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Posts Tagged ‘remember’

JUST BECAUSE!

Three years ago today
I watched you close your eyes for the last time.
Your love surrounds me still.
So many things about you I keep dear,
lovingly folded
within my memory recesses.

They are all part of your huge presence in my life…
your unconditional love,
spitfire personality,
extraordinary sense of humor,
superb cooking,
intuitive advice,
and your compassionate listening ear.
What wisdom that ear held!

Yes, how I miss you, Mom,
and your unselfish love.
You were never stingy with your affection.
You shared it with me,
and
with so many others, too.
Your love and warmth are still very much a part of me.
My heart continues to overflow.

Your wisdom went well beyond
what I see today.
So many pay to learn and think.
Those who are
educated…
college educated,
masters degree educated,
and PhD educated.

Your wisdom was simple and sincere.
Yet,
how many friends
and acquaintances
drew you out, confided in you?
It’s impossible to count.
There were far too many for even me to know.

Thank you for being you.
Thank you for encouraging me
to be my own person,
for encouraging me
as a young girl
to follow my dream of college,
even though
you didn’t know what a ‘classics book list’ was.
And, thank you,
for holding my hand through it all
even though
you had no clue what it felt like.

You were a classic in so many ways,
a true class act,
and,
I am who I am because of you.
You believed in me,
in the person I would become.

You helped me through many
of life’s hard times.
You never judged me, or those
who hurt me.
Thank you for that life lesson.

Most of all,
you were proud of me,
your daughter…
just because!
And,
I am proud to say
thank you, to you,
my mother, my friend…
just because!

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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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Thank you to Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press for the inspiring prompts. I appreciate the hard work that goes into this and am glad when I have time to participate. Thank you for giving many of us the opportunity to take part in these writing pleasures! I have chosen the picture below to write my story.

Visual Prompt 2 — Untitled by Imke Rusk (http://imkerust.com/)

SURVIVAL STRETCH

Helmut positioned his seasoned body and crouched, yoga-like, into himself as he folded his knees into his upper trunk. One arm he tucked under his chest, the other he stretched and wrapped around the back of his head, cradling it while extending it beyond the space that was his body. The ridge of each vertebrae stretched to the point of relief. He felt the slight arch as he lay, frozen in time, remembering a different life, a time before he knew this survival stretch.

His old fingers felt young again as his mind touched the black and white, the ebony and ivory of his piano. His eyes closed and memory began to play his composition. Melody, chorus, melody, chorus, change up, chorus, melody. He felt the audience lean forward in unison, engulfed in his creation, drawn in by the emotion of his piece.  The burning inside, the intense fervor for his music carried him and embraced his being as his passion intensified, kindling his movements. Always, he felt honored at their standing ovations, at the sense of accomplishment he felt knowing they were at one with him in their appreciation of his work.

Slowly, Helmut disentangled his body from his survival stretch. He was still grateful, all these years later for the empowerment his stretch gave him, for the good memories it was able to bring up, for the ability to hold on to the richness of life he and his family had known at one time in his beloved Germany.  It had been a country of his people, Jews like him with a passion for the arts, an intensity for life itself.

He thought of his father, a talented doctor who often gave his time to those of his kind, his own, while maintaining a prosperous practice. And his mother, ahh, his mother…a beautiful and talented musician in her own right who had nurtured his love for composing and his ability as a pianist. How eternally grateful he was for them. Dachau may have taken their bodies but he would make sure their memories, their souls, lived on.

Helmut checked the calendar on his desk for the date of his next lecture. Chicago, next week, Tuesday. How many lectures had he given? How many schools had he visited? How many questions had he answered? Never enough. Never. Never must they forget.

He smiled as his talented pianist fingers, worn and wrinkled, picked up the picture of his family, taken years ago.  He, his wife and their three children. This wasn’t just a picture. It was a celebration of survival. He and his wife had, miraculously, made it beyond Auschwitz. Their three children were now carrying their family history as part of who they were. They would spread it forward to their children, too. Helmut’s mother’s vivid brown eyes were now being worn by both of his daughters and their musical ability was her gift passed to them. His son walked exactly like his father and his affinity for medicine was a testament of what one can be given.

