Why I Still Love Flying


vintage-stewardesses cropped


Floating in a sea of blue, spattered with clumps of cottony clouds waiting to pillow you if you fall. What’s not to love about flying? As a child I wanted to be like Peter Pan and Wendy – traveling without the use of arms or legs or bicycles or cars – jetting through the air to anywhere in only minutes. That’s why my first experience in a plane at age 20, far removed from my fairy tale years, was viewed through child-like eyes. It was 1967 and I was flying with my parents to my brother’s wedding in Pennsylvania. I do not remember the name of the airline, our departure or arrival airport, the length of the flight, or even what kind of little hats the stewardesses wore – because they most certainly must have worn those little hats back then. All I recall is a feeling of freedom and wonder as I stared out the window at the massive expanse of sky peppered with calming, cool-white clusters of clouds. I was finally floating on air!

Thus began my love of flying. Which is not unusual. Most people enjoy it. For me, however – the one whose stomach does somersaults and whose eyelids are locked as tight as a bank vault when I ride on any skinny, winding, mountain road – it seems a bit strange. How can one be afraid of heights on the earth, but love drifting above it? Strange or not, I continued to do it. I flew with my children before the invention of monstrous strollers and car seats. I flew with my cohorts to conventions, with my elderly mother when the beeping cart in the airport was a necessity, and I flew alone. A member of the frequent flyer club I was not. But each time I was able to secure a window seat, my nose would be pressed tightly to the glass as I marveled at the world below: tiny trees; miniature houses; cars moving slowly like marching ants, rivers trickling along as if someone above had just poured out a large bottle of water, forcing them to cut paths through the hills and valleys below. Back then people who were frequent flyers were evident. They were the ones whose eyes were either glued to a magazine or book or completely closed. For them the awe had vanished. For me it never would.

However, there was more to like about being on a plane than the view. There were the people – throngs of them. All strangers. Strangers who passed by you in the airport without giving you so much as a glance. Strangers who sold you your ticket and tagged your luggage, took your money at the food court and took your ticket at the gate – all waving you on as quickly and as wordlessly as possible. This was good. In fact, it was wonderful. Because….I was shy. So shy that I once rode 60 miles in a car with my third grade teacher without more than ten words passing between us. When we reached our destination, I read my assigned piece loudly and expressively to of rows of strangers – from a stage – the place where I was most at ease speaking. What I could not handle was casual conversation. What should I say? What if I say something wrong? Will they make fun of me? What if they don’t like the way I answer their questions? Although I was embarrassed by my own silence, to talk was much too tortuous. Every year my report cards carried the same chastising comment: “Needs to speak up more in class.” In college I ruined my chances for a future date by refusing to give our food order to the new-fangled metal box hanging menacingly outside my open car window at the Blue Buffalo Drive-Inn. This “shrinking violet” aberration followed me through most of my life. Granted, the quirkiness grew less pronounced as I advanced through years of teaching, but I still sighed with relief every time I plopped down on a plane seat next to a complete stranger, one with whom I felt absolutely no obligation to exchange words.

Plane seats then were very comfortable. The little-hatted stewardesses brought you a blanket if you were chilly, or a pillow if you wanted to sleep. When your stomach was growling, you didn’t have to worry about rushing to grab something in the airport. They graciously fed you a full meal. They were there on the spot to help lift your luggage above or stash it below. Forever smiling, they all made you feel like a very important guest. The stewardesses. The strangers. The miraculous views. They all contributed to my early love of flying, whether it be in a large jet or a clunky turbo prop that flipped and flopped in turbulent weather. Just get me to the plane!

Fast-forward several decades. I now fly mostly to visit my grandchildren. The panorama outside the small windows of the plane continues to take my breath away. That wonder has not left my soul. However, because today there are flight attendants of both sexes, the stewardesses have lost their little hats and also, it seems, some of their smiles. The meals have morphed into drinks accompanied by a small package of cookies or pretzels. The rows appear to be closer together, the seats harder, and the seat backs straighter. Travel has become less relaxing, especially for us old folks. There are more passengers with more and bigger pieces of luggage. This means boarding and deplaning are both longer and uncomfortable, and perhaps because of this, the attendants seem not to be as eager to help as those in the past.

