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I updated my End of the Beginning post and somehow none of it was saved, so, try, try again. The title comes from a song by my good friend and talented singer/songwriter John Flynn : http://johnflynn.net  You can hear the song there.

The lovely and talented John Flynn

The songs resonates with me because I realize there are far more years behind me than there are ahead. I have lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Ruth Stewart Hornsby, April 2, 1921-

Mother and Dad lived for 40 years in the old house where they watched 3 generations grow up:

family on the porch

grandchildren, great-grandchildren, even great-great grandchildren:

T

Jan. 2010 DFW Cemetery

The time came when Mother could no longer stay in that old house:

Our experiment with sending her to live in a fancy “assisted living” facility didn’t work out. After a mistake with her medication that almost killed her, my sister Gwen took Mother home with her.

Mother's lonely new home

So now I find myself at the beginning of the end, although I hope it’ll be a long time before I get there. John’s song says “The journey of a single step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here was where I started:

Shirley Jean Hornsby Sept. 1946

I grew up, went to college, got married:

Sept. 2, 1967

We had kids:

Baylor and Mom Oct. 1971

Jeff and Mom, Bangkok, July 1973

Then we had some grandkids:

Ashley b. Sept. 1, 1994

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

We got divorced, but later became friends again. I had some adventures, did a lot of traveling, met some interesting people and some great friends, mostly because of Arlo Guthrie:

Shirley, Arlo & Annie Aug. 1989

"Matterhorn" in Okemah, Ok.

Guthrie Center Fall Revival - Blunderites all

Guthrie Center 1996

John Flynn and the Flynettes, Okemah WoodyFest

To quote John again, I’m thankful “for old friends you can count on, even though their ranks are thinning.”

Alasdair and Shirley, Macchu Picchu. Miss you always


Dennis Lachappelle, best bus driver and best friend anyone could ever ask for.

Goodbye, old friend

There are others I dearly miss: dear, sweet Jack Dultz, Gay, who will always be sitting at the front table at the church, Gerry Harper – your daughter grew up to be as wonderful as you were, sweetheart. So many friends and loved ones gone but never forgotten.

Our sons grew up:

Baylor and Jeff

Our granddaughters are teenagers!

So, what happens next? I need to work on that Bucket list – maybe finish the mystery I started writing many moons ago. I have continued to write and get published – here’s the launch of the latest anthology from the Final Twist, Oct. 2011:

Shirley at Murder by the Book

Chorus of The End of the Beginning” “Oh, the journey you make, from the first breath you take, to your last dying day, the mystery will take your breath away …”

Kris Kristofferson, who accompanies John on this song, has a song with a similar line:

From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse, the going up was worth the comin’ down. I do believe he’s right. Journey on …

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John Flynn

The title comes from a new song by my friend John Flynn, a very talented singer/songwriter and a fine human being. http://johnflynn.net

It resonates with me, because I realize, like it or not, there are far more years behind me than there are in front of me. I’ve lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Stewart Hornsby April 2, 1921-

When last I wrote, she was just leaving the old house where she and Dad lived for 40 years, watching grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren grew up:

leaving home

We had high hopes that she would be happy in the fancy “assisted living” facility where she was promised, and paid for, the full level of care. Being almost blind and deaf and in a wheelchair, she was helpless to do the simplest things. Even though my sister checked on her every day, and I made several visits, she did not get that wonderful care, and the staff did not help her find friends. One day my niece found her sprawled, unconscious, on her bed and asked the nurse to check on her – “Oh, she’s fine, she always sleeps like that-”  Terri insisted on having them check her blood sugar. It was 60. Any lower and she would have gone into a diabetic coma and died. Due to a reaction between a morphine shot she’d had at the ER after she fell and hurt her arm and a pain pill she took later, she came close to death. My sister came and took her home with her. She sits in her room, in her chair, listening to audio books. Sometimes I come and take her to the old house to go through all the stuff collected over a lifetime, and she rides her electric scooter through her garden, and that makes her happy – and sad. We are getting ready to sell the house now. A family with one-year old twins want to buy it – it’s a fixer-upper and they have skills and not much money, so it would be a good fit. Mother wants to know that another family will live there and love it like she did.

