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Posts Tagged ‘Blunderites’

A friend reminded me I haven’t posted here in several months, so here I am again. There have been some changes, some sadness, some soul-searching since then. My last post was about springing my 91 year old mother from the nursing home and moving her to my sister’s home. That was almost a year ago. Mother is still with us, but barely. Her eyesight and hearing are pretty much gone, her body is shot, but her mind was strong until recently. When I went to see her at Christmas, though, she didn’t know me. She asked for her sister Frances, who’s been gone for 5 years. They were as close as twins, and the best of friends. We couldn’t get through to her to explain. I wonder if, during all those hours she’s drifting between sleep and consciousness, she’s been making visits to the other side, getting ready for her permanent relocation.  Mother, it’s all right, there are so many of our loved ones waiting for you there, it’s okay to let go.

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March 2012 092

Sadness – my 52 year old niece Becky slipped into a diabetic coma and left us suddenly last spring. She was born profoundly deaf, and with neurological problems, and her life was not easy, but she loved life and her two beautiful children and her cats … sweet girl, I hope you passed into the arms of your Papa who loved you so, and got to meet the grandfather who died so long ago on a mountain in Wales, and all the others we miss down here.

beckysalute100_1643 daddy-1

mem.day2005_0530Image0062  HRHflag

I turned 66 in September and had to face the fact that I’m far beyond middle age now, unless people live to be 120. I started receiving my late ex-husband’s Social Security benefit as a Divorced Widow. It’s a few hundred more than mine. Don, I appreciate the extra $, but I’d far prefer for you to still be here.

Sept. 2, 1967

Sept. 2, 1967

don571

Do you know Baylor is about to get that Ph.D., and has turned out to be a terrific teacher? And to think we both warned him he was not cut out for the academic life! Guess he showed us! That makes me happy. Our oldest granddaughter just started college. Autism has never stopped her from being a spectacular young lady. She was asked to join the School of Engineering which thrills her engineer grandfather to no end. The twins are almost 17, smart, talented, well-mannered (thanks, Lisa) and total nerds like their dad, and now like me. I came to nerddom rather late, re-discovering Doctor Who a few years ago and falling madly for #10, David Tennant.

Ashley born Sept. 1, 1994

Ashley born Sept. 1, 1994

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

Just got back in touch with my dear Welsh friend, Steve Jones. He’s had some experience as a movie extra, and I’m trying to convince him to get a job on one of David’s projects so I can come over and meet him. Come on Steve, I know you can do it! And I am so happy to hear that after all these years the lovely Sabina has made an honest man of you! I do hope to see you both again, even if you don’t come through on my very reasonable request.

Steve Jones and Shirley Wetzel in Wales

steve3

So, after years of counting the months, weeks and days until I reached retirement age, I decided not to retire after all. I’d spent a few months after foot surgery on house arrest, and I actually got tired of reading, watching tv, and doing nothing. I’d planned to write, but just couldn’t make the words flow. Since I couldn’t drive for much of that time, maybe it wasn’t a fair comparison to what retirement might bring, I still fear that if I do retire I will slowly vegetate, accomplishing nothing. More importantly, I wasn’t sure about the economy. I decided to keep working while I can, for another year or two anyway, and save the SS money to make some really nice trips.

Another thing is, if I’m a retiree, that officially means I’m old. I remember my mother, a couple of decades ago, telling a friend that she knew she wasn’t young any more, but in her head she still felt the same as she did when she was 38. Me, my head tells me I’m 43 … my body says otherwise.