I am one of those short persons who can stand (with a scrunched neck) in front of my seat while waiting to leave the plane. On a recent flight when it was my turn to get into the aisle, a small boy jetted in front of me. I let his father pass, silently forgiving him for not teaching the little one plane etiquette. It happened again on the return flight. This time, it was a young adult who almost made me fall back in my seat. He definitely should have known better. What, I wondered, has happened to good manners? These strangers must feel no obligation to be polite to other strangers.

Strangers. That aspect of flying has not changed. They still swarm through the airport like locusts, their voices blending into one constant hum, their eyes purposely averted from those of other strangers. In the years since my first flight, my feelings about people have changed. Though far from an extrovert, I no longer shy away from conversation, but am usually the initiator. It may be due to maturation or the Dale Carnegie Course. It may be due to my move to Texas, where the folks are exceedingly friendly. It most probably is due to my growing belief that we as humans are all connected.

Whatever the reason, I now have greater expectations from those strangers. So, I was very frustrated when the disrespect continued on subsequent flights. In one instance, going through security, I was rudely ushered into a line where my body was searched with a metal wand in very private places. I had not set off a buzzer. I had no metal. I was not wearing a jacket. I was not wearing shoes. Was the rudeness necessary? Did I really look like I was a danger to other passengers? On another occasion, I was at the gate and had handed my ticket to the attendant, who was trying to scan it. After several attempts, she looked at it closely and snapped, “This is for the wrong flight! Move over there!” My face red, I shuffled out of the line, frantically searching for the proper ticket, which was right there in my purse. I re-entered the line and boarded the plane, but my heart was beating like a rock and roll drum. Couldn’t she have used kinder words or at least been more gentle?

The most exasperating experience occurred when I was in the airport trying to find the gate for my connecting flight. I had been walking up and down the hallway in the lower level of the airport where the G gates were situated. My flight was to leave from gate G33. I could find no such gate. The gates went from G29 to G35. Where was gate G33? There were no attendants at any of the desks. There were no boards showing arrivals and departures. My legs were cramping, my arms growing weary from dragging my suitcase. I asked person after person if they knew anything. No one did. Finally, I spotted an attendant wearing a uniform from my airline.

“Excuse me, miss,” I said. “ I can’t seem to find Gate 33. I have a connecting flight on your airline to Austin. Can you help me?”

“I just got off duty!” She sounded perturbed.

“I’m sorry, but I have asked several people. I can’t find anyone from the airline.”

“It’s probably down that way.” She pointed to where I had already searched and started to go on her way.

“It’s not!” I called after her. “I’ve been looking for more than thirty minutes.”

She turned around, visibly upset now. “Are you sure you have the right gate number?”

“Uh…. I think so. I never thought of that.”

“Well, you can look it up on our website using your phone.” She was off again.

“Wait!” I was walking beside her now. “I’m really not sure how to do that. I’m old, you know.” I forced a chuckle. “Could you possibly do that for me?”

The attendant sighed deeply as she grabbed her phone out of her purse. “What’s the flight number?”

After I had given her the flight number and destination, it took her only seconds to find my mistake. “Your plane leaves from C33, not G33.”

“Oh, no wonder!” I breathed a sigh of relief and flashed her a smile. “Thank you so much for your trouble.” I was talking to the back of her head.

This was the incident that almost ended my love affair with flying. I now had some inkling of how people with dementia must feel when they don’t recognize their surroundings – lost, alone, frightened, and just needing someone to help them find their way. Is that asking too much? Isn’t that what airline employees are supposed to do? Does it matter whether it is on or off the clock? What has happened to ‘the customer is always right?’ That experience bothered me for weeks afterward. I was not yet ready to give up air travel, but as I prepared for my next flight, I was more than a little apprehensive.

It was the month of August – exactly five decades after my first encounter with an aircraft. My husband, Mike, and I were flying to the east coast to attend a celebration for my only sibling, my brother, and his wife, whose wedding I had attended 50 years ago. It had been a while since we had visited them, so we were both eager for the trip. Trying to alleviate waiting in long lines, I had printed our boarding passes and checked our luggage online. We dropped off our bags and headed for the security check line. After we flashed our IDs, I began taking off my shoes. I heard a guard yelling out instructions, but I couldn’t make out exactly what she was saying. “Excuse me. Did you say NOT to take off our shoes?” I cupped my hand around my ear to show I was having difficulty hearing her.

She glared at me with a look of disgust. “That’s EXACTLY what I said. Do NOT take off your shoes or your jacket unless the buzzer sounds. I said it so loud I bet they heard me way over there!” She jabbed her finger in the direction of the long line’s end and then began her rant again.

