Saturday, October 15, 2011

There is a ladder up from the abyss

Dear friends,

I know all of you have been very concerned about our family, and especially our son Jaye. I'm here to update you. Since my last post, there has been tremendous improvement. Jaye (and Kelly, too) has been responding to therapy in a positive way. He is laughing a little when he talks about Lauren, remembering good times with her, and is able to think about her in a way that he wasn't before. Of course, the sadness and heartache will never completely go away, but that he is able to talk about her without breaking down is a huge step in his healing. I'm not naive; I know there are times when he is alone that he relapses, but now he is able to pull himself out of it relatively quickly. I also believe that he has become more accepting of the fact that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he had no control over that.

We felt confident enough in his recovery, that we were able to take our planned camping trip to northern Michigan to see the beautiful fall color, and it has been spectacular. This is our first trip here, but I know it won't be our last. We've fallen in love with the Lake Leelanau region and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We made our plans months ago, but we were right on in the timing for peak color.

I want to apologize for my lack of attention to your blogs, especially considering how wonderful you all have been to me. You are good and loyal friends. I will get back to them someday. I hope it won't be long. I will have a lot more time as the cold weather sets in and keeps me indoors. I will leave you with a little of the beauty of northern Michigan in autumn.

Love, Susan

The view from our campsite at Lake Leelanau RV Park.

Young turkeys crossing the road. They joined a huge flock of thirty or more.

One of the many vineyards in the area...Crooked Maple Vineyard.

The birch trees are everywhere, and the bark is outstanding against the fall color.

From atop Sleeping Bear Dunes, looking out to Big Glen Lake.

And, of course, you know this is a milkweed pod. It's hard to believe this sand could support the diverse vegetation.

From atop Sleeping Bear Dunes, looking toward Betsie Point in Lake Michigan. It is a 450-ft. drop to the water.

No explanation needed.

An inlet in Omena, on Grand Traverse Bay.

A funky little airport/park, where the airstrip is grass, and there is no hangar, only tie-downs.

At Grand Traverse Lighthouse...the wind was 50 mph, and the waves were fast and furious.

Nearly big enough for surfing, but kinda scary.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse. The flag was flying half-mast to honor National Fallen Firefighters.

Historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan

Again, Historic Fishtown

Waves breaking on the seawall in Leland, Michigan

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How can I help him heal?

He is a truth seeker. Every day he searches for a way to find blame with himself for the accident. Why didn't they stay five minutes longer at the park? Why didn't they go to the restaurant where Lauren wanted to go? would have taken longer. Why didn't he go a different route, instead of the one he usually took? Why did they take the dogs? Why didn't he put her in a five-point harness car seat (even though she was really too tall for one)? Why, why, why, why....'how can I go on living' is the question he asks himself a hundred times a day. I listen to him and try to reassure him that there is only one person to blame, and it is not he. The investigator has spent hours with him doing the same. It is breaking my heart that I've not only lost a precious granddaughter, but now it seems I am losing my son as well...the only son I have left.

The investigators are almost positive that she was texting, or at the very least making a phone call. There seems to be no other explanation for the complete lack of attention to her driving. They have subpoenaed the telephone records from her carrier. They do know that she had a dropped call at 1:47 p.m., and the first 911 call came in at 1:48, and she made a call to her husband at 1:49. The prosecutor was dismayed that the (older, not tech-savvy) officer at the scene didn't confiscate her phone as he should have, but he did note the time of her dropped call. 

I was mistaken about her having just left a funeral. She had attended one that morning, but afterward had lunch with her husband, and was heading back to work, probably in a hurry. She admitted that she saw the deer crossing the road and the car that was also stopped in the opposite lane, that she placed her foot on top of the brake, but she didn't see their vehicle, and she didn't depress the brake pedal. The investigators determined mathematically that she had anywhere from five to eight seconds to react. Five to eight seconds. Count it out. Even if she had seen them at the last second and had braked, it might have saved Lauren's life. She was going 55-60 mile per hour and hit a stopped vehicle, on a straight, flat road, in good weather, in broad daylight. She has hired the most powerful law firm in Dayton. 

The prosecutor says that he will charge her with nothing less than vehicular manslaughter, but he will try to make a case for vehicular homicide, neither of which carries more than a slap on the wrist, because they are misdemeanors. And because they are not felonies, even if convicted, she will not have it on her record permanently. Slight justice for the walking wounded.