Thanksgiving was – well, she put it best, when my cousin called to ask about it -” pitiful.” Only my sister, brother, and niece were there, and the dinner was store-bought. Mother was horrified that the cornbread dressing had sugar in it. Horrors! My oldest niece wrote on FaceBook that it was the first time she could remember when we didn’t gather at Granny and PaPa’s house. Seems like when my dad died, the heart left our family. Mother declared that we WILL all gather there for one more Christmas, and I hope she gets that wish.

The end of the beginning … my sons are grown, I’m not likely to have any more grandchildren – but I do adore the three I have. I have wonderful friends, but some are not doing well and some have gone on to the next world. As John says, “old friends you can count on even though their ranks are thinning.” If I want to achieve the things on my Bucket List, I need to get busy.  “The journey of a step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here I go, taking that step. Maybe I should start with finishing that mystery I’ve been working on for … a good long while.

Book launch Oct. 2011

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My last couple of posts, about my mother’s unhappy experiences in moving from her home to “assisted living,”  have been downers, and it’s time to talk about lighter subjects. During the last two weeks of March I had some fine adventures out in the Texas Hill Country, back in Houston, and up in Dallas.

First off, my friends Loretta and Beverly and I went to New Braunfels to see Arlo Guthrie perform at Gruene Hall, one of the oldest dance halls in Texas.

Standing in line at Gruene Hall

The show was great. The lovely and talented Burns sisters, Arlo’s son Abe, and his band opened the show – for two hours!. Then Arlo came out and they all performed for another two hours! I met up with my Dallas friends Jay and Shelley, my dear friend Doris Judd, who I met at a writing workshop, and spent some quality time afterwards with The Burnsies, Jimmy LeFave, Kil.Ler, Arlo’s former bus driver, now an agent for musicians, based in Austin.

The Burns sisters, Jimmy LaFave, and Killer

Doris, Shirley and Jay - Gruene Hall

Arlo and Shirley Gruene Hall March 2011

Shelley, Killer and Shirley Gruene Hall

A good time was had by all. Next morning, the Three Musketeers traveled farther west to visit my friends Nancy and Tony Parker-Simons, who manage the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, founded by Kinky Friedman. I’ve known them for several years, and two finer people cannot be found. We spent the afternoon talking, eating, laughing, touring the ranch, visiting with the animals, and laughing some more.

Beverly, Loretta, Shirley and Nancy at the Ranch

Tony Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch March 2011

Tony has become an excellent photographer. He showed us some postcards he’d made that were National Geographic quality. One took my breath away, literally – a hummingbird caught in mid-flight. He has an eye for capturing nature – plants, animals, and oh yeah, even people – he took some that made me look good, and that’s not easy to do!

Nancy in Outer Space March 2011

In addition to being a Fine Human Being and one of my long-lost sisters, Nancy is a story teller, a writer, and a kind and loving woman with a heart bigger than Texas. Do I love her? Indeed I do!

Reluctantly we said goodbye to Nancy and Tony and all the critters and made the long trip back to Houston. But the fun wasn’t over yet! The next Tuesday Loretta and I attended the opening of a new play, “Becoming Kinky” – the story of Kinky Friedman in three parts. It was truly a great show, and we bonded with the couple sitting next to us, Mark and Joyce, then got to visit with Kinky and his sidekick, Jeff Shelby, aka Little Jewford.

Shirley, Kinky, Loretta, McGonigels Mucky Duck March 2011

Loretta, Shirley, Little Jewford, Joyce, Mark, and Kinky

We closed the place down, and as we drove away I saw Kinky in a meditative mood – or was he just wishing Jeff would hurry up and take him home?

Kinky Friedman after the play - March 2011

The fun was over for awhile, and it was back to work. In my next installment, I’ll talk about my mother’s 90th birthday party, and update her status on the “assisted living” experiment. There will be some good parts and some awful parts … but for a few weeks, my world was full of friends and fun and Texas in the springtime.

