When Accidents Happen

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I’ve carried the shock of my father’s car accident in my heart for all of my life from the age of eight. The sudden loss of someone so young and alive tears a hole in the heart that heals in ragged ways. The pain returns at odd moments when some sight or sound or memory tears open a corner of the wound. I have lived on just as I should have, but I know that every aspect of who I am changed on that dreadful day when I awoke to find that my daddy would never return from the evening drive that ended with his heart stopping as his car careened into a ditch at the end of an unmarked dead end road. 

This past summer I have been reminded of just how fragile life is when several of my dearest friends died from diseases that they had valiantly fought. It has been a tough several months receiving notification of the passing of people who had filled my own life with so much joy. Perhaps one of the most distressing pieces of news that came my way regarded a friend with whom I had gone to school from our elementary years all the way through high school and college. On a road trip meant to celebrate the upcoming birth of a grandchild his car was hit by a train and he suffered severe head trauma. While he did not die, I fell apart upon hearing of his accident which proved to hit very close to home for me. 

My friend has always been a joyful person whose optimism and sense of humor regularly made me smile. He has struggled in the past many weeks to heal from his brain injuries, but his determination to become strong again does not surprise me at all. It has been a difficult journey for him and his family, one wrought with setbacks for every step forward. He is blessed to be surrounded by a wife and children who are devoted to him along with many of us who have walked through different phases of life with him. We all feel a sense of impatience in hoping to one day get him back to a state where he seems more like himself. We hold our breaths with every development, good or bad, wanting the day to come when the only news about him is cause for joy.

My friend now resides in an assisted living facility and regularly undergoes rehabilitation. He is still prone to falls and lapses of memory. Recently he even tested positive for Covid. I can imagine how anxious his family members must be. The results of this accident are affecting them as horrifically as my own father’s did with me. The shock of losing the indomitable spirit of someone like my dad or my friend is like a punch in the gut. Most certainly my friend is beloved by so many, just because of who he is, but we all have memories of his wit and wisdom that make this tragedy feel ever so much more difficult to endure. He gave so much to each of us and still does as we watch him fight with everything he has just to walk and talk and be as independent and feisty as he ever was. 

I am relived that my friend is so loved that he has a phenomenal support system. I cheer for his progress every single day. I feel the disappointment of his family whenever he has a fall or seems to forget what has happened to him. I know how suddenly and unexpectedly their lives have changed. I understand how that feels. I realize the unfairness of it. 

When someone we love is in a serious accident we spin in a state of shock. Everything that we had taken for granted is upended. We have to learn how to live in a way that we never expected and would never have chosen. Our mettle is tested. Our strength is challenged. It sometimes feels as though we are in a situation that nobody else in the world is capable of understanding. We experience a whirlwind of emotions that sometimes change from moment to moment. We are hurt, confused, hopeful, hopeless all at the same time. Everything feels topsy turvy so that the smallest things require great effort. It feels as though we are imprisoned inside a pit from which we may never escape. We cling to small signs that our lives will once again get better and we will survive the ordeal that has been so shockingly thrust upon us. The ups and downs of progress and our moods wear us down even as we find ways to continue forward. 

When my father died from his accident there were people and events that kept me and my family going. A little stray dog that wandered to our front porch brought us a tiny bit of joy that might not otherwise have been there. Quiet visits from friends long after most people had returned to their routines assured us that we were not forgotten. I learned then that there would always be someone who makes an extra effort to help when times get tough. Often the people who did such things were a surprise. Somehow we have angels in our lives that we do not even notice until sorrow suddenly knocks at our door. They come in our time of need without fanfare, but with open hearts that remind us that we are not alone.

I have a grandson who is a runner. In a race he is a beautiful sight. He tends to be a winner, someone with the stamina and the skill to outpace the other competitors. One time his body failed him. He fell from the front of the pack to the end. Another runner realized that my grandson was in trouble. He knew that something was very wrong. He gave up his own place in the rankings to walk beside my grandson and to get both of them to the finish line. His act of kindness in a time of need made him the winner of life’s race and a hero to our family. He was an example of the kind of person we should all strive to be.  