I looked at my husband, who simply shrugged his shoulders. As we put our bags on the security belt, the woman in front of us was nearing the scanning booth. She had a sweater wrapped around her waist. The booth attendant told her, “You need to remove your sweater.”

“But that lady just told us we could keep …..”

He repeated in a louder voice, “Ma’am, you need to remove your sweater!”

Our trip was just beginning, but already my fears were being realized.

The people we encountered on the remainder of our trip east were not so blatantly rude, but neither were they overly polite. The girl at the airport lunch counter could have been mistaken for a robot, but a robot would at least have had a fake smile. Two clerks at the bookstore were so busy talking that they ignored me as I waited to pay. I put my book back. In past days, these were the strangers that made me love flying. How I had changed! Today I liked to link with people – to feel that warmth of a bond, if only a temporary one.

Before we could blink, the return trip home was upon us. Our week in Pennsylvania had been exhilarating, filled with varied activities, re-establishing old connections, and reminiscing. My mind was definitely set to the “positive” mode, so I was able to ignore a minor glitch at the bag check-in counter. But I was not prepared for what happened during the rest of the trip.

We had somehow been selected for TSA Pre-check for this trip, and the lady at the counter motioned us up with a huge smile on her face. She commented on how far we had to travel and wished us a safe trip. I smiled back, complimenting her on her glasses and thinking, “We’re off to a grand start!” Before our plane left, I decided to give book-shopping another try. I found the perfect book and took it to the counter, where the young man greeted me with another huge smile.

“How are you today, ma’am?” he bellowed with the exuberance of a car salesman.

I answered with my standard, “I’m very well, thank you. How are you?”

“I am excellent. I’m thankful to be alive. The sun is shining outside. I love working here, and I’m happy to be able to meet people like you!”

“Wow!” I said. “I like your positive attitude. I ‘m giving you an A+.”

“Why, thank you so much. You have yourself a wonderful day.”

Strange how just a few kind words bobbing back and forth can make your whole body beam. And mine was still beaming as we prepared to board our connecting flight. A young man in Army camouflage was standing next to us. I motioned for him to go ahead, and he motioned for us to go first. After exchanging a couple more of the “go-ahead” gestures, Mike solved the problem by saying, “Okay. We’ll go first. Thank you. And thank you very much for your service.” When the opportunity presented itself, Mike generally thanked anyone in the armed services. But here the act had significance. It had been in an airport where my husband had been booed and spit upon when he returned from Viet Nam. It made me proud that he was caring, appreciative, and forgiving enough to do what should have been done for him years ago.

We boarded, deplaned, and boarded our connecting flight with relative ease. The seats on the final flight seemed larger and more comfortable. There was even a screen for gaming or movie viewing. As we were buckling our seatbelts, a young mother sat down in the aisle seat next to me. I smiled. There was an extra bonus for this trip – a baby. “Hi, little guy,” I cooed. “What’s his name?”

“Henry,” his mother answered with a smile.

“Henry? Henry is my grandson’s name! It’s a great name, isn’t it?”

“The best,” she said.

I knew I was in for a joyous ride. We exchanged pleasantries, and I continued to talk to the little one. I was amazed at how his mother could manipulate him and her bags and buckle her seatbelt with ease. He was eight months old and a good little baby. Finally, he did start to fuss. I was reading my new book when I felt a poke.

“Could you maybe take him while I get his bottle ready?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

Ahha. She WAS just a regular mom who needed occasional help. I put him on my lap. He preferred to stand up on his strong tiny legs just as my Henry had when he was that age. I stuck out my tongue and made all of the faces and sounds that usually drew smiles out of babies. Henry did not fail the test. He even gleefully giggled when I poked his tummy. Although his bottle was ready, his mommy allowed him to entertain me a while longer. When she took him in her arms, Henry soon fell fast asleep.

But another surprise was awaiting. Down the narrow plane aisle toddled a little girl followed by her daddy. They were a family! And they decided to exchange children. Into Mommy’s lap climbed this delightful child, who (I was told) was not yet two years old. She had big brown eyes and wispy brown hair held back on one side by a small bow. She reminded me of me in old pictures where my mother had put bows in my hair in exactly the same spot. I repeated my whole baby routine as she sat on her mommy’s lap, until she became distracted by a cartoon movie.