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Or, my New Reality. The past year has brought many changes into my life, most of them not good. I finally got my doctor to listen to me explain that my swollen ankles and rapidly increasing shortness of breath were not just due to my being fat and lazy. Nope, I have a heart condition called dystolic dysfunction, meaning the blood is slow to fill up my heart and move on to the other chamber. Nothing too serious, apparently, she didn’t even refer me to a cardiologist, I did that on my own. He confirmed that diagnosis, but said he was more worried about my lung function. Off I went to a pulmonary specialist … after months of tests, drugs, one blot clot scare, I was told my “exercise-induced asthma” is really pulmonary hypertension, and when my symptoms didn’t improve with drugs and a C-Pap machine for the sleep apnea that MIGHT have led to this, he put me on oxygen. Here’s what ph is:  “Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects only the arteries in the lungs and the right side of your heart.”  It is not necessarily related to overall high blood pressure – my bp has always been low to normal.  “Pulmonary hypertension is a serious illness that becomes progressively worse and is sometimes fatal. Although pulmonary hypertension isn’t curable, treatments are available that can help lessen symptoms and improve your quality of life.”

That caused me to wonder “why me?” I have gained weight in the last 15 years, but most of my family are as large or larger. I exercised, until I couldn’t handle it any more, I never smoked, never did illegal drugs, have a fairly healthy diet, good blood pressure, but I’ve got a progressive health condition for which there is no cure except a lung transplant, and nobody else in my family has this. Why me? Why not me? Is it genetic, or does it have something to do with the miracle diet drug combination that was all the rage 15 years ago – until people starting have problems with enlarged hearts and other inconvenient side effects. I got checked, my heart was fine, no harm, no foul, and no weight lose.  When I began researching my health problems, guess what popped up in the adds for lawyers in the sidebar – yes, that drug combo is rearing its ugly head again. People who took the combo as long as 15 years ago have developed primary pulmonary hypertension, among other things. I have to try to get my doctor’s attention to find out if that’s the kind I have – and if it is, I might get a settlement from the drug company, but I might not live long enough to spend it. If my granddaughter happens to read this – DON’T WORRY! This is probably not the kind I have. My mother has similar issues and a lot of other health problems I don’t have, and she is 89. She feels like hell most of the time, but she’s still here, and at least her mind is sharp, even though her body is shot. My doctor assure me there are new drugs in the testing stage, new treatments, we’ve caught the problems fairly early, time is on my side.  But listen, I’ve had symptoms of both conditions for years, but when I told my doctors, they just blew me off. I was fat and out of shape but otherwise they found nothing wrong. Be your own advocate, you know your own body, insist on being taken seriously when you think there’s a problem.

It sucks to realize I may be disabled within the next decade, or maybe the next 2 years. My new reality is that I will have to lug a heavy oxygen bottle around when I “exert” myself – i.e. walk more than 5 minutes, do housecleaning,  go to the mall … Doctors can diagnosis these things, but as my friend Connie, who has COPD and a long history of dealing with the medical profession, tells me, they don’t tell you how to deal with what comes next. After I had a lung catherization that showed no blood clot after all, the nurse called me to tell me to “keep doing what you’ve been doing!” with a big smile in her voice. Doing what I’ve been doing hasn’t helped, the breathing problems just keep getting worse.  I’m trying to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, getting my affairs in order, trying not to let my mother know how serious my condition is becoming, learning how to navigate my world with a heavy oxygen bottle strapped over my shoulder, thinking it may be time to ask for a handicapped hang tag because I can’t walk up my stairs without gasping for breath.

My new reality – I had planned to travel after I retire in 2 years, but the rules and regulations involved in flying when you’re oxygen-dependent are mind-boggling. I have begun knocking items off my bucket list – I’ll probably never return to Thailand, never see Angor Wat, maybe soon I won’t be able to go to western Massachusetts for Arlo’s October concerts … Will I be around to see what my brilliant granddaughters become, will I be able to go to their weddings, hold their children? This sucks, did I mention that? Time will tell …

My other new reality – I’ve had my first Christmas as a fatherless child, the first Father’s Day with no one to send a card to, no one to call me his baby girl. I’ve had the first Memorial Day when I visited my dad and talked to a carved headstone. There’s a quote I think about by Mark Halliday in Keep this : “Everybody’s father dies  But when my father died, it was my father.” I can say now that my father died last Christmas Eve, and I can believe it and accept it, but when I remember how his last minutes on earth were spent choking and gasping for air because a medical “professional” gave an unconscious man who couldn’t swallow a dose of liquid medicine, well, that anger is still with me, as well as my anger over the lawyers who said we had no case because he was so old his life had no value, legally speaking.