The piano in the corner of his living room stood ready, beckoning him to sit and touch the lovely keys, no longer made of ivory and ebony, but of plastic. An elephant somewhere was lifting its trunk in approval of the change.

Helmut, too, lifted his trunk, straightened his head, and walked to his piano, in approval of the life he had lived and the choices he had made. Sitting down, he touched different parts of his piano, then closing his eyes, he let his fingers work magic until his ears tingled with pleasure.

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Thank you to BeKindRewrite for this weeks prompts. I have chosen ” What they Wanted me to Be’ as my prompt. Again, thank you, Stephanie!

WHAT THEY WANTED ME TO BE

The cocktail glass reflected the deep claret color of wine Mother was drinking. Her perfectly French manicured fingernails enhanced the thin elegant stem while her dainty protruding pinkie gave proof of her status in life.

“I mention this, darling, because we want the very best for you. After all, your great-grandfather worked extremely hard to establish his legacy.  His trust is not one to be mocked. Your life would have been significantly different had he not been diligent.”

I glanced down at my t-shirt with the large chartreuse fluorescent letters and the blaring motto “Teabaggers gave America a Boehner”, then looked up at my mother and wondered if we were truly related.

“Don’t worry about it, Mom. I am not doing anything great-grandfather would have been upset with, okay?”

“Sweetie, the fact that you didn’t attend the fund-raiser I sent you a ticket for, well, darling, it sends a message that can’t be ignored.”

“Thanks for the visit, Mom. I am NOT getting into another political/philosophical discussion with you. The semester ends in just a few weeks, and, I will be back soon..”  A quick touch of a kiss on her own index finger and then a touch of her finger to Mom’s lips and she was gone, out the door, off to bigger and better things.

After a significant sigh, Dianah, climbed the massive granite staircase and entered her bedroom suite. Walking over to a dresser in the far corner, she pulled the large drawer open. Gently, she unfolded a t-shirt and looked at the message…”Haight-Ashbury…Summer of Love – 1967″. Her mind wandered back to what her life had been while she had attended the University of California, Berkeley.

Dianah’s lips smiled while her long fingernails helped her fold this t-shirt she had never been able to let go. She reflected on ‘what they wanted me to be’ back then, long ago in 1967,  to what she was now.

Her tongue wet her lips, those same lips her daughter recently kissed by proxy finger, and she thought “Ah, yes, what goes around, comes around!”

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Thank you to Indigo Spider of Sunday Picture Press for three amazing pictures, visual prompts for the week. I have chosen the second picture. Head over to her blog and join in the fun!

Visual Prompt 2 — Title and Artist Unknown

BRIDGE OF SMILES

Standing at the top of the curved bridge, Jeanne stopped short. Where was she? What was she doing here?  In the water below she saw the reflection of an old woman, someone she didn’t know. Panic spread to her soul. How could it be? She stared at the still water, hardly a movement, except for the blinking eyes on that barely moving old woman. The dark tree branches from the water’s edge gave the air a misty feel. The gray bricks of the bridge and the high round shape of the walkway made a perfect circle for her to peer down under and look through. Maybe, just maybe, if she peered hard enough…

Jeanne squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them and continued to let the water soothe her until she remembered. Him. His laughter. His touch. His warmth. Ahhh, yes, yes. Her tense wrinkled forehead softened. Her mouth curved up into a smile. Yes, there had been good times. Even when there had been hardly enough to eat, and no work during the depression, they still had each other to hold. And children, a house full of busy, noisy children. A passing memory, a whiff of baby lotion, of clean, air-dried laundry and bread baking caused her to look even deeper into the water. What were their names?