Absorbing myself in my book, I only vaguely heard the announcement to prepare for landing. I could sense rustling next to me, and realized there was a lot of baggage my neighbor had to prepare. “Would you like me to take her while you get ready?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. She’s a little shy.”

I smiled and opened my arms. She lifted her pudgy little hands, and I placed her gently on my lap facing the window. We talked about the sky and clouds until my husband’s beard became more interesting. She touched it with her tiny finger, then sat back down on my lap, leaning tenderly against me. I hummed as I held her closely – the songs I hum to my grandchildren. And because it felt so right – cradling her there like one of my own – I planted a kiss on her elfin forehead. Sharing a kiss on a plane – how could any two strangers be more connected?

When it was our turn to enter the aisle, the mother took her little girl, along with their many bags, and scooted into one of the seats that had been emptied ahead of us. As we passed by them, she thanked me profusely for my help.

“Oh, you’re very welcome,” I said. “But it is not by accident that grandmothers are placed where they belong.”

Had there not been a line of anxious people behind me; had I been allowed more time to respond to this lovely mother, I would have told her so much more. I would have told her that it was I who should be thanking her – for allowing me to do what I love more than anything – being a grandmother. I would have told her that it was the gifts of her and her children, the TSA lady, the bookstore clerk, and the Army soldier that have rekindled my hope – hope for staying connected to a loving humanity and hope for once again enjoying my trips through the sky. I would have told her that she was among the strangers who taught me that for every rude remark there is a gentle word; for every frustrating encounter, there is a calming garden; for every pair of horns spewing nastiness, there is a set of angelic wings radiating sunshine. Goodness is waiting right around the corner.

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Rivers I’ve Crossed

For Lent our pastor suggested we either opt to give up something or begin an activity that we had not faithfully done before. Since I am not one who easily disposes of things (ask my children), I decided on the second option. My Lent resolution was to write something every day. This would not be difficult for me; I had a myriad of ideas floating around in my head just waiting to be organized. Finding the discipline to resist spending time on Facebook or shopping on Amazon.com would be harder, but I convinced myself I could do it. Determining which ideas to mold into a readable piece of interest was made easier after reading a letter to the editor in our newspaper. The author expressed how the conflict, dissension and fear America experienced in the decade of the sixties, was very similar to the separation and anxiety felt within our society today. The mind is a curious apparatus. It follows you through life, thinking of nothing much but your daily routines. Then suddenly, like a match that lights a piece of dynamite, something will ignite it, and your mind will explode with a thousand memories. I had lived through those times, and the first memory that came to me was this:

Rivers I’ve crossed now have run dry.

                                                            Hopes I have lost I cannot find.

                                                            Where is the life I used to know?

                                                            With the world’s strife, I’ve watched it go.


                                                             Flowers I picked when I was young

                                                             No longer bloom; meadows are gone.

                                                             Hate, destruction now fill the air.

                                                            Where is love? No one seems to care.


                                                            In my youth, the world seemed so fair.

                                                           That glow – the glory – is nowhere.

                                                            Will it return before I die?

                                                            Or will those rivers always run dry?

Pen College Biology cropped

These words, which I had to pick from the deepest convolutions of my brain, were written in the sixties. It was the song I sang during the talent portion of the “Miss Northern” contest sponsored by my college in South Dakota. I remember grabbing the emcee and telling him he HAD to announce that I had written it myself, since my weak singing voice and twangy guitar-playing alone were certainly not contest-worthy. Following the program, a gentleman approached me and asked if he could have a copy of the song. My words had resonated in someone else’s soul! However, as I dug up these words from their grave of 50-plus years, I realized they sounded a bit morose, almost as if someone suicidal had written them. I had certainly not been suicidal. I even had a boyfriend, which was my major concern in life at that time. I dug further to try to explain my own words.

In the sixties we were in the middle of a war in Vietnam. We saw our sons, brothers, husbands and boyfriends shipped off to a tiny foreign country where they stumbled through the mountains and tangled jungles, shooting and being shot at by members of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. Who were these people, and why were WE fighting with them, anyway? We witnessed some of those very soldiers – those who were lucky enough to return – being spat upon in the airports and on the streets of our own United States. Why the hatred? Why the anger?

In the sixties we lived through the assassination of a beloved president. John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president and the youngest man to be elected president, had been an icon to many. He and his young family had been an inspiration for those of us who were just beginning to find our voices and build the ideals on which we would base our lives. Why would someone steal him from our country, leaving us with a feeling of emptiness and fear for the future?