I’ve learned that now that he’s gone, some members of the family are not treating Mother the way he treated her, with love and respect, taking care of her until his frail body gave out. Her last months, or weeks, or days are not peaceful, her very large extended family are not flocking around her, and I have tried to make things better but I’m too far away and it’s breaking my heart. Here is a woman who devoted her life to her family being ignored, neglected, or treated as a nuisance. How can that be?  Gotta stop now, my eyes are leaking …

Well, I think I’ll end this now. It’s taken me a long time to put the words on the screen. Isn’t there a quote about “misery shared is misery halved”? I feel better now.

Aug. 5, 2010. I’m feeling better today, physically and emotionally, and I’m ready to add the part where there’s Light at the End of the Tunnel, and It’s Not a Freight Train, Every Cloud has a Silver Lining, Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall … I was thinking of a song Pete Seeger, one of my personal heroes, wrote years ago about aging. Pete’s in his 90′s now and still going strong, BTW.  The chorus is

“How do I know my youth is all spent? My get up and go has got up and went.

But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin, when I think of the places my get up has been.”

I have been to far away places with strange-sounding names that most people only dream  about -  China, Siam (Thailand), the Philippines, Taiwan, Cambodia, Turkey, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras,  England, Scotland, Wales …and I almost forgot the Arlo Guthrie Blundering through the Alps tour that sent my life in a whole new direction – Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy …

Copper Canyon, Mexico

Shirley, Arlo & Annie in front of the Matterhorn

I have worked on archeological excavations in some of those places, even though I never finished that dissertation.

I had wonderful parents, and my dad lived to the ripe old age of 89, and my mother is 89 aiming for 90. I have known love, even if it wasn’t forever, and I have two sons I adore, and four granddaughters any grandmother would be proud to claim.

I’ve done some writing that got published, and even got praised. I’ve got a job I enjoy, and I’m not likely to lose it before I reach retirement age, and I have good health insurance. Way too many Americans don’t have that security these days.

I’ve followed a different path than I’d thought I would, way back in my youth, and it’s been interesting and exciting and sometimes strange, but rarely dull. I’ve met some wonderful people, some famous, most not, who have become great friends. You know who you are, and I want to tell you how much your support and love and strength has meant to me through the years, through the good times and the hard times, and I know you will be there for me in the unforeseeable future, come what may. I might have a lot of years left, there may be a miracle cure in somebody’s lab at this very minute, or maybe not.  Whatever happens, I’ll still be able to look back and grin, when I think of the places my get up has been.

Latest news from my friend Connie, who keeps up with this stuff:

DefaultPotential Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension Discovered

ScienceDaily (Aug. 11, 2010) — Researchers in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta are one step closer to a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a potentially deadly disease.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs, currently has only a few treatment options, but most cases lead to premature death. It is caused by a cancer-like excessive growth of cells in the wall of the lung blood vessels. It causes the lumen, the path where blood travels, to constrict putting pressure on the right ventricle of the heart which eventually leads to heart failure.

Evangelos Michelakis, his graduate student Gopinath Sutendra and a group of collaborators have found that this excessive cell growth can be reversed by targeting the mitochondria of the cell, which control metabolism of the cell and initiate cell death.

By using dichloroacetate (DCA) or Trimetazidine (TMZ), mitochondria targeted drugs, the activity of the mitochondria increases which helps induce cell death and regresses pulmonary hypertension in an animal model, says Sutendra.

Current therapies only look at dilating the constricted vessels rather than regression, so this is a very exciting advancement for the lab.

“In the pulmonary hypertension field they’re really looking for new therapies to regress the disease, it might be the wave of the future,” said Sutendra. “The other thing that is really exciting is that TMZ and DCA have been used clinically in patients so it’s something that can be used right away in these patients.”

Clinical trials are expected to be the next step. Michelakis is currently working with a college in the United Kingdom to have patients with pulmonary hypertension take DCA.”

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I went to a writing/yoga retreat near Belton (Texas, for my Yankee friends) last week , met some great people, made a few pitiful attempts to re-start my long-lost yoga skills, and did some inpsired writing.

Before I went, my friend Robert asked me why it’s never called a “yoga advance.” My witty answer – “er, uh, because we can’t advance until we retreat and get ourselves together?” I thought about that question and realized, by the end of the session, I’d said a true thing. My zest for writing has been flagging, and I needed something to get the creative juices flowing again. The Universe, as it is wont to do, lead me to just the right place.

