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Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

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

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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 remember vividly my first day of kindergarten. Because of my September birthday, I was the youngest in the class, and very shy. In those long ago days, mothers usually didn’t work outside the home, and kids didn’t routinely go to day care. This was the first time I was away from my mother for more than an hour or two, and I was scared and homesick, and I cried. The teacher called me to her desk and let me sit in her lap (probably can’t do that any more, but those were innocent times)  Finally I calmed down, and I soon learned to love school, but those first days in a new environment were difficult.

Shirley Jean Hornsby

The first time I had to leave my two-year old at day care, he wailed and hung on to me as tight as he could. A grandmotherly lady (she probably looked like I do know, but I was 30 and she looked very old) took him into her arms and sat in a rocking chair. She told me he’d be fine, and eventually he was, but I felt such guilt sending my baby into the care of strangers.

Jeff 1975

One of the hardest goodbyes took place the summer after my divorce was finalized. I went to Missouri to work on a dig, and my sons stayed with my parents. They came to Missouri to celebrate Jeff’s fifth birthday. Jeff wasn’t yet old enough to understand that things would never be the same after that summer, that something precious was broken, but his big brother did. The pictures are heart-breaking. Jeff is smiling, splashing in the swimming pool, giggling about the trick candles that wouldn’t go out. My dignified dad was wearing a party hat, but his face was solemn.  In one shot, I have my arms around the boys. Jeff is smiling, I am trying to smile, and Baylor looks  like he’ll never smile again. When it was time for them to go, he held on to me for so long my father finally had to gently pull him away. It took all my strength to get in my car and drive away, when my mind was screaming, “quit that job, take your sons, and go home,” but there was no going back.

Velma Ruth Stewart and Grandma Davis 1921

Now I am a grandmother, and my sons are all grown up, and I will be taking my mother away from her home of 41 years, trusting strangers to care for her. She is 89, closing fast on 90, and we all tried to honor her wish to remain at home until the end, but she is almost blind now, is a brittle diabetic, has congestive heart failure, and the list goes on. She knows she will be safe and well-cared for at the assisted living home – she’d better be, or the staff will answer to a very large and angry family.

PaPa surveying his kingdom

I’ve written about how my silver-haired daddy took care of her every need when she became so ill, even as he grew frail and his mind started wandering. We tried to get him to take it easy and let us help. I asked him “what will you do if you fall and break your leg, who will take care of Mama then?” He replied “I’ll take care of Mama even with my broken leg.” Then he did fall, and he broke his elbow, and the doctors couldn’t fix it, and through a series of hospital and nursing home neglect and error we lost him on Christmas Eve, 2009. For the first few months, family and friends and neighbors rallied around and stayed with Mother, fed her, managed her medications, but as always happens, the help gradually stopped showing up. Medicare sent a nurse and an aide after each hospitalization, and there have been many, but once she was “well” again that stopped. My brother, a disabled Vietnam vet, lives with her, and he tried as best he could to help, but it wasn’t enough.

We tried various ways of keeping Mother at home, hiring a housekeeper who didn’t last long, paying grandchildren to help, but things weren’t done the way Mother wanted them to be, and her needs were greater than they could manage. We had big yelling, screaming “family meetings”about what to do, and every person had a different idea. Mother just wanted to stay at home, but after burning herself badly two times trying to cook for herself – she is a stubborn lady! – her doctor said she couldn’t stay in the house  virtually alone, and she couldn’t afford care 24/7. Her nurses and I tried to talk about the good things about assisted living – she’d get all her meals and snacks served to her, she’d make friends, she’d get to go on field trips, there wouldn’t be any more stressful family meetings … She tried to be enthusiastic, then she’d say “I don’t want to live with all those strangers, I just want to crawl under the bed and stay there …”In her weary eyes I see myself all those years ago, begging just to let me stay home.

Tomorrow I will drive to Dallas to help Mother gather up the last of the special things she wants to bring to her new home, and Saturday the furniture will be moved  and she’ll get settled in. I can’t help with the physical aspects of the move, but I’ll try to help with the emotional side. I think I’ll take her out for breakfast, and then maybe an outing to Walmart, so that she doesn’t have to watch her world being dismantled and reassembled. She said she would try not to cry when she walks out the door, but I told her to cry all she wants to, I certainly will.

For the first time, she’ll be able to have photos of both her husbands on her walls:  2nd Lt. Hulbert H. Robertson, her first love, who died in WWII:

2nd Lt. Hulbert H. Robertson, 1943

Gwen at her father's grave, Cambridge American Cemetery

And my father, Sterling L. Hornsby. They celebrated their 65th anniversary in October, 2009 at that old house.