We live in a very busy world. It feels as though everyone is rushing from one moment to another. When an accident happens our own pace along the the race track of life is suddenly slowed or even stopped completely. When someone stops long enough to check on us or to help us, it is a glorious moment that we never forget. We all need to be seen, to be heard, to be understood. Accidents happen to everyone in the blink of an eye. We need to attempt to be that person who carries a wounded soul over the finish line.  

A Not So Boring Ride

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I sometimes feel as though Colorado is my second home. I feel alive when I visit there, but since I usually want to have my car when I arrive so that I might drive around viewing the vistas, I have to travel a very long distance from my home. The trip takes somewhere around eighteen to twenty hours depending on the weather and the traffic, and most of is is through the panhandle of Texas heading a bit north and west. Lots of folks consider the journey to be boring for much of the way, but I find it somehow soothing and even a bit interesting. 

The route traverses through farm and ranch land that has somehow defied the odds of growing things in a difficult climate. Most of the trees are scrubby and there is a desert-like dryness to the general feel of the land. For the most part the elevations are rather flat with a tiny bit of a roll now and again. The highway traverses through tiny towns with no more than two thousand inhabitants and sometimes fewer than three hundred. Most of the places bear names that speak of a history steeped in the old west when the plains were even wilder than they are today. Main streets have the look of dreams that have died. Nonetheless there is a kind of rough hewn beauty to the determination of each place to survive in a world that seems to have forgotten that these places even exist. 

Once in awhile there is a hamlet that not only seems to have survived the modernization of the world, but is also thriving. I always wonder what the difference might have been. Was it an innovative spirit, a community persistence in keeping the town vibrant, or did it simply enjoy the luck of the draw. Such locales are inviting and give a sense that stopping there for a cup or a bite would be an enjoyable experience. 

Railroad lines are ever present along the route. Trains are traveling back and forth picking up and delivering grain, coal, lumber, and products upon which we all depend. They are the lifeline for all of us and often the very reason that each little place exists. It’s fun to watch the cars passing and to guess what might be inside the tanks and containers. There’s a whole world of work happening around us that we all too often ignore or simply take for granted. It becomes impossible to miss on the road.

I’m fascinated by the geography and sociology of such places. It is always apparent to me that the people there march to a drumbeat far different than my own. It is slower, more deliberate, perhaps more enjoyable, and yet I do not envy them because I am a city girl through and through. I enjoy the slow pace and quiet of such places for a time, but then I grow antsy and desirous of returning to the fast pace of my metropolis that is the fourth largest in the United States. I crave the excitement and the sounds and always return home again with a sense of relief.

We have so many versions of the American dream and the American nightmare. It’s difficult to imagine a time or a way by which we might bring all of the disparate voices together in an amicable way that guarantees that everyone will feel that there is a fairness in how things run. We tend to do too much judging of one another without ever taking the time to realize how much our differences determine our needs. Too often the laws and rules that we make focus on one group or another or political leanings rather than a consideration of our uniqueness. Somehow driving through the backroads and seeing places so different from my own makes me more aware of the urgency of finding compromises that will ensure good lives for everyone. 

I spend a great deal of time just thinking during the long drive that can feel brutal at times because of my aging bones. I always feel so much better about the people of our nation but I also worry a bit because I feel certain that we are leaving people behind no matter where I go. I see the run down factories and blighted homes, the misery of hopelessness in the eyes of those who feel unheard and unloved by the rest of us. It tells me that perhaps we should all be willing to bend a bit in our beliefs and our demands. Each of us needs to take such a journey and really attempt to see what is happening across the land. 