I learned about Patricia Lee Lewis and her writing/yoga workshops by accident (do I hear someone say “there are no accidents?”) Someone on my writing listserv posted a link to a retreat in Wales, wistfully saying it would be great to go to something like that. I clicked on the link, and low and behold, I said to myself – I KNOW that place, I saw the house at the top of the hill when my Welsh friend Steve Jones took me and my half-sister Gwen to visit St. Non’s Chapel. St. Non was the mother of St. David, patron saint of Wales, and St Davids is the city near Carn Llidi where Gwen’s father died in a plane crash in June, 1943. I knew I couldn’t afford another trip to Wales, but I decided to write Patricia and tell her about our story. Somehow I felt she’d want to know.

St. Non's Chapel, Wales

St. Non's Chapel, Wales

I got an e-mail from her that said, in part, “when I read that he (Gwen’s father) was from Comanche, I wept. My grandparents were from Comanche.” That was only one of many coincidence we shared, and we both knew we had to meet. When she said she and Charles MacInerney (yoga teacher) were holding a retreat at Belton I was elated. Belton fits the budget. It is also the town where my great-great grandparents, Elisha E. and Ruth Wilkinson Stewart, were pioneers in the Republic of Texas days, and I knew it fairly well. In no time at all, my credit card was in my hand and the arrangements were made.

Some of you may not believe it, but I am a very shy person, and going into new situations where I don’t know anybody usually scares me out of my wits. This time, I had no fear at all. I knew I was going to were I needed to be, where I belonged.

By the end of the first evening, we all pretty much felt like friends, and we were ready to learn and have fun doing it. Patricia has a gentle teaching style, developed in part by her experience in grade school with a teacher whose cruel comment crushed her joy in writing for years. She had written what she thought (and what was) an excellent story. The teacher wrote on the paper “did you really write this?” When Patricia figured out the teacher doubted that she could have written such a fine piece of work, she was deeply hurt.

Our writing exercises, always started with a little meditation and a prompt of some kind, were read aloud to our group. All stories were treated as fiction, all comments were about what was good. I read my efforts without my usual crippling fear that someone would make fun of it, or say something cutting – things that have happened in writing groups before. And the writing – as soon as the group leader said “go”, I’d put my pen to the paper and the words would flow, with no effort on my part. Some of the stuff came totally out of the blue, like my poem about sleeping with the pool boy, and some of it, I realized, came from deep inside where it had been waiting for me to bring it to life.

By the end of our four days together, I knew I’d been through something important and extraordinary, and met new friends who will go on to become old friends. Joel, you dog, you, you make me grin! And Doris, my friend from lifetimes past. Drew and Elizabeth, it just melted my heart to see the two of you sitting on the park bench reading MY story aloud to each other! Madeline, you are one fine cook. Bonnie, you are a dear. Lisa, come on over to Rice and we’ll do lunch. Charles, you can teach me yoga any time and I just might learn to love it again. To all of you, and especially dear, long lost sister Patricia, thanks for being you.

Here’s the link to Patricia’s website:

http://www.writingretreats.org/About/

and here’s the one to the retreat in Wales. The photo is of St. Davids Cathedral, and in the far right background you can see part of Carn Llidi. Patricia has promised to take her class on a pilgrimage to see the memorial to Lt. Robertson and his 3 fellow crew members, and their story will live on.

http://www.writingretreats.org/Retreats/International/index.html

Here is a photo of my Welsh friend near the retreat center:

Steve Jones and Shirley Wetzel in Wales

Steve Jones and Shirley Wetzel in Wales

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In my last post, I mentioned my granddaughters, remembering them as babies rolling in the bluebonnets. I also mentioned Comanche, and posted part of my novel in process. That made me think of writers I have met, like Kinky Friedman, who has a small cameo in the book, and Earl Staggs, because he is a great friend of my dear friend Kaye B., and Jeff Cohen, who I first “met” online because of our mutual interest in autism, who writes some of the funniest mysteries around, and Chris Grabenstein because he writes a series about two wonderful characters who protect a small town on the Jersey shore, as well as a darker series about an FBI agent and another series for kids, and I happen to have pictures of all of them on my latest photo cd – I HATE to delete my special photos. So this seemed a good time to post some of those photos. Here goes.

