he was off and running to help out with whatever was needed.

What defined Uncle Leo best was his love for his wife, his four children and his grandchildren. He showed his love for them at every possible moment. He was a hands-on dad and a hands-on grandfather, too. He took them hunting, and fishing. He picked them up and dropped them off, he attended their games and cheered them on. He was always there and available. Most of all, they had fun being with him. He was a true family man in every way.

Often, at family gatherings, or sometimes when we were just visiting, he would look over at his wife, then turn to all of us and say, “C’est mà femme, la, mà femme!” “That’s my wife, over there, my wife!”  Proud as punch he was of her, of the long marriage they shared and the quiet support she gave him all those years. The two of them truly did become one.

I could easily fill several volumes with stories about Uncle Leo. I did not even come close to showing all the good and positive about him. I could talk much more about his many qualities, his faith, examples of the love others had for him, and the love he showed in return, but I won’t go on.

Instead, I will remember him by keeping him close, deep in my heart. I will remember how I felt as I left my hometown at the end of my weekend, after my time with family. My eyes filled as I thought of this honor in my life. I got to spend time with, and to love…a genuine man.

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Thumbnail for version as of 16:42, 16 February 2007

“It has a name – Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. You must schedule a double mastectomy as soon as possible. Be prepared for the possibility of having your ovaries removed depending on your test results. Without this radical treatment, you have, at best, two extremely painful years. Your son must also be alert and vigilant with testing. He is at risk for testicular cancer and breast cancer, too.”

The words above are a summary of what my long-time dear friend heard a few days ago. When I was told, the words screeched in my ears too loud for me to take, like long fingernails scraping a chalk board over and over, making me wince. I can’t begin to imagine how they felt to her as she tried to keep her wits about her and ask questions only to get answers she didn’t want to hear.

Vibrant and beautiful, a young fifty-five, she has a tough road ahead of her. I wish I could take all the pain, anxiety and fear she must face and instead give her what she deserves, a life to enjoy with family and friends without the uncertainty of wondering where it will all end.

It is impossible to describe her in just two words but to start, she is ‘beyond thoughtful’. She has always sent cards with her own beautiful words of kindness and love to everyone, especially to those experiencing life’s bumps and pot holes on this sometimes tragic road we call life. She often sees in one’s eyes what others miss. Compassion and kindness are what she is all about.

There is a little shop here in Portland that sells unique handmade jewelry. One day I was shopping, trying to figure out what to buy as a gift for a friend when she walked in also looking for a gift. We talked (and shopped) while enjoying each other’s company. Before I left, she came to me and clasp a beautiful green stone bracelet around my wrist, gave me a kiss and whispered it was so me,
it had special qualities just as I did. I love to wear the bracelet because every time I see it I see her kind, vivid blue eyes.

My calligraphy isn’t as beautiful as hers, and my words won’t be as inspiring as hers always are, but I am going to keep her close in my thoughts with many cards and a heart full of love as she goes through what will probably be the scariest ride of her life.

Pati, all of us who love you will be with you, holding your hand, wiping your tears and caring for you, just as you have done for us.

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My back yard

I sometimes dream of a time when I will have at least two hours free every day before 11 P.M. When I am dreaming big, I imagine a time when my schedule is flexible every day. What would that look like to me?

When a friend calls crying into my phone because of a disappointment or hurt in life, I would be able to drop what I am doing, call back, and comfort him/her. I would even have time to go to the store, buy flowers and arrange a special bouquet, bake something and bring it over. I would be there for my friend in time of need. Not tomorrow night when I am done work at 10 p.m. or Sunday only, when I have some time, but, NOW,  when I am needed and can be of help.

When I am invited to a friend’s home for dinner because a long-time friend has come back to visit from Ohio for just two days, I would be able to say yes, yes, I can’t wait. What can I bring? What game can I bring? I will be there…me and my memories. Instead, I will hide my disappointment and drive to work.

A good friend of mine has gone to Italy for a couple of weeks. She couldn’t convince me to share the trip with her. Financially, it isn’t a good time for me and I couldn’t take the time off work, but I was thrilled to be able to say yes when she asked me to take her cats for that time. More often than not when my time is required I have to say no because I just don’t have any extra. This I could do. It felt so right.

My house sits on a lovely piece of land. My back yard is surrounded by hundred-year-old pine trees with no lower branches. The fifty-foot trees reach up to the sun, stretching beyond other trees in the woods, like a giraffe’s neck longing for the warm kiss of the sun’s rays. Alders, bushes, and many things wild, including poison ivy, make their home there. I imagine being able to sit in my lawn chair near my almost-dry brook, as often as I want, listening to the slight gurgle it makes and maybe even walking along the bank and following it as it meanders on someone else’s property. I would take time in the quiet of the moment and imagine folks sitting there two-hundred years ago, thinking about the kind of life they had, working the land, letting the sun embrace their faces in the summer every day as they poured sweat, working. They slaved for what they needed and they suffered because of what they didn’t have. Their time was used in a different way than mine, but was just as precious.

Last week I had exactly eight hours of unexpected free time. I can’t even describe how excited that made me. I jumped in my car, drove to Merservey’s Farm about 35 minutes away, packed the car with lots of annuals and a few perennials, drove as fast as possible to the store to buy potting soil and spent the next six hours in bliss with my hands in the dirt. It felt so good.

There are so many things I want to do. Life is full of joy to be had. I love to work with flowers and plants, to decorate, to make quilts (maybe I could get better with time), to entertain my friends and family, put on large meals and parties, read, write, make jewelry..and that is only the beginning.