It might be boring to drive for such a long time without much change of scenery but instead it is fascinating. I recommend it to everyone. Take the time to really see the variety of our country. Open your eyes and your hearts. It will be a great reward when you do, and you will find yourself suddenly considering points of view that had never before occurred to you. Thinking about your own thinking is an exciting adventure and one that will truly change the way you see the world. Begin in your own backyard and venture outward more and more and more until you finally begin to see.


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I suppose that there is a bit of explorer in each of us. I was definitely a free range kid when i was growing up and my friends, brothers and cousins and I often set out in search of adventure. My city of Houston had not yet reached a population of one million back then, so there was a great deal of what we considered to be unexplored territory. We would wander through the wooded areas in my neighborhood as though we expected to come upon a lost city of gold at any moment. In truth we were never far from the vigilant eyes of our mothers, but in the kid world it felt as though we had flown away with Peter Pan.

Visiting my maternal grandmother during the daytime was always filled with surprises. She lived just off of Navigation Street, an area that had become mostly industrialized by the time I was born. Just a few houses down from hers the old neighborhood ended and was home instead to a grocery chain warehouse. Around the corner and a few blocks away there was a company that housed mountains of sand and rocks and crushed concrete. 

While we managed to shinny under the fences around those businesses without ever getting caught, they were never quite as interesting to us as an old abandoned home that sat beckoning us to enter its shadowy entrance. We must have passed by, or rather run by, the eerie place dozens and dozens of times before we finally screwed up the courage to venture inside. Getting in there was one of those double or triple dare events that kids create when they know full well that they should instead run back home. 

The house was a two story affair that appeared to have once been a lovely abode. We had several gory theories as to why it had been left to rot away, all of which involved murder and intrigue. The entryway was a long hall with rooms on either side. To the left there were the remnants of what must have once been a rather spacious living room. It was filled with cobwebs as though someone had purposely attempted to create the effect of a haunted house. Shards of glass from a broken mirror crunched under our shoes. Wallpaper hung in shreds from the walls. 

Across the hall there was a smaller room with a dilapidated kitchen behind it. We assumed that this must have been a dining room although there was nothing left to prove our theory. It was a featureless area filled with so much dust that we all began sneezing and then laughing at our chorus of reaction to the dirty particles in the air. It was then that we saw the stairway in the back of the house taunting us to ascend into the unknown. 

My cousin Jack went first, bounding up the stairway as though it was his house and he was simply going to his room. We knew we had to follow even though little voices in our heads sent a danger signal that we ignored. The journey upward was treacherous because the wooden structure was unstable and filled with holes. One false step might have sent us plummeting to the ground. There was no turning back, however, and so we tentatively continued climbing higher and higher until we finally saw our brave cousin standing over what appeared to be someone’s recently occupied pallet.

This was no doubt the home of a squatter who had gone out for some unknown reason. There was an old careworn mattress on the floor covered with a tattered blanket and a stained pillow. In the corner there was a change of mismatched clothing and some cans of food along with a can opener and a rusty spoon. An empty bottle of whiskey lay on its side as though it had been tossed in a moment of disgust. 

We felt as though we had violated some sacred trust in just being there and realized we needed to leave quickly out of respect for whatever poor soul may have chosen this desolate place as his home. Besides, if our theories about the house were true, he might be violent and intent on killing us if he found us trespassing so boldly. We leaped down those rickety stairs with a speed that would have garnered us an Olympic medal and continued running all the way back to our grandmother’s house.

There we mused over what the true history of that house and its current occupant may have been. Our favorite idea was that the person now living there was actually a descendant of the original owners. We surmised that things had gone well for the family until the Great Depression stripped them of their money and their former way of life. In a moment of fury over the situation someone had decided to end it all and take the other members of the family with him. Only one person survived the onslaught by hiding. When he was found the authorities sent him to a series of foster homes where he felt unloved. Somehow in spite of valiant efforts he was never able to overcome the tragedy that had befallen his once sunny and happy home. He became a derelict wandering the streets of Houston begging for enough handouts to scrape by and living his sad life in his old home. 