Amber of the Jungle

Amber of the Jungle

Autumn the Hilarious

Autumn the Hilarious

Earl Darlin' and me

Earl Darlin' and me

Chris Grabenstein and me again

Chris Grabenstein and me again

Jeff Cohen and still me

Jeff Cohen and still me

The Next Governor of Texas

The Next Governor of Texas

Kinky Friedman and me in a choke hold - but he really does like me

Kinky Friedman and me in a choke hold - but he really does like me

Kinky's Right- or is it Left?-Hand man Jeff Shelby

Kinky's Right- or is it Left?-Hand man Jeff Shelby

Comanche County Courthouse

Comanche County Courthouse

Saloon where John Wesley Hardin shot the sheriff of Brown County, but he did not shot the deputy

Saloon where John Wesley Hardin shot the sheriff of Brown County, but he did not shoot the deputy

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Nothing is inevitable, as they say, except death and taxes. We all pay our taxes to support our democratic government, right? Well, apparently everyone may get taxed, but if you’re high enough above the huddled masses you may get away with not paying them – unless you get picked for a top government post.

Enough of politics, what I really came here to talk about is the one part of life that IS inevitable – death comes to us all. One drawback to getting older is that many of our friends and loved ones, as Kinky Friedman so poetically puts it, start “stepping on a rainbow.” I’m not for sure about what happens to them after that, but I’d like to think they go to a very nice place and reunite with everyone they’ve ever loved, including their dogs and cats and other assorted pets, except snakes. I HATE snakes. And all the pain and all the regret and all the unfinished business they had on earth will be forgotten.

Why this gloomy topic, you ask? Let me tell you — In the last 2 months I lost two people who were very dear to me, and I’ve been wondering where they are now and if they’re okay. They were two very different people, but they were both part of my family – one by birth and one by choice.

I met Dennis Lachappelle almost 20 years ago in an Indian restaurant in NYC. A group of people who were mostly strangers to each other had gone to Europe with Arlo Guthrie, who wanted to avoid the hype and commercialism of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, and we were having a reunion at Arlo’s Thanksgiving show at Carnegie Hall. Arlo treated us all to dinner after the show, and I saw Dennis sitting by himself, looking kinda lonely and shy. That’s the last time I’d ever think of him as shy. He was Arlo’s bus driver for many years, and he and some of the people from the trip and people we met later at Arlo gigs truly did become family – complete with feuds and fusses like all families, but with lots of love too. At one of Arlo’s October concerts at the old church in Great Barrington, he said that a lot of people in the audience had started out coming to the concerts to see him, but now we came to see each other and he was secondary to our get togethers. He was right.

Dennis was a part of our family, even after he stopped driving the big red bus and started working for the state, driving snowplows in the winter. He always had a big smile and a bear hug for us; he rarely got angry, and when he did, he exploded for a brief moment, then got over it in an even briefer moment. He’d always wanted a family, and children, and he finally got that wish a few years ago when Deb “Fitzi” Fitzgerald came into his life. They were married at the old church last summer, with Arlo performing the ceremony. It should have been the beginning of a beautiful life – they should have had many more years together – but one evening in early December, after driving the snowplow almost 24/7 for days, he called his boss and said he wasn’t feeling too well. He never made it home – a co-worker found his truck at the side of the road, and called for an ambulance. Dennis died in the hospital, his big heart worn out trying to help others. He was that kind of guy.

Mary Hart, my first cousin, was a gentle soul, quiet but determined and resourceful. Her mother was many years older than mine, and she was 13 years older then me, so I didn’t know her as well as the cousins more my age, but when I started getting interested in our family genealogy she was right there to offer me all the help I could ask for. She’d worked in big cities, Dallas & Houston, until they just got too big for her, and she returned to our hometown, Comanche, Texas. She started helping out at the library, and before too long she had become a vital member of the staff. About a year ago, after feeling bad for a long time – she never liked to make a fuss – she went to the doctor and found out she had advanced lung cancer – no, she wasn’t a smoker. She called her brother to get her house ready to sell, put all her affairs in order- that was easy, she was always orderly, and checked into the hospital. She went into hospice care a few months later. When we visited her, she was matter of fact, upbeat, ready to go, and made us promise there would be no funeral, no memorial service, no hoopla after she was gone.