Debbie sat on the edge of the bank watching her grandmother, seeing the smile on her face, the smile which had, of late, become so elusive. She looked beyond the bridge, to the other side. All those white granite stones had names on them, family names, and dates. Everyone there, lying deep in earth’s dust had been loved by someone, even if it had only been the woman who birthed them.

She thought of her Grandfather John, his name carved there, too, in the small plot beyond the bridge. He had been a gentle man, a hard worker who never tired of providing for his six children. She had heard stories from her mother about his kindness to others. Debbie had felt his kindness, too. She remembered the times he took her fishing in the river below his house. Each time she insisted on a new hand-made fishing pole from an alder. He always winked at her, saying no, then off they would go, hand-in-hand, to look for the best one to cut. That was such a long time ago.

Coming here, to this bridge had become a family ritual, a place to come to catch a glimpse of a passing smile on a face that had once worn a perpetual smile.  After Grandfather John was gone, no one knew how to ease Grandmother’s grief. It was so hard watching her mind move inward, forgetting things and forgetting people. She often didn’t remember her own children’s names, and none of the grandchildren.

As Debbie looked up her heart swelled with love. This woman she no longer knew well, who had always been so special in her life but was now almost a stranger, this woman deserved the kind of love she had given out all her life. Visits here would continue as long as possible. There was something about the bridge that allowed  her to go back in time, to remember. She saw Grandmother lift her head and look toward the white granite posts.

Looking beyond the water, at the grassy area, Jeanne’s eyes caught the white markers. She stopped smiling. She lifted her head, sadness in her dull blue eyes. Where was she? She looked down at the water again, puzzled, then turned to see a young woman coming forward. She looked so familiar. She didn’t remember where she had seen her, but when she looked at her, she saw her own blue eyes, smiling back.

“Let’s get your sweater, Grandmother, and then we will head home for dinner. We’ll come back again, soon.”

Debbie put her arm through her grandmother’s, touching fondly her paper-thin, see-through skin, and slowly they walked, arm-in-arm toward the car.

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TWILIGHT

Twilight sings to me
Stars whisper sweet melody
My ears hear your song
These eyes know your rhapsody
Your lips hunt my ecstasy

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There is a war going on at my house. It’s not a knock-down, drag-out fight. It’s… W-A-R…between me and my computer. The sad thing is, I know I am not going to win!

I consider myself a competent woman in many ways. I did well in school, not at the top of my class, but certainly not at the bottom. I have always had many friends and still do today. They often seek my advice and a couple of them even willed their children to me should something happen to both them. (Thank goodness, nothing did. What was I thinking to say yes. Bringing up two alone was quite enough, thank you)!  As a single parent, I learned early on to pick which battles needed fightin’ and which needed to be left to the wind. I learned how to become more flexible, when I thought I already was. I have always been mild-mannered, often to a fault, and can’t hold a grudge if my life depends on it. My two children are now grown and leading good independent lives of their own. I have had a fulfilling career and worked hard, often, too hard. I am well-respected by those I work with and money hasn’t been too bad, even though it could always be better, but that is a given.

Why do I turn into a sniveling, angry, unreasonable idiot when my computer acts up? I don’t have the answer. My insides start to churn, and I can feel my blood boil. My body temperature goes up and at the same time my blood pressure hits the roof. I’m never sure if it will ever come down again. Physical changes I can handle, but, oh, those other ones are much worse!

My mind does a complete turn around. The easy-going person that I normally am rivals Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, like a turn-taking play, with me playing the villain. If a psychiatrist happened to walk by and saw the transformation, he would hit me with a diagnosis in a flash, since I change almost faster than the words come out of my mouth. The choice words my brain is trying to route to my mouth, those I haven’t heard in ages.  If I am talking on the phone with someone, I can’t remember what I was saying and usually hang up. If I happen to be messaging, I pity the person.  A letter is often followed by several # ###keys in a series of made up words that anyone would know, and, then, I rudely end our conversation, with my unreasonableness showing through when I am offered words of advice.

