Caryn

I was watching the news tonight about an American family that had just found out that their daughter was among the casualties of the tragic earthquake and tsunami a little over a week ago. Taylor Anderson, an accomplished English teacher who had been living in Japan and teaching English to young students there, used what precious time she had to escape, to make sure her students were safe. It was a brave and selfless act that cost her her life in the end. She was the first American known to have been killed in the disaster.

Losing their daughter was probably the single worst event in the lives of her family, but to add to the tragedy of that loss, is the fact that, as often happens in the aftermath of a disaster, information can get mixed up. Taylor’s family had been told that she had survived and was safe, only to find out later that they had been misinformed. A devastating turn of events. Almost impossible to believe.

I know how this family feels, and my heart goes out to them. My family also experienced a similar devastating situation of misinformation. My Great Aunt Gladys was one of the victims in the 1989 crash of United Airlines flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa. Our family was also told that she had survived, and it was even on television…but it wasn’t to be. Somehow her purse had arrived at a hospital with another woman, so they thought it was her. We couldn’t believe it, and even continued to watch the reports, hoping against hope that they had been wrong.

Losing a loved one in any kind of disaster is unbearably hard, but when you are told they made it, and then find out they didn’t…well, it’s like losing them twice. It is no one’s fault, of course, and those people who have told someone their loved one is safe, only to have to tell them they were mistaken, are torn to shreds too. It is devastating to all involved, and my heart goes out to each and every one of them.

It’s strange how we can look at our friends’ lives and think that they have it all, and at the same time they are looking at our lives and thinking that we have it all. I was reading a story today about three friends. One started college and quit to start a family, the second finished college and started a family, and the third finished college and didn’t marry or have children. Each thought the others had the better life. We always seem to think that, instead of being content with what we have. It is ok to want a certain life…to plan for what you want in the future, but when things don’t turn out as planned, we need to learn to be content with what we have been given.

No matter how bleak our life might seem, there is much that is good about it. We have been given many gifts and abilities. True the first mother never finished college, and the second mother didn’t use her education, and the third never had a family, but each had something the others wished they did. After repeated letters to each other complaining about what they had missed and being told how blessed they were, each decided that their life was really very special, and they really didn’t want what the others had.

That is a lesson we all need to learn. There are times in each life when we look back and wonder what might have been, but most of us realize that “what might have been” probably would not have been the best thing for us. The choices we make may not be perfect, but the majority of us lead happy lives, and those who don’t could if they would just quit looking back and be content with the blessings they have.

I read an article today on Fox News concerning the 180 men who have chosen to stay behind and fight to try to stop a meltdown at the Dai-ichi nuclear plant at Fukushima. I thought in awe, about the risk they are taking in an effort to save the lives of others. I wondered, if they can only stay in there for 15 minutes due to the extremely high radiation levels, then aren’t they basically committing suicide. Those levels of radiation would almost certainly shorten their lives. These men are heroes beyond any normal sense of the word.

That got me thinking about what makes a hero. People like the fire fighters and policemen and policewomen that went charging into the Twin Towers on 9-11, or those who risk their lives to run into any burning building. People who go out in frigid temperatures to find someone who is lost. Or as in this case, people who go into a nuclear plant that is about to melt down. What do these people have in common? They put the lives of other people ahead of themselves. Somehow, they are able to set aside their own fears and place more value on someone else’s life than they place on their own. That is more than amazing to me. It is beyond comprehension!

Another group that I think of as heroes that many people might not agree with is the news reporter. I was watching Shepard Smith, standing outside in Japan with 6 layers of clothing, knowing that he was in much more danger of radiation the anyone back home, and yet his main concern was how the people in the disaster areas were in danger of losing their lives due to the cold. That is heroic in my book.

Heroes come in many forms, but they all have one thing in common…a love and concern for their fellow man that far transcends their concern for personal safety. It is something we should never forget. Today, I say thank you to all our heroes, worldwide. You are the best.

Most people like either dogs or cats, and my parents were always dog lovers. We had cats one time when I was little, but after that, we had dogs during my entire childhood. Dad always thought cats were pretty worthless.

A short time after my dad passed away, an orange cat started hanging around my mom’s porch, literally howling. She figured that if she left him alone, he would go home, but after several days, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She and my sister Cheryl, let him in and fed him. He was obviously starving and abandoned. Once he had eaten, he decided that he had found a home, and he would not leave. He has made himself quite at comfortable, sleeping anywhere he wants, but his particular favorites are the laundry basket and the bathroom sink, which I find quite funny.