Mortality rears its ugly head. I had a health issue last spring that is now under control, but could prove to be a Bad Thing eventually. I am in what, statistically speaking, should be the last 1/3 of my life, but because of that thing, and because I’ve seen so many people my age and younger leave this world too soon – well, we are not promised tomorrow. I wonder if my first-born son will forgive me for whatever it is he holds against me before I’m gone. I hope he does, for my sake and his. I know he will regret it if he waits too late, just as he did with his father. Son, I couldn’t love anyone more than I love you. Parents are human too, and young parents can make mistakes they regret when they become older and wiser. Jeff, my baby boy, I am so proud of you and you are my rock.

bay847 copy

jeff846

What else? The presidential horror show, where I watched the country I love tear itself apart, with an us and them mentality I can’t even believe. Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with friends and kin and getting to know family I’d never have met in real life. Thing is, we got along fine until this came up, then I discovered that I am a liberal, socialist commie pinko intellectual hippie atheist baby-murdering – oh, the list goes on. Just too sad.

More sadness, 20 little children were cut to pieces in a school massacre called Sandy Hook, and things turned even uglier. The first thought of many of my more conservative acquaintances was “Óh sh–t, Obama is going to take my guns away! “Now I am a mild mannered, laid-back, calm, reasonable, open-minded librarian, but as time went by, I got branded as one of those who wanted to take their guns away, even though that was not what I said, and it is not what the president is saying.  Our country seems to be getting even farther divided and I don’t see any relief in the foreseeable future.

My guru Ma Jaya left her body last spring. I did not get to say goodbye. I have talked to her since then, so that’s okay. In October I went to the beautiful Berkshires for the Guthrie Center church concerts, reuniting with many of my dearest of dear friends in a soul-renewing week. Arlo did three incredible, uplifting, emotional shows, despite, or maybe in part because, his wife Jackie was fighting her last fight. His courage, and that of the rest of the Guthrie family, was indescribable, so I won’t even try to describe it. So much love and grace and strength. Jackie was the heart of the family, but she did her job so well they will be able to go on without her.

My first pictures

Now we’re back to Christmas, You know what happened then. Oh yes, the family home was finally sold, and all the years of memories had to be sorted through, divided up, and given away or, least favorite thing, discarded. No more family photos on the old front porch, but things hadn’t been the same since our own heart, my silver-haired daddy, joined the heavenly band on Dec. 24, 2009. Time marches on. For everything, there is a season …

porch669 

Front porch Oct. 2009

Front porch Oct. 2009

And now it’s a new year. Blank slate, fresh start, let’s see what happens next.

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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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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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Wavy Gravy is famously supposed to have said “If you can remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there.” That may be the case for you and many others of our generation, Mr. Gravy, but I do remember them, and I was there.  I kinda wanted to be a hippie chick, but my parents were strict, my college, Texas Tech, was in the middle of the Bible Belt, and my husband was a law student at Baylor University, then an Army captain, so my hippie plans didn’t work out for me.

Until August of 1989, when I answered the call from Arlo Guthrie to join him on a trip to Europe to avoid the commercialism and hype of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. I wasn’t sure what might happen, thinking the other travelers might be aging, microbiotic-eating, shaggy-haired and bearded people with whom I couldn’t relate. I had am image of Arlo as a good guy, a hero of my youth, and I didn’t want to find out he had feet of clay. I took the chance anyway.  Boy, was I wrong on both account!

Shirley, Arlo and Annie, Matterhorn in the background

Shirley, Arlo and Annie, Matterhorn in the background

Thanks to Janet Alley, here’s a photo of some of my fellow travelers. The Japanese tourist, who look variously happy or terrified, weren’t part of our group:

Blundering through the Alps

Blundering through the Alps

Some of us tried to plan a 20th anniversary of our escape from the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, but we couldn’t pull it together. Instead, there were mini-reunions at various spots around the country. Here’s a photo of my mini-reunion at the WoodyFest with Judy B., Margaret Barton-Ross, T-Shirt Cathy and me – thanks to Shelley Caldwell for the photoshopping – note, this is still a work in progress:

Judy B., Margaret B-R, T-Shirt, Shirley at the Blundermaterhorn

Judy B., Margaret B-R, T-Shirt, Shirley at the Blundermatterhorn

The trip was the start of my new life. I met some wonderful people who are still my friends, and some I haven’t seen again but remember fondly. I discovered that Arlo Guthrie is who you want to believe he is, no feet of clay. And through him I did get to meet some amazing people – my guru, Ma Jaya, and my guru bai at Kashi Ashram, all of Arlo’s kids & his wife Jackie, a strong and fabulous woman, Kris Kristopherson, Richie Havens, and a bunch of other performers who came to the Indian River festivals in Florida in the early 1990’s. Oh yeah, at Thanksgiving 1989 a bunch of us reunited at Arlo’s Carnegie Hall show, and I got to go backstage, and one of my biggest heroes of all time, Pete Seeger, offered me some popcorn. I even met Wavy Gravy, who was standing in the pond at Kashi that represents the River Ganges, playing a ukelele and singing “The Old Gray Goose She Ain’t What She Used to Be.”   It was a surreal moment, and I’ll never forget it.

Twenty years ago, on the twentieth anniversary of the weekend that would change my life twenty years later (do the math) I was with Arlo & the Blunderites at a little hotel in either Austria or Switzerland. Some of us were sitting outside, when the hotel manager came out and said “Mr. Guthrie, we’re showing the Woodstock movie inside, do you want to watch it?” Arlo declined, but the rest of us decided it was a fine idea. The manager looked at Arlo, his hair now a reddish shade somewhat like a lion’s mane, and said “You know, you don’t look the same.” Maybe not, but he was the same inside, and still is, even though the dark curls are now all gray. Thanks, Arlo, for being who you are and for changing my life in such a good way.

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Just got back from the 11th annual Woody Fest in Okemah, Oklahoma, and boy, am I tired! For several days I hung out with my Blunderite friends and listened to some fine folk singers and got to meet some of them. Who knew John Gorka was so funny?

Judy Biesler, John Gorka, Shirley Wetzel

Judy Beisler, John Gorka, Shirley Wetzel

Or that John Flynn is so darn cute, in addition to being super-talented.

Sean & John Flynn at WoodyFest

Sean & John Flynn at WoodyFest

Or that Annie Guthrie, who I first met when she was 12, would turn out to be a fantastic singer/song writer – well, I guess I should have expected that. All of Arlo & Jackie’s kids are in the music business now. Here’s Cathy & Annie Guthrie and Tony Lee Thomas, Annie’s great good friend

WoodyFest 2008

WoodyFest 2008

Other performers – Terry “Buffalo” Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera (all the way from Tasmania!), Ellis Paul

Terry "Buffalo" Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera, Ellis Paul

Terry "Buffalo" Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera, Ellis Paul

One highlight – getting to visit with Woody’s little sister, Mary Jo. She is truly the Queen of Okemah!

Mary Jo (Guthrie) & Shirley

Mary Jo (Guthrie) & Shirley

Judy Collins was the headliner. She is a legend for sure, but her act didn’t quite fit into the Woody Fest model. She came, she sang, she left. The other singers mingle with each other and with the audience, they back each other up on stage, they don’t put on airs – just the kind of behavior Woody would expect. It’s a great festival, and I hope I’ll be going there for many years to come.

My friends & I had some fun on the way back to Houston:

Self-explanatory

Self-explanatory

Kitty & Scary Elvis

Kitty & Scary Elvis

Another place where we couldn't eat

Another place where we couldn't eat

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Moose love

Why mooses, you might ask?  It’s a long story, here goes:  It’s all because of Arlo Guthrie.  As I said before, he has a lot to answer for, and I am very happy about that.  Getting to know him and the good folks I’ve met because of him has enriched my life and put some much-needed silliness into it.  Mooses – Arlo wrote a kid’s book called Mooses Come Walking several years ago. He wrote the text, and Alice – you remember Alice? did the illustrations.  Mooses became part of the Blunderite iconology. Not such a long story after all …

moose love

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