In the sixties newspapers were peppered with headlines about race riots and sit-ins, major events in the American Civil Rights Movement. One of the movement’s strongest leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968. We rural South Dakotans were somewhat sheltered from those tensions, since there were no African American people in our small town, and only 0.2% in the entire state. However, I remember my mother telling me that the daughter of one of her acquaintances had gone off to college and met and married a black fellow. My mother was appalled. The girls’ parents shunned her. Why? Aren’t we all of the same God?

In the sixties our country was in the middle of a Cold War with the Soviet Union and communism. The Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, bragged of his intent to “bury” America. Placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba (later referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis) brought fear of a nuclear attack on the United States. Schools began to have drills to prepare for such an attack. Families scurried to supply their homes with provisions and places for a “bomb shelter.” In our rented apartment we had a small storage area in the basement of the house. It became our shelter, which we stocked with canned goods from my father’s grocery store, jugs of water, and a transistor radio. We were ready. But why did this have to happen? Why couldn’t the people of the world just get along?

In the sixties women began to stand up for themselves and the rights they had been denied for years. Few of us were elected to offices or working in anything other than clerking, secretarial, nursing or educational positions, and women generally made much less than males. Most people had the mindset of my mother, who told me as a teenager,” I hope you never have to ‘work’ (meaning outside of the home). But you should go to college just in case something happens to your husband.” After I had been interviewed for a teaching job in a surrounding small town, the school official called and said, “Your credentials are excellent, but we have decided to give the position to a man.” Why was it all right to put sex before competence? And why was it all right to TELL me that?

The decade of the sixties was indeed a troubled time for our country. After living a totally sheltered childhood in the fifties, it is of little wonder that the words of my song reflected a feeling of despair. In the ensuing years of my life, I experienced some of that same hopelessness in personal situations. But in those later decades, the meadows of America were painted with flowers of all colors, and I rafted down rivers so wild and full that the water had to be baled out in order to stay afloat. That is not to say that the United States had no problems during those times, but there was not the disparity which had permeated the sixties – not until recently, when a dreadful disfigured dragon reared its ugly heads, spitting out vermin, spreading discord throughout the land and once again threatening to divide our people.

Growing up I was totally removed from any politics. My parents chose to register as   independents “because we were business owners,” they later told me. They simply voted for the person or the platform in which they believed. My naiveté was so all-encompassing that I honestly had no idea of the difference between a liberal and a conservative until I was in my mid-twenties. Today that would not be possible. Television and radio news programs, newspapers and magazines are full of politics. The Internet, Facebook, and Twitter, rattle with vitriolic rants, each side chastising the other as if its members were ogres unfit to live in our country. Parents and friends argue with and/or shun their loved ones if they do not believe as they do. And I find myself once again asking, “Why the anger? Why the hatred?”

In the sixties and seventies the peace sign was the vision of hope for war protestors and hippies. Popular at the time was the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” which ended with these words:  Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

 My original intent had been to end my composition here. I would implore the readers to resurrect the peace symbol; to replace harsh words with a smidgeon of understanding for those whose views differ from theirs; to be patient; to be kind; to be loving; and to realize that the healing or our country must begin within each one of us.

Then something extraordinary happened. While accompanying my friend and her husband to the office of an oral surgeon, I noticed on the other side of the room a dapper young gentleman dressed in shorts, a blue checked shirt and a stylish hat. I was sitting alone, when the young man came up and asked politely if he could sit near me. His mouth was full of gauze, and he was a bit difficult to understand, but he told me had had just had a wisdom tooth removed.

“Do you have any big bills to pay?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “Why?”

“I’m with a company that helps people consolidate or pay their bills.” He proudly flashed a button displaying the company logo.

“I do have a friend that could possibly use your help.”

He grabbed one of the business cards from the office counter and wrote his name and number on the back of it. “We have a website, too,” he said as he handed me the card. “I’ll give you the address.”

I wrote down the web address on the card under his name, which I was unable to decipher. “YOU should have a business card,” I told him.

“I know. I’ve been meaning to get some made.” It went quiet for a moment. Then he exclaimed, “It’s a miracle I’m here.”

I looked up from the magazine I had been paging through. “Really? Why is that?”

“I was in a car accident in 2005. I have these burns all over my body.” He lifted his legs one at a time to show me the scars on his calves. His elbow looked as if it had been pieced together with metal.

“Ouch!” was the only thing I could think of to say.