Sterling L. and Velma Ruth Hornsby, Gwen Robertson

Jan. 2010 Velma Hornsby with her second folded flag

CPO Sterling L. Hornsby

DFW National Cemetery

Several generations of our family gathered on that front porch through the years:

The Scoggins family

Front porch Oct. 2009

Gwen, Shirley, Velma, Gary, Sterling L. Hornsby

65th anniversary Velma Ruth Stewart Robertson Hornsby

Great granddaughters Lindsey Wiggins, Megan Scoggins, and Maddie Mansfield; Great-great grandtwins Gage and Clare Wiggins

 

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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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Crew of Lil' Lass April 1932

Crew of Lil' Lass April 1943

This is the last picture of the crew of the Lil’Lass, taken at Barksdale Airfield, April 1943


St. Davids CathedralH.H. Robertson, Velma and Gwen 1943Steve Jones and Sabina

Above photos – 1. St. Davids Cathedral, Wales. Carn Llidi is in the far background. The crew members were brought here by the locals as a sign of respect, while waiting for the American authorities to come for them. 2. 2nd Lt. hulbert H. Robertson, his wife Velma Ruth (Stewart) and their daughter Gwendolyn Frances, 1943. 3. Steve Jones and Sabina, the wonderful people who made this whole thing happen. Steve is a Welsh firefighter and aviation historian, a kind and generous young man. Sabina is his long-suffering mate, who never bats an eye when he drags home yet another batch of Yanks like us. She is a gracious hostess and a lot of fun.

As I mentioned previously, my half-sister Gwen and I went to England and Wales twice, in March 2004 and May-June 2005, on a pilgrimage to visit her father’s grave and to attend a memorial service for him and his crewmates near the crash site. Here are links to a BBC article about it – please note, Gwen is my OLDER sister, terrible photo of me not withstanding, and photos of the Memorial Service on June 4, 2005.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/4602919.stm

http://www.b26.com/page/Carn_Llidi_Mountain/3.htm

Hmm, I’m not sure if these links work, but you can cut and paste.

Gwen’s father was 2nd Lt. Hulbert H. Robertson, of Comanche, Texas. He died when Gwen was about 18 months old. Our mother knew very little about what happened to him – the Army simply told her “his plane crashed into Carn Llidi Mountain, Wales, in heavy fog and he is dead.” In 2004, our of the wide blue yonder, a wonderful young Welsh fireman and WWII history buff contacted us. He’d been researching WWII American plane crashes. He’d grown up near the site where another plane from Huilbert’s squadron crashed, and he wondered about the men who died there and thought they should be honored just as those who died in battle were. He tracked down relatives of 3 of the 4 crewmen, including the two daughters of the pilot, and organized a memorial ceremony on the 62nd anniversary of the crash.Gwen at Cambridge American Cemetery Memorial Day, 2005newspaper-article.jpg

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On Top of Nemrut DaghiI never wrote up a list of all the things to do before I die, just had a general idea. I’ve already done a lot of them:

I got married, got a degree (B.A. in Psychology from Texas Tech) had kids, got another degree (M.A. in anthropolgy from Rice University), got a divorce (NOT on my list), got another degree (B.S. in Information & Library Science from North Texas University)

I love to travel. Thanks to Uncle Sam, I got to live in Thailand from 1972-74, where I fell in love with all things Asian and developed a stronger interest in archaeology. We visited Penang, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Phillipines. I can cross those places off the list, except I would like to go back to Bangkok, maybe with Jeff, who was born there but was too young to remember anything about being there.

I wanted to do archaeology, and I did:

Oxford University Field School, Oxford, England, where we did survey in Dartmoor and excavated an Iron Age hill fort, Crickley Hill, near Glouchester

Nottingham Lace Factory, Galveston Island, spring 1978

Cannon Dam Human Ecology Project, Missouri summer 1978

Utatlan, Guatemala summer 1979

Ashton Villa, Galveston Island, 1979-1980

South Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire, England, 1980

and I traveled with the Friends of Archaeology to:

Turkey, 1999 and climbed to the top of Nemrut Daghi – see photo

Peru, including Machu Picchu – loved it, but the altitude was brutal

Guatemala, where we made a visit to Utatlan and I was able to recognize the trench I excavated

Copan, Honduras

Mexico, several times

England and Wales, 2004 and 2005, when I took my half-sister Gwen to visit her father’s grave near Cambridge and the place in Wales where his B-26 crashed on June 4, 1943

Places I still want to go:

Bangkok (again) – Cambodia – Viet Nam – Laos

Ireland – and again Wales, Scotland, England

People I want to meet:

Willie Nelson – John Prine – Bruce Springsteen – Linda Ronstadt
People I wish I’d met:

Woody Guthrie – Hoyt Axton – Steve Goodman – Jimmy Stewart – my grandparents, Sterling L. and Mary Sabina Ward Hornsby, who died much too young

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