I’ve become friends with the Comanche librarian, Margaret Waring, who loved Mary like a sister. She said Mary left a note for her friends and family that said:

“Message from Mary: I love you all, AND NOW I FLY!”

When I started this post, I didn’t realize I might be closer to taking flight than I’d thought I was. My doctor had some tests run, and it seems I have a heart problem. It’s something that can be managed and treated without any drastic measures, but still …

Songs about flying:

I’ll fly away

Don Conoscenti – go to the right side & click on The Other Side:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=16775309

Poems about flying:

High Flight

By Pilot Officer John G. Magee Jr.

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings …

Goodbye, dear Dennis, sweet Mary, I hope you are flying high now. As Arlo Guthrie’s song goes, My old friend, I’ll see you again … now you’re just around the bend, my old friend

And I will see all those dear to me … when it’s time for me to take wing and join them

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My ex-father-in-law, Charles, passed away several weeks ago, and last Saturday my youngest son and I attended a celebration of his life. I hadn’t seen my ex-mom-in-law Jean for many years, although we’ve kept in touch in recent years by e-mail. Jean is a wonderful, kind, loving woman whose life centered around her husband, children and grandchildren. She is, in today’s terms, Awesome! How many 87 year olds can send e-mail and surf the web? Almost all of her extended family was there, and it was a house full of love – and food – and noise – several of the grandchildren have children of their own now.

Even though I hadn’t seen many of them for years, or since the last family gathering at the funeral of my ex-husband Don, I was welcomed warmly. The kids I knew as – well, kids – are all grown up and have interesting lives and fond memories of the time when I was their aunt-in-law. Thanks, Cassie, for telling me how much that trip to Virginia meant to you.

There was a slide show dating to the late 60′s and 70′s – the hair, the clothes, oh, the humanity! :-) There I was as a college coed, all 114 pounds of me, and there was our wedding day, our children, Lynn & Ed’s children … as the family grew, there was one constant – proud, happy Jean, doing the only thing she ever wanted to do, taking care of her family. Charles didn’t appear too often – Jean said he was probably on the golf course. He loved the family, but was not as expressive as she was.

Charles E. Wetzel was a good man, a man born into a family of modest means who managed, although married with 3 children, to graduate from Rice University, a school known for its difficulty and high standards. He served his country in the Army Air Corps before that. He became a very successful CPA in Houston, then retired and played golf some more. I hear he learned to cook and invited their friends for sumptuous meals. He was a talented musician, started the choir at his church and played organ for many years, and sang beautifully. His son Don got some of the musical talent – although he was better at playing the guitar than singing. Our son Jeff got the voice.

I always respected Charles, but never got to know him well. It was difficult for him to express emotion. The last years of his life were difficult, but I will always remember him as he was in my favorite photo of him. Jeff was 6 weeks old, and he was cradled in his grandfather’s arms, his eyes gazing deeply into his grandfather’s eyes, and there was so much love. Rest in peace, dear Charles

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No, I’m not talking about a particular Texas death, but the upcoming anthology from FInal Twist, my local chapter of Sisters in Crime. It will be out in the fall, and it will contain my first published short story – yay, me! titled Feels Like Home. There’s lots of other great stories from my sister writers as well. Here’s the cover – love those Texas bluebonnets! My story is set in my hometown, Comanche, Texas, and to my kinfolks and the citizens of Comanche past and present, I want to say “hey y’all, the crime and the characters are all products of my imagination, or based just a tiny little bit on real events twisted around into complete fiction, so don’t be thinking I’m writing about real people. The wonderful town is real, of course, and all the good things I say about it are true.

cover of A Death in Texas

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The gang\'s all hereCross another line off my bucket list, I have been to Copper Canyon, Mexico, and lived to tell about it. For 10 days I traveled by plane, train, bus and van through the Copper Canyon region of Mexico, with a motley crew of archaeology buffs, used to hard traveling, and some yacht club couples who were accustomed to travel first class. Somehow it all worked out, and by journey’s end we were all friends. Mostly. The photo above is our group shot near the end of the trip, somewhere in the Chihuahua desert.

here are some of my favorite photos:

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