Of course we were children who were easily drawn in by fantasy and gruesome tales. We never really knew what the truth of might have been and since we did not want our parents to know what we had done we never asked them what they might have known about that mysterious place. It remained our secret adventure hidden away from the eyes and ears of adults. 

Eventually someone tore the house down to make way for yet another business. My cousins and I grew older and wiser and explored the world in our own separate ways. Still, the enchantments of our youth have never left our minds, especially the ones like visiting that house. Such times made us feel courageous and bold. I suppose that if truth be told we really were great adventurers in our own small ways. Those were glorious times.

A Love Letter to the World

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First day of Fall 2021

My dear beloved family of the world, 

You are my aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren. We are all related even though we may have never met each other. There are so many of us that a reunion is impossible but perhaps there is the tiniest of chance that with the marvel of the internet you may stumble across my letter to you and realize that I think of you often and I truly love you. 

I try to imagine what you may be doing in your tiny village or teeming city. I wonder and worry about your welfare and pray that life is treating you well, but stories on the news alarm me for some of you. I want more than anything to do something to help you in your suffering but realize that I have neither the means nor the power to take care of all of the problems that seem to arise on a daily basis. I can only wish that we would all finally admit that we are together in our journey through life. What happens to one of us should matter to all of us.

The history of our sibling rivalry has all too often been bloodthirsty. Perhaps our baser tendencies began when Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the paradise that they had. Like them we seem to always be wanting more, and so we steal from each other. Our children have been watching and learning from us much like Cain did from observing his parents. Eventually his jealousy and anger lead to hate and violence against his own brother Abel. 

Our greatest ancestors have tried to teach us lessons in living proper peaceful lives together, but we have struggled to learn from mistakes of the past. It saddens me that we have never found a way to be blind to the differences in our appearance, the colors of our skins, the beliefs that we hold about God. It should be so easy to simply love and embrace each other, but we have made the world so complex that we hide in our respective corners of it protecting our property and belongings as though some of us are more deserving of it than others. We lock our doors and our borders and arm ourselves with harsh words, laws, and, all too often, weapons.

We are so innocent when we are born. We know nothing of the world. We willingly learn whatever language is spoken wherever we happen to be. We smile the same way and cry the same way when we are hungry. We respond to the loving touch of adults who care for us. We are curious and eager to learn and explore. If only we would remain that way. If only we never got tarnished by the flaws and sins of humanity! 

I know that most of us try very hard to be the best versions of ourselves. We nurture our creative and inventive sides. We love the family and friends that we have actually met. We have no bad feelings toward other humans, but we are products of centuries of complex laws and thinking that demarcated us into tribes, villages, states, countries, continents. We seem to have forgotten that borders were once open to all. We mixed and mingled and, yes, sometimes fought and drew blood. 

In a perfect world it might have been more wonderful. We might have imagined as John Lennon did a world where we all lived in peace in a brotherhood of man, sharing all the world. It could have happened. The Bible indicates that it should have happened, but we began to covet one another and to kill. Somehow when we spilled that first blood it became our curse to deny each other, creating compounds in which we store our possessions and wrangle over money and define success in ownership and power. All too often we have hidden behind religions as excuses for our most hateful ways. 

What a gooey mess we have made! It hurts my heart to see what we have done. All I seem to be able to do is work toward my dream of eternal peace on this earth for the millions and millions of people in my earthy family by being kind and loving. If that seems naive, then I admit to being guilty and I will nonetheless continue to be so. I refuse to give up on the ideal of the world living as one. It is when we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of caring for this great big family that the struggles begin and we unravel and fight. I don’t want to do that. I want instead to let you know that I love you and think of you so often. 

I suppose my letter to you sounds a bit like only offering thoughts and prayers after a horrible tragedy. I have little influence in my waning years, but I will draw attention to your needs. I will do my best to inform others and convince them of our responsibilities to one another. I will cast my votes for individuals who want to move in a direction of embracing each of you. I will attempt to live the way I think that each of us should. It seems like very small steps, but if a butterfly can affect the world by flapping its wings then surely my tiny movements when taken collectively with the efforts of others may bring a change in how we view each other. 