So, it would appear that Mom had a new pet…but, Quincy, as he has been dubbed, is not her pet…she is his!! At least that is what he seems to think. He is very protective of her. When she has fallen a couple of times, and is waiting for Bob and me to get there to help her, Quincy never leaves her side. He knows she doesn’t belong on the floor, so he doesn’t feel comfortable until we get her back in her chair. He has to check on her periodically just to make sure everything is as it should be. He also likes to be near her when she is walking around, and since she has a walker with a seat on it…logically, his spot is that seat…of course, getting a ride is certainly a plus.

As I said before, my parents were really dog lovers, and Dad never thought cats were worth a lead nickel, but with this particular cat, I think my dad would feel differently, because Dad always made sure Mom was taken care of, and since Quincy feels the same way, I can’t help but think Dad would approve.

Bob was called Papa from the moment our first grandchildren could talk. We were so excited about being grandparents. A new phase of our lives had begun…a wonderful phase. New little lives were here. New little people to spend time with…to spoil…to maybe help to shape in some small way. We are so very blessed.

The memories of those early days of being grandparents are many, and varied, but sometimes the most special moments are the quiet times. The moments of watching in amazement while that tiny little one sleeps, and thinking how blessed you are to have received this little life. Watching the wonder on their face as they discover something new. Or just sitting together, quietly, as in the moments I captured between Papa and grandchild.

Bob very much enjoys sitting out on the front porch on a summer day listening to the birds, and just looking at the beautiful day. These two moments with our grandson and then our granddaughter, were so precious that they begged to be captured on film. As I look at these pictures now, I find myself wondering just what little tidbits of wisdom Papa might have been giving these precious babies, or did they just sit quietly in wonder at the beauty of the day. And does it really matter what they were saying or thinking. Probably not, because the really precious thing is the opportunity for Papa and grandbaby to just be together.

Another fun memory I have of going to Forsyth, Montana to visit my husband’s grandparents, is the old swimmin’ hole. I know, anyone who has ever had family that lived on a ranch in the country, might have memories of the swimmin’ hole too, or the pond, or the creek or river, but my memory of it is a little different. As I told you yesterday, my husband’s grandfather was a bit of a pack rat, and he simply hated to throw things away. Someone might find a use for it at some point. Or it simply might not be broken. No matter, he would just keep it around until he found a use for it. Such was the story behind the old swimmin’ hole.

There might have been a pond somewhere on their property, and I know there was a big watering trough for the cows, but who would ever want to cool off there, right. At that time, there were a number of little kids in the family, my girls being two of them, and summer in Montana can be really hot! Now, imagine two little girls, cranky because of the heat, and no real way to cool them off…because there was no air conditioning at Grandma’s house…they still had an outhouse, so air conditioning was not a high priority. Well, you get the picture.

So, Grandpa’s solution was an old bathtub in the front yard. He didn’t figure the adults really needed to cool off, but those little kids needed a wading pool, and since he had the bathtub, there was no reason to go spend good money on a cheap wading pool. He would just bring the hose around and fill up that bathtub, and presto…you had a wading pool. And they lived out in the country, and of course the kids are little anyway, so who needs a bathing suit. Undies and water. That’s all you need. The girls were set, and no longer cranky…problem solved.

When my girls were little, we made sure that they got to know their family in Forsyth, Montana by taking a trip up there every summer. Grandma and Grandpa owned a ranch up there, and we would stay at their house. Their ranch was unique to say the least. Grandpa was a bit of a pack rat, and there was always a variety of interesting things to be found on their place. My girls had a wonderful time exploring.

Going to visits Grandma and Grandpa was always a treat. Coffee with real cream, Strawberry Rhubarb jam on our toast, plenty of milk, fresh from the cows, fresh eggs from the chickens. It was wonderful to be out there, away from the hustle and bustle of home. We could just relax and play cards, which we did for hours on end, because that was what Grandpa most enjoyed doing, and he was ruthless at it, which is why I always wanted to be his partner.