But I don't really care about that. I just want my son to be whole again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Serenade

The honey-smooth voice of Johnny Hartman and golden tenor sax of John Coltrane.


You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.
Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage 
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

~Billy Collins~

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lauren Elizabeth Drummond

Lauren Elizabeth Drummond
Photo taken by her Poppy on August 14, 2011
Taken from us on August 15

She was so full of life, from the moment she was born. Full of intense curiosity and intelligence, she wanted to be in the middle of every conversation. Her smile was radiant and at times mischievous. She liked to get her own way, and often if she got the better of me, she would say "You're the best, Grammy!" She loved Princesses and pink and animals and dancing and music, and so many things, everything, really, about life.

How is it possible for a child to be laughing and happy after a day with her family and her two dogs, spent at the park where they had a picnic and fed the can she be here one minute and the next minute be gone?  Her daddy stopped to let a deer cross the road as did other drivers on the opposite side of the road. This young woman, herself a mother of young children, will forever have to live with the fact that her inattention took my wonderful granddaughter's life away forever.  There were no skid marks...she never even slowed down. She had just left a funeral and was on her way back to work. Even though Lauren and her brother were secured in safety seats, the impact of the crash drove her seat forward as her daddy's seat broke and collapsed backward. The surgeon did everything he could to put her back together, but there was just too much trauma to her brain. Her mommy, who herself is a registered nurse/nurse practitioner, knew at the scene that it was very, very bad, but hoped against hope that she was wrong. 

Lauren will be laid to rest beside her Uncle Joshua, who she never got to know. She will be wearing a beautiful pink dress, a pink hat, in a pink Princess casket, with her dog Molly's ashes tucked in beside her.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My baby girl Lauren is dead from a car accident.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The City of Bridges

Pittsburgh is known as the "City of Bridges", and for good reason; there are 446 of them just within the city limits. That isn't counting the numerous others in Allegheny County. Now, you know how I feel about bridges, and if you don't, THIS will remind you.

This weekend we attended a wedding at the John Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh. What a beautiful venue for a wedding!

The beautiful bride, Lauren

The ceremony would prove to be short and sweet.

Because there were two weddings taking place Saturday evening, we weren't allowed to tour the exhibits, which was a shame. It is a wonderful exploration of the city's past as the center of steel production in this country, as well as its role in sports and arts history.

When we lived in the Pittsburgh area from 1995 to 2000, I had the opportunity to tour the museum when it first opened, and it was fascinating. I also had the opportunity to be scared out of my mind about driving in Pittsburgh. Our son Josh was attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and for some reason missed the last bus to make his connection to the neighboring county where we lived. He called me for a ride home. Having ridden with David several times into the city, I knew what I was up against...the many streets and highways and interstates that converge in a relatively small area make a bowl of spaghetti look like a bunch of straight lines. If you happen to get in the wrong lane, it's hard to tell where you might end up.

So, I plotted my driving strategy with my trusty pre-GPS city map, wrote down my directions, and headed out with only a few heart palpitations. In about 30 minutes, the palpitations turned into thudding heartbeats and sweaty palms. I'm sure you can guess that I chose the wrong lane and ended up crossing one of the dreaded bridges, which led directly to a dreaded tunnel, but I turned before the tunnel and ended up on Mt. Washington.

Though it offers a stunning view of the confluence of the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River to create the Ohio River, it was not a balm to my troubled soul, not in the least. Luckily, it was not the pre-cellphone era, and I called David at his office, which was not downtown. Crying and hiccuping, I explained to him what happened and that I was too scared to even attempt to find my way back across the river, fearing that I would end up in an even worse mess. David talked me down "off the bridge", so to speak, and said he would go pick up poor Josh, who no doubt was wondering what in the world had happened to his mother, and then he would come and lead me down off Mt. Washington.

After that experience, it was a year or more before I would even attempt to drive into the city again, but my friend Lynn finally convinced me I had to conquer my fears and went with me to help. She wasn't much better at it than I was, but at least I didn't feel all alone. We went several times to the Strip District, where we bought wonderful Italian cheeses and breads and other yummy goodies. We also had excursions to the Frick Art & Historical Museum and to the Phipps Conservatory.