I love you all. That is the place from which I begin. It is how we all must start if we are to heal the wounds of our human history. We are a global family and every single one of you is important. This is what I believe. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

With love,


My Friend From Long Ago

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When I was still in elementary school one of my teachers informed the class that she would be able to procure penpals for us in Japan if we wished to have one. I eagerly signed up for the opportunity to communicate with someone from that land which seemed so far away. Before long I received a letter sent via air mail that was enclosed in light green onion skin paper with my name and address printed in lovely strokes. It was from my new penpal who was from Kyoto, Japan. 

She was a lovely young girl around my own age. I was impressed by her ability to write to me in English, and somewhat embarrassed that I had no idea how to use the Japanese language. I eagerly sent a response along with a photo of myself. It took time for each letter to reach across the expanse and back, but our correspondence nonetheless was extensive. Before long she had even sent me a package with a lovely book that was all about the city where she lived. The photographs were enchanting and I found myself longing to visit there one day and going to see her in person. 

I cannot say for certain what happened to our correspondence. Somehow it just fizzled out. Each of us began communicating less and less frequently until no more envelopes came in the mail, and I was so busy with other things that I did not feel compelled to enquire about why this had happened. I suppose that my youthfulness was more prone to inconsiderate behavior than it would have been today. I simply let our penpal friendship go, and evidently she was content to do so as well. Perhaps we had become bored with one another or maybe we just became busy with being teenagers in high school. Hopefully nothing tragic happened to her. Whatever the reason, our long distance friendship was over. 

I kept her letters and the book that she sent me for quite some time, but eventually tossed them. Now I can’t even recall her name, even though I am still able to see her face and those lovely views of Kyoto. As I have grown older I regret that I did not try harder to keep our communication going strong. I would love to have her name and her address. I am sure that she eventually married and may no longer have a connection with her former home, but I would at least have a way of seeking her if I had those bits of information.

I would still love to visit Japan one day, particularly Kyoto. I have a friend who lives in Tokyo and she posts the loveliest photos and stories about the Japanese people and the care that they take in making life so very special. She continually visits unique shops, restaurants, gardens. She takes classes to learn calligraphy, Japanese cooking, different painting styles. She is totally immersing herself in the culture while she can, including wearing traditional clothing and honoring national customs. She has fallen in love with Japan and its people and so have I through her incredible stories and pictures. 

I don’t know when international travel will be safe again or even when other nations will trust Americans not to bring disease to their shores. I want to visit Japan one day, but I want to do it when the citizens will be more open to my being there. I long to experience the art and culture and grandeur of this beautiful land. One of my first stops will be in Kyoto which, according to my friend and her images, is as lovely today as it was when my penpal shared the love of her city with me. 

I have never been a fan of sushi but I would not only want to try it while in Japan but I would also enjoy learning the techniques for preparing it in my own kitchen. I might become an amateur sushi chef for my grandchildren who are huge fans of the delight. I suspect that if prepared with care and the right ingredients it is indeed quite tasty. I want to know the proper ways of doing there and there is not better place that Japan to learn how.

The Japanese take so much effort to make even the smallest things a lovely experience. They take time to fold a napkin just the right way. They put love into a single cup of coffee. It’s little touches that differentiate so much of what they do, their dress, their art, their food, their homes, their cars, their appliances. There is a difference in quality that is worth any extra cost. 

I suppose that I will never again find my penpal. I hope she knew how much I enjoyed hearing from her. I pray that nothing bad happening to her. I truly want to believe that she has had a very good life. I can’t think of a more beautiful place that Kyoto to fulfill the dreams that she had. I’m truly sorry that my immaturity abandoned her so blithely. I wish that I might tell her that I never really forget her. She was a light in my life.  I wish her well.