“I collided with a truck carrying explosive materials. The fire started immediately. A man pulled me out. The rescue vehicle driver said he saw him pull me out and place me on the ground, but by the time he got to me, the other man was gone.”

My eyes widened with awe. “It was an angel,” I said.

He nodded. “Then God spoke to me. Some people don’t believe God can speak to you, but He spoke to me.”

“I believe He does,” I said. “What did He say?”

“He told me that He was the one God of all people and that He was gong to save me. I was going to be all right. And I am. God is good.”

I smiled at him and agreed, “God is good indeed.”

By that time, other people had entered the office, and he was off to peddle his business to them. As we were walking out the door, he called to me, “Don’t’ forget to look on our website.”

“I won’t,” I answered. “By the way, how do you pronounce your name?”

“Hay-soos,” he replied. His name was Jesus.

At lunch I asked my friends, “Why would this young man share his story with me?”

“Because you look safe,” one said. “Because you’re a good listener,” the other offered. But I could not get it out of my head. Granted, Texas is known for its friendly people, but why did Jesus share such personal information with me, a stranger? Later that evening I opened my computer file to continue writing. My answer was there – at the end of the fifth paragraph: “Aren’t we all of the same God?” – my question. “He is the God of all people” – His answer.

It was no accident that Jesus and I were in the same place at the same time. I believe that God brings people together for a reason. He sent Jesus to help me see that the message I was writing was not really mine, but His. Jesus delivered the answers to my questions from long ago that were still plaguing me. God does not view us as black, white, or brown; as liberals or conservatives; as soldiers or protestors; as women or men. He claims us ALL as His children, and like any loving parent, He wants His children to “just get along; to be patient; to be kind; to be loving.”

My chance meeting with Jesus made me realize that since the sixties I have grown in my faith, in both God and humanity. I have seen so much more love than hate in my life. Yes, I am unhappy with the troubled state of the world today, but I am not despondent, for I know I can do my small part to make it better. God always has been the source of my strength, but now – because of a reminder from young Jesus – I know that He will also be there to protect and preserve our country during these times of turmoil and to guide each of us in the right direction. Although He cannot totally obliterate the strife or the hate or the two-headed monsters from our country and our world, God will always make certain that each one of us is surrounded by meadows rich with fragrant flowers, and that the rivers never ever run dry. God is good indeed.

© 2017 Penny Radtke Adams




Do Dogs Go to Heaven?



Cody and granddaughter, Carlee

Dogs don’t believe in Jesus. They believe in eating. They believe in chasing after cats, birds, and squirrels. And licking, and running, and jumping, and sniffing, and barking, and  playing, and snuggling, and loving. But mostly they believe in food.

Cody’s last weeks were spent caring only about food. She wouldn’t watch TV with us. It hurt her ears. She went outside only to use the facilities. Sometimes she didn’t make it there. More often than not, she needed help getting up. She had devised a way of spreading her front legs and slowly inching her way down  on the tile without clonking her head and body. But even the most delicious, meaty aroma could not make her back legs work to pursue it. So we took her food to her wherever she was  on a silver platter. Well, maybe the platter wasn’t silver – but what 17-year old labrador does not deserve having room service? And just as we spoil our grandchildren and grandpets whenever their parents aren’t around, we let her have everything: fried pickles, BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy, cookies, pretzels, you name it. And for dessert – chocolate – lots of it. Why not? Maybe we could avoid that  eventual  dreaded trip to the vet.

Our best friend, Harvey’s dog, Max, is an extremely picky eater. He eats only gourmet treats, dog food smothered in gravy, and a certain brand of chicken jerky. Not Cody. The only thing she would NOT eat is celery. She spit it out like it was poison. Everything else she  snarfed up as if there would be no food tomorrow – or ever. As a younger dog, she would snap a ripe tomato right off the garden vine or grab a freshly-picked  apple from the top of the basket and start chomping.  Cody did not have what is known as a “soft mouth.” Her mouth was so far from “soft,” that I always had to remind her to “be polite” if I was hand-feeding her, or my finger would definitely suffer. This became more pronounced in the latter weeks of her life, so we simply fed her from the silver platter (or the floor).

She loved to eat.  Rather than drooling in anticipation like a normal dog, her teeth would begin to chatter when she knew she was about to get the stuff that made that marvelous aroma she had been smelling for what to her must have seemed like hours. In the past, when we were eating away from home, I would find myself picking up a morsel from my plate  to offer to Cody, quickly realizing that she was not there. That is one of the many things I will miss about her.  Whatever will I do with my uneaten crusts?