I must always prioritize and that can be so disappointing. Something always gets left out. I am writing here on my blog today. I haven’t had any time to write for almost two weeks because I didn’t have a spare minute (and I took those unexpected eight hours to play in the dirt). I miss reading the blogs I enjoy and commenting and most of all I miss writing. When I have two hours of time I have to make a choice…play in the dirt with my flowers, sit with a cup of coffee on my back deck breathing in the almost-summer smells, read, write a story or on my blog, or catch up on domestic household things. Whatever choice I make means I know it might be a whole week again before I get to make a choice about an extra hour available to me.

I must continue to teach myself to be content with what time I have and stop focusing on how different it would be if I had more time. I have much of what is good in life to enjoy. I have my family, my children, many good friends, my health and a job, a good job that keeps my head above water. Any of these things can change in the twinkling of an eye.

So, as I take out the trash later today I will have a smile on my face thinking about the next time I get to do something I want, something I enjoy.

What about all of you, my blog friends? Does time dictate your life as closely as it does mine?

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The prompts this week from Inspiration Monday IX  BeKindRewrite are great. Here is another submission. Thank you, Stephanie.

The Wonder of Spring or Postcard from Hell

 The smell and feel of spring air in Maine is exhilarating. This year anticipation was longer than usual. The never ending winter of cold and snow takes a toll on both the body and soul in this part of the world.

To be able to inhale deeply, smell the mingling of crocus, daffodil, forsythia bush, and pine tree, and at the same time hear the performing orchestra of bird songs, the gentle rush of the wind and the soft gurgle of my small brook in the distance is truly a gift.

Without available time, this gift cannot be unwrapped. Today, just today, I have the luxury of time. This doesn’t often happen. Most days this gift remains wrapped up tight, the beautiful willow green wrapping paper of moss carpet growing unnoticed to my eyes. The pliable brown and tan branch boughs tender with cranberry colored buds that make a lovely bow surrounding the package will often sprout without me.

Usually only the eyes of the residents living in the woods behind my house see daily the goings-on. The rafter of turkeys led by strutting Mr. Tom roams for food making its daily check-in without me. I don’t often see the few white tailed deer cautiously peek through the trees looking thin from the cruel winter.

Chipmunks scurry up a tired, almost lifeless tree peeking in and out of the old blue birdhouse tacked there long before I arrived.  Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of one through my kitchen window as I ran out the door for work. Today, he was still around. Our eyes met for a nanosecond as he quickly ran past my Adirondack chair.

Moles work hard burrowing in tunnels below what is supposed to be my grassy back yard.  Fisher stays in his den only to come out at night when my eyes are closed. Squirrels race each other from limb to limb jumping on my roof and then back, preferring the better feel of the trees beneath them. The pileated woodpecker has worked diligently on his canvas of trees leaving three or four inch holes, a geometry of designs for a wanderer to behold.

What a lovely spring picture this is, or is it? Is the picturesque postcard-like scene of life behind my house a wonder of spring or is it a postcard from hell for me because I have allowed my life to steal my time and ability to be involved in the productive lives of these, my forest friends?

As I take another whiff of Maine air, the air I grew up with and love, I know the answer. This is the Wonder of Spring, spring last year, this year, next year and the year after.

Unwrapping this gift package of real beauty surrounding me, even if it is only once or twice a season, is so much better than not unwrapping it at all.

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Thank you to BeKindRewrite for the wonderful prompts on Inspiration Monday!

TEARDROP TATTOOS

The small plane tilted to the right, then to the left giving his wise weathered eyes access to the great expanse below.  Excitement and anticipation flowed through his veins. He had heard stories, yes, tales of now compared to then.  There were those who had seen the changes, those whose footsteps had known as his had the abundant beauty and vastness of this uninterrupted wilderness.  They had told him, described in detail, but even his best imagination couldn’t grasp it. His mind calculated time. Twenty one long years it had been since taking his last step here, in what he had considered his home, his own remote territory.  It was hard to believe that forty six short years of his life was spent working here from season to season, since the age of fourteen,  as a cookie – a  cook’s helper,  working the drives, then as a lumberjack knowing well the sound of T-I-M-B-E-R.  The pilot looked over his shoulder at him knowing those tired eyes would soon show anguish, sadness and regret; anguish because of the somber view below, sadness because he remembered what once was, and regret that he had given in to himself and come one last time in this, his eighty first year of life.

 Acres and acres of land, forest land, once green and growing, now resembled a drab faded brown, desolate and dying.   Miles of never ending destruction begged for mercy and pleaded to prove that what was once green, abundant and flourishing could thrive and mature again.  Tree trunks split and worn down looked vulnerable, thousands of them, chopped, hacked and fractured faced the sky and screamed for attention. Discarded branches, human limbs of this remote region, some large, some smaller, all maimed, severed and mangled lay lifeless in makeshift piles haphazardly strewn about.  Brooks and streams once bubbling with pink-fleshed trout, now looked tired and lifeless.  The wildlife, oh, the wildlife, the deer, moose, bear, fox, fisher, beaver and all the others, where were they?  Once they were thriving and plentiful, companions to the lumberjack, respected at a distance but very much a part of each other’s lives.  Where?  Where?

The plane slowly descended giving him full view of what he no longer wanted to see. They landed near a large maple tree, one of only a few left, standing and so alone. The pilot sat quietly saying nothing, awash in emotion at the look on his grandfather’s face.  With a negative headshake the old man sat in his seat looking out the window at the large maple, his favorite of all the trees. Knots, tattooed knots were weeping sap past other tattooed knots down the beautiful trunk of this, his tree.  He watched his own reflection in the window as his eyes watched the maple sap. Teardrops formed at each corner of his brown dull eyes but they could not fall. Instead, they sat there, like tattoos, remembering another time, a time gone by.

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