But, the funniest memory I have of those early visits when my girl were young, is their first…and subsequent encounters with the chickens and rooster. I will never forget it and can very clearly see it in my mind. They took one look at those chickens, and started running after them, trying to catch them. Ha Ha Ha Ha, it was hilarious. They ran round and round, and I’m told that normally, the rooster would have gone after them, but he just took it all in stride, and ran. The adults laughed until our sides ached, and tears poured down our faces.

Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for a long time now, but those memories will live in my heart forever. They were the sweetest grandparents a girl could ever marry into.

We’ve all done it. Set ourselves a goal, moved successfully toward it, only to slip up along the way, and tell ourselves that it’s ok, because no one knows we slipped up. That is true enough, but we know…don’t we? That still might seem like no big deal, except humans tend to be a gullible sort, especially when it comes to allowing ourselves to do something that we want to do, even though we know it is not good for us. So, having convinced ourselves that no one knows that we slipped up, and we aren’t going to let it happen again…just this once.

Right…remember, we are talking about gullible humans. We may not be gullible in the sense of believing anything we are told, but when it comes to believing ourselves, well that’s a different story. How many times have we started out saying, “Well, I won’t work out today, and I’ll get right back on it tomorrow”, but somehow tomorrow never comes. Soon, all thought of success in our goal is gone. Then, disgust and self loathing set in. Pretty soon we figure we don’t deserve to succeed anyway. We are about as low as we can go.

Then, true to the human spirit, most of us wake up. We look the situation over and assess the damage. Then we get back on track and start working toward our goal again, a little worse for wear, and hopefully a whole lot wiser. And if we learn not to lie to ourselves, maybe with a chance of reaching that goal.

When I was a kid, the summertime would bring hours of playing outdoors. All the neighborhood kids would be involved. We didn’t watch a lot of television, and video games didn’t exist. We used our imaginations, coming up with crazy games like “ditch it” in which we would all play in the yard, until a car came up the street. The first person to see it would yell “ditch it” and everyone would drop on the grass. This game was always played after dark, so the cars couldn’t “see” us when we dropped to the ground. The idea was that the cars were obviously the “bad guys” and we were the “good guys”. Of course, we had no idea what the “bad guys” had done, because we had never really thought the game through to figure that out.

We would play “hide and seek” for hours on end. When you live in a neighborhood fille with kids, there were always enough kids to make the game interesting. An unusual thing in our neighborhood, was an unusual amount of families with all girls. There must have been 4 or 5 families with all girls, and at least 3 more with mostly girls, so we had plenty of people to play house, jacks, jump rope, and other girl games. The kids simply dominated the block all summer.

Because we lived in a different time, you could play outside well after dark, and your parents didn’t have to give it a second thought. We were usually allowed to play outside until 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm. There just wasn’t anything to worry about. When I think back on that time, I feel sad, in a way, because our children today can’t safely play outside late at night, because you just don’t know who is out there.

While watching the news concerning the earthquake in Japan, and the ensuing tsunami in Japan, Hawaii, and the US west coast this week, I am once again shocked and saddened by the chances people take. The people is Japan had virtually no warning, and so they couldn’t prepare for the tragic events that happened that awful day, but the man that was swept out to sea in California while taking pictures of the waves, knew the chance he was taking.

I’m quite sure that if the people in Japan had been able to get away, they would have. There simply wasn’t time, and as a result, many lives were unavoidably lost. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy. Those left behind have a monumental job ahead of them to rebuild in the midst of so much grief.

The people in Hawaii and the US west coast, had enough warning, however, and were told to stay away from the coast line. So why do we feel the need to go out there and get pictures of the event, simply to say we were there. My mind wanders to the thoughts going through the mind of that poor man being swept out to sea, knowing that his impending death was due entirely to his own foolish choices. Obviously, if he could do it all over again, knowing what he now knows, he would literally run in the opposite direction. I’m sure he thought of his loved ones toward the end, with much regret for putting them in a position of such grief. I know it was not his intent to end up this way, but the love of the all elusive historic photo to document the day, overtook his good sense concerning his own safety.

As I watched the footage, I saw a wave coming in to a Santa Cruz, California marina, and hitting the boats parked there. People were walking on the docks there! It was unbelievable! The reporter was saying that these people had been told not to be there, but once again the thought that “it won’t happen to me” kicked in and curiosity won out. Even if you aren’t swept away, getting caught between two colliding boats would take the same toll. People, please…think of your loved ones, if you can’t think of yourself. Please don’t take the risk. It isn’t worth it.

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