Today, David and I took a walkabout downtown and to Point State Park (shown above in the MW view). This is my take on the confounding, but beautiful, bridges of Pittsburgh...a few of them anyway.

The view from our hotel room (right across the street from the History Center) looking out toward the Allegheny River.

The dreaded Fort Pitt Bridge and tunnel on the far end. Mt. Washington is above.

Mt. Washington skyline. In the right third of the picture, you can faintly see the incline.

Visible in this picture are four driving/pedestrian bridges across the Allegheny River, plus a railroad trestle. In the foreground, is the Roberto Clemente Bridge (6th St. Bridge), next is the Andy Warhol (7th St. Bridge) and the Rachel Carson (9th St. Bridge). Allegheny Landing Park has bike and walking paths along both sides of the river.

From the north side of the Allegheny, looking toward downtown.

PNC Park, which replaced the old Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The building in the river houses River Rescue, made famous in the movie "Striking Distance"

Loved the reflection of other buildings caught in this all-glass building.

I love the way the center of the building is open.

The architecture in Pittsburgh is interesting and diverse. This building resembles one of the many Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches in the city.

If you have never visited Pittsburgh, put it on your bucket list. There is much to explore and many bridges to cross.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nel 1492, Colombo salpò l'oceano blu

If you don't speak Italian (and I don't), the above phrase says "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." I learned that in grade school and I'm sure most of you did as well.

Columbus, Ohio is the largest city in the United States bearing the name of Christopher Columbus. Growing up in my era, we learned from our history books about Columbus and thought of him as a hero. Now, of course, we know that he and his men weren't very ethical in their treatment of island natives. Nevertheless, cities that chose him as a namesake have not changed their names in protest. Columbus, Ohio even has, docked riverside on the Scioto River in Batelle Riverfront Park, the world's most authentic, museum-quality replica of Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria. It was built in 1991 by Scarano Boatbuilding Inc. of Albany, New York, to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of Columbus' voyage.

On the same day as the visit to the Deaf School Topiary Park, the grandkids and I paid a visit to the famous replica. This was also a surprise for them...they didn't know it existed. They were so excited and listened intently to every word.

The overall length of the Santa Maria is 98 feet. Its height from the keel to the top of the main mast is 89 feet. The hull planking consists of 44,000 board feet of Port Orford (Oregon) cedar. The deck planking and spars were built with 22,000 board feet of Douglas fir. The frames used 24,000 board feet of Alaskan yellow cedar. There are 2,700 feet of sails. Four thousand linear feet of line make up the rigging. Fifty-five gallons of tar was used to preserve the fixed rigging. It weighs 130 tons, including the ballast.

The main mast is 65-feet tall and is carved from a single Douglas fir. It carries the mainsail and the topsail. After construction, the ship was cut in half through the entire length and carried on two trucks. It was delivered to the opposite side of the Scioto River, where it was reassembled. The farthest it has ever sailed was across the river to its permanent mooring.
Rolled up pallets in steerage
I wasn't listening.

String of pearls

When the men on board needed to take care of any business that required squatting, they climbed over the side of the ship, held onto these ropes, and when they were finished, they....

...pulled up this handy tool, which was kept on a thin rope and was below the water. Its name is "the bitter end". And now you know where that phrase originated. Yeah. There was only one. Salt water is very cleansing and a good disinfectant. I'm glad I live in the 21st century.

All in all, it was a great day with beautiful weather. We all learned and we all had a good time.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

La Grande Jatte on a Wednesday Afternoon

Remember this painting?

"A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle de Grande Jatte" Georges Seurat 1884-86

In our fair state capital of Columbus, Ohio, there are numerous gems that draw visitors from other locales, and keep them coming back. One of these gems is the Deaf School Topiary Park. The Deaf School and its park date back to the early 19th century when it was founded by James T. Mason. Mason and his wife Elaine had dreamed about a topiary garden for years, and this painting was their muse. It was begun in 1992 and is a tribute to their dedication to the students they served.

This visit was a surprise outing for Gaige, Nathan and Kaitlyn. We ate a picnic on the outer edges of the park before viewing the topiary scene. They had no idea what lay beyond the rise as we ate our lunch.