I text my daughter in a frantic state telling her my computer is rebelling again. She calls back. The conversation goes something like this:

“I have had it. The computer is doing its weirdness again. I can’t get into my bank accounts. I can’t see how far my stocks have plummeted today. WordPress isn’t working. I can’t bill my invoices. And, Facebook, forget it!”

“Maybe it isn’t the computer. Maybe it’s RoadRunner. We have had 100 degree weather lately. Too much for the grid.”

“No, it is the computer. Ever since your supposed network-engineer brother set up the wireless system, it has been going in and out.”

“My laptop was working just fine on your wireless connection.”

“That’s because you haven’t used the connection much. And are you saying that I am stupid, that since it is set up right, I am the one who is doing it all wrong, that I don’t know what I am doing?”

“No, I am saying it might not be your computer or the wireless connection that your network engineer son, who happens to earn double our salaries put together, and who happens to get sent to Amsterdam twice a year by his company to trouble-shoot and straighten things out there, you know, THAT son who set up the wireless network in your home…. obviously, it was too complex for him to set up your router, just so much more complex than his job!”

“All I know is I am sick of it, and I am sick of being called stupid because I don’t know how to set up or fix computers.”

“No one thinks you are stupid. You know that.”

“Well, obviously everyone does. I think this computer is junk. I need to get a new one. Maybe a new one will work better. Or maybe this new router needs to be a better quality.”

“Your computer is working just fine, and, besides, my brother,…your son, has a computer always waiting in the wings so when the one you are working on is fried, he can give you the one he has reconfigured and then take your current one, and change those innards, too”.

“See, I always knew you two thought I was stupid when it came to computers. It is embarrassing, you know, that I have destroyed more computers than anyone I know, and that he has to set me up every couple of years with the one he has stripped and changed around.”

“I don’t think you are stupid, Mom. You have done well with technology. You didn’t grow up in a world filled with technology.”

“You can say that again! We didn’t get dial phone until I was in eighth grade, 1965. My phone number, until then, had always been 114. Now, look at the world! I remember when my grandmother was one of the operators in my home town. She told my mother, once, when she was connecting to see if our number was still busy, that she heard me tell my old boyfriend, Mike John, ‘My grandmother is the operator today, we need to be careful what we say.'”

“See, how can you think you don’t know anything when you have experiences that we will never have. Why don’t you reset your router and modem. On second thought, why don’t you wait for me to do that. I will be over in a little while”

“Aha, I always knew you didn’t trust me. See, proven right!”

“Ok, Anne Shirley. Stop acting like I am the sixth-grader Gilbert Blythe. Get that nose of yours down a notch.”

“Give me  a break. I am just letting you know that I am not as stupid as you think I am. I know you are appeasing me, you are putting up with old-fashioned me. . Don’t even think I don’t know.”

“I am sooo looking forward to our conversations 20 years down the road, Mom.”

“When I am eighty, you mean?  Well,  just shoot me now, why don’t you! But, first, shoot the computer. Everything is the computer’s fault, anyway, you know.”

One day later:

“What the ####. I just lost power. My WordPress is down. Just great!! My story is lost. I need to get it to Indigo Spider by 3:00 P.M.”

“She will understand, Mom. Just email her.”

“A lot you know. I don’t get special favors in life, you know. I wasn’t born a spoiled brat. I told you before, and I will tell you again, computers are ruining my life!

“Yes, Anne Shirley.”

“Like you really understand.”

“Love you, Mom. Hope you get to finish your story. But, I have to tell you, you are OBSESSED.”

“Yeah, right! Remember, I used to change your diapers!”

“Yup, and I REALLY don’t want to go the role reversal route today!”

Yes,  my computer and I will always be at odds. It’s a love/hate affair. (Yes, affair as opposed to relationship. I would never give the computer enough credit to think I am having a relationship with it). I fear these kinds of conversations will come up again as the world of technology becomes more complex. I better dig my heel in and hold tight. It’s going to be a rough ride.

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