Friends of Divide Camp came to Headquarters to enjoy some stew and talk about trapping. WWII Marine veteran Van Blaricom has a memory as sharp as, well, a steel trap. He entertained Rod Dearth, also a retired Marine, and Jim Soares, volunteer for DC, with his adventures back in the day. Rod is new to Wallowa County, but held his own at the table with stories of trapping alligators in Florida. Jim updated the two with more recent trapping tales.
This was my first time to make stew, and they seemed to enjoy it. But Van told so many stories his food grew cold and he didn't finish it. This meal was not about the food, though. It's what we do at Divide Camp- bring veterans together.
After Jim returned to work, the conversation soon turned to combat and military life. Rod left a little while later and Van said, "It means a lot to me to tell these stories, because other veterans understand."
Today my grandmother would be 104 years old. Here is her baby picture...
If you see joy and an excitement for life, doused with spunkiness and a lot of mischiefism, you'll have an idea of my grandmother's personality.
She grew up in the deep South, of Bible-Belt culture, and as a teenager was the first to wear a low-back swimsuit. She smoked and was the first in the family to get divorced.
Throughout her life, she was a consternation to those who raised her, and even her own daughter.
Yet Grandmom and I totally understood each other, and when she entertained me about some of her adventures, we would fall into such a state of giggles we couldn't talk.
I can remember one time when she could have disciplined me. I was a teenager and was fed up with my parents. By the end of my rant, I had gone "global," announcing that teenagers should rule the world. I was absolutely serious about the whole thing. (You know how earnest we were back then.)
Rather than reprimanding me, she started laughing- I'm not sure if was at me or the idea of teenagers ruling the world- but it didn't hurt my feelings because I knew she loved me.
She just kept laughing and within a few minutes I was laughing, too.
She adored my two boys, and often, when he was little, my older son Matthew and I would argue about who was Grandmom's favorite, him or me. I had grown up hearing her call me her "pride and joy," so I was sure it was me.
Here she is at a birthday party I had for her. She was in her 80's. It's obvious the fire in her had not faded with time. (That's her sister in the background who is coming up on her 102nd birthday.)
I loved, I absolutely loved her eyebrows.
Grandmom was told she had terminal cancer in April of 2004. For four more months, she lived with the joy and happiness that was so her. I had the honor of caring for her up until the end. What an example of courage.
Grandmom's love gave me hope during some dark times in our family. Her love for me gave me the courage to be myself, regardless of what others thought. And my grandmother's love made me smile and laugh- a lot.
It still does.
Her final words to me, "Follow your dreams."
I am, Grandmom. I am.
Happy Birthday, Grandmom. I love you forever...
My laptop screen displays incredible photos that change every few days. The other day, this came up...
...which brought a catch in my heart.
Not because I like the ocean (because I don't). Not because Richard (my deceased husband) was a sailor (even though he was), but because during the few times of darkness in the life Richard and I shared, he was so encouraging. Once I told him, "I feel like I'm swimming and swimming and swimming toward a lighthouse, with a load of rocks weighing me down. If it weren't for you, I don't think I'd make it."
He wrote me a love letter, where he responded, "I am looking at that lighthouse and thinking it is marking the way for us. Just keep swimming, honey. Follow the light. I'll be there waiting for you."
I photocopied that phrase in his handwriting and attached it to his photo standing on my fireplace mantle. As I grow into my life without him, there are times I miss him so much and re-read this phrase so I can keep going.
However, I think I'm moving beyond my grief these days, for it's rare when I cry myself to sleep. I'm sleeping much better now, perhaps because I'm tired of being sad. Yet occasionally, something will come up out of nowhere, like this lighthouse photo.
Rather than tears, these things make my heart smile. What a privilege it was to be loved by him.
As some of you know, I am spending the winter managing the Divide Camp Headquarters building, located at 603 N Main Street in Joseph (next to Community Bank.) I love the concept of the Divide Camp endeavor- that Nature heals- and that veterans can find a place to relax with outdoor activities at the former elk hunting camp.
Though Camp is buttoned down for the winter, the DC Headquarters doors are open with regular hours. I keep a pot of coffee on and have dozens of cookies made by the Joseph Methodist ladies, so veterans and their families are welcome to drop by for "a cup of joe."
Speaking of cookies, the Veterans Day Open House held at HQ could not have gone better. It started with a wonderful sign made by Rod Dearth, Ret. Marine, welcoming veterans on a clear, sunshiny day.
Starting the day before, the Methodist ladies, and at times, their husbands, brought in plate after plate of homemade cookies.
Steve now volunteers with "Doctor Without Borders," traveling to foreign countries to provide medical services to those in need.
I didn't expect tears to be in the mix, but Kenni Running, WWII Navy veteran was seated at a table with his Senior Living friends and staff when a young family entered the room and hugged him. It was his grandson, Jared and family from out of town.
"What are you doing here?" Kenni asked.
"We knew you would be here and wanted to surprise you!" There were smiles all around.
The tears were mine.
We gave away Divide Camp caps at each hour. Serge Morgan, Ret. Air Force, came the next day to get his. I recognized his dog, he recognized mine- turns out we're neighbors! Look at that smile...
Coffee, cookies, veterans and their families. It was a very good Veterans Day. Thanks to all who came, and to all who helped make it happen. Drop in during regular hours: Mon- Wed. 1-3 p.m.; Thursday- Saturday 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. The coffee will be on, and we have plenty of cookies!
Being over 2500 miles away from any family, I have the pleasure of gaining a different family, what I call, "a family by heart." Stored in my Wallowa County heart are about five mothers, three fathers, a host of brothers, and a tribe of sisters- all whom have won my affection and trust as I create a new life here.
A "sister by heart," Leita, had a birthday yesterday. She really stepped up when I had a real breast cancer scare last summer, taking me to the specialist in Boise. We laughed- oh my- we laughed and giggled all the way to Idaho and back, with heartfelt talks in between.
I call her "butterfly Leita," for she brings joy to those who know her, like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower.
Happy Birthday, Leita! My sister, my friend.
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.