The grandkids had a wonderful time in the park and Gaige kept thanking me for showing them one of my favorite places in Columbus.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Serenade

The spectacular voice of Linda Eder singing "Vole Mon Angel" from "Svengali".  And, because she is so much more, I also offer another:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

the voice

image by char

can a voice be lost,
if in passing, the presence
is no longer there?

will I remember
the whispered musings and diffuse images
without the physical shape?

i never saw her face;
she was shy that way,
curtaining herself behind sheer poetry.

ever there, a friend
whose countenance i did not know,
a chasm too large to fill.

a life ended too soon
june 6, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Serenade

We saw a lot of these license plates in the Pikeville area.
Miss Patty Loveless knows about coal and coal mining. She grew up in Pikeville, Kentucky, in the heart of coal country.

Her daddy was a coal miner and died from Black Lung Disease, and the emotion you hear in her voice comes from her 'Mountain Soul'.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mom, baseball, and apple pie

Mom and my stepdad Lawrence,  at my brother 's house,  the year before she passed away.
My mom Edith loved the Cincinnati Reds. She watched them play every chance she got on our little 19-inch color television. Cable television had yet to be invented and all of the games weren't broadcast on our local channels 3, 8 and 13. So, she would plug in the radio and tune into the AM station as clearly as she could. It usually sat on the back of the sofa, because that is where it got the best reception. She and my stepfather would sit in their not-too-big upholstered rockers and listen intently to the play-by-play given by Joe Nuxhall, a former Reds pitcher, and the "voice of the Cincinnati Reds", Marty Brennaman.

image by lethal_lane at photobucket

The most excited I think I ever saw my mother was during the 1975 and 1976 World Series games, when "The Big Red Machine" won both championships back-to-back. Beginning in 1970, rookie manager Sparky Anderson led "The Great Eight" to five NL Western Division titles, four National League pennants and the two World Series championships. They racked up records by the fistfuls. And in the 1977 and 1978 seasons, they finished in second place in the World Series. No wonder she loved them.

The roster was a dream team:  Johnny Bench, who is heralded as the greatest catcher of all time, and at one time held the record for most home runs by a catcher, never played for any other ML team but his hometown Reds; Pete Rose, also a Cincinnati native, nicknamed Charlie Hustle, played third base and was a switch hitter and a hitting machine (thankfully, Mom never had to find out about his gambling disgrace); Tony Perez was on first base, Joe Morgan on second, and Dave Concepcion as shortstop. In the outfield were George Foster, left field;  Cesar Geronimo, center; and Ken Griffey (Sr.) in right field. My mom loved every one of them and talked about them as if she knew each one personally, but she really had a crush on Johnny Bench.

Johnny was always a gentleman, on the field and off. He looked like the all-American boy-next-door. And he had a local connection. One of our neighbors had a daughter who happened to be roommates with Johnny's sister, whose name I can't remember. Mom loved to hear Diane's stories about the parties that she and the sister attended with Johnny and the other guys. I think Diane secretly hoped Johnny would ask her to marry him, but I think Johnny thought of her as his other little sister. Mom would have been so proud of Johnny when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 in his first year of eligibility, but sadly, in 1987, she died of a heart attack and didn't get to see him achieve this goal.

One of my biggest regrets is that Mom never got to attend a Reds game in person. She would have been a little scared to be out of her element, but a lot more excited to be near her beloved team. If I had only known how short our time with her would be, I would have made sure she got to see them play at least once. This Mother's Day will mark the 24th anniversary of her passing. I still miss her sweet voice and her pretty smile every day. To celebrate, I think I will tune in and see if the Reds are playing. With 23 channels showing nothing but sports, surely I will be able to find one with the Cincinnati Redlegs. Mom would have been in seventh heaven.

image taken from Food Network site, but it looks a lot like Mom's

Mom's Apple Pie

8 cups Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1 10-inch double pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large bowl, toss together the apples and the next 7 ingredients, granulated sugar through lemon juice. 

Line deep-dish 10-inch pie plate or pan with bottom crust. Place the apple mixture in the crust and dot with the cut-up butter. Cover with second crust and crimp edges.  Cut an A for apple in the center.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. If the edges of the crust are getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil strips.

Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream while it's still warm and watch your favorite baseball team while you scrape your plate and lick your lips.