I will have to figure that one out, plus how I will fill the void now that she is gone. Because she is that – gone. Today we made that vitriolic visit to the vet and watched Cody  slip into a peaceful slumber. A cold, dark, forever sleep – something to be feared, I believed when I was a child – before I comprehended the goodness of Jesus. Is Cody afraid? Is she in a perpetual state of nonexistence, or is she in Heaven? After all, she didn’t believe in Jesus.

I  must sheepishly admit to  never having  read the entire Bible. And even if I had (my son would be quick to point out), I would not remember it, anyway.  So I don’t know if the Bible says anything about dogs and an afterlife. I do know that in Isaiah 65:25 it says,  “the wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.”  Is there hope for dogs?  Not being at all a theologian, I am going to go out on a limb and invent my own DOGma. Yes, I believe dogs do go to Heaven. First of all, the wolves, the lambs, and the lions (and oxen if they are there, too)  need some other animals to keep them company. Secondly, Jesus (even though I have yet to meet him face to face),  has to be the kindest person I know. My mother always told me to not attach myself to people who do not like dogs. Jesus liked all outcasts. He certainly must have liked dogs. In fact, if He loves you and me, He has to LOVE dogs. Because Jesus IS love. And dogs are love. Cody was love. She is definitely in Heaven running and playing and  loving all those she knows there, waiting for the time when Mike and I arrive with something for her to EAT.   Amen.


Why I Hate Football



Football. My husband loves it. I hate it. I never2016-carly-as-zombie-2 knew why until this past weekend when we went to a game where my granddaughter, Carly,  performed at half-time. Her school, Lake Travis, was playing the Vista Ridge Rangers at their stadium in Cedar Park. I must confess, I did try to get out of going at the last minute ( I have a bad habit of doing that).  My back hurt and I was anxious about sitting on bleachers for a long period of time. Besides, I had told Mike I would help him grout the tile in our family room the next day.  I HAD to get to the chiropractor immediately if I was going to do that. And…. I hate football.  Mike assured me that our daughter-in-law had stadium seats with backs, and his friend, Harvey, would help him with the floor. Plus, I had never seen our granddaughter perform with the Cavalettes at a football game, and this is her senior year. He was convincing.

Having never  been to a football game in Texas, I did not know what to expect.  When we arrived, the sun was shining and it was 76 degrees. I had no need yet for my hooded coat, mittens and blanket that I hauled up the concrete steps ( that were fitted nicely with railings), so I  stuffed them under the aluminum bleachers after realizing my legs were sweating beneath the layers.  I had never seen a more superior high school football stadium .  We were in the first row directly in front of the 5o yard line, where Carly would be performing. A metal railing separated us from the officials, coaches, players, and any others who would gather below us, but we still had a remarkable view of the field and players. There was not even a hint of a breeze, and gazing down the front row of bleachers, I saw mostly sandaled feet whose toes were adorned with a rainbow of colors. Well, right now MY double-socked feet were just fine in my combat boots. The grass smell  of games from my past  was not there, but the artificial turf did look nice. Some players were wearing shorts with their jerseys. That, too, was different. As the ebbing sun painted the sky with red and pink, I began to feel that ignoring the upcoming game and concentrating on the beautiful surroundings and good company, would indeed make this a joyous night.

And then the game began. There are a few things I do know about the game of football. Each team tries to carry the ball across the line to make a touchdown. The ball carrier has to be sure to go the right way. At some point during the game, one player takes the ball and passes it under his legs to a person behind him who might catch it . Sometimes the officials throw this little flag down on the field and the timeclock stops. Then they have to start all over again. When I was in high school, my very adept English/journalism teacher, Mrs. Biersbach (who was also the supervisor of  cheerleaders),  tried to teach us the rules for all team sports. The rules for English stuck to my brain cells like a strong magnet to steel.  The rules for football never even made it into my head and are probably still floating around with the ghosts in my recently rebuilt hometown high school. However,with a meager knowledge of the game and the identification of which players were “ours,” I immediately began to follow what was happening on the field. Suddenly a player started sprinting down the field expertly avoiding any tackler coming his way. I turned to Mike, “Is that guy ours?”

“Yup!” he said.

Without hesitation, I began clapping and screaming, “Go! Go! Go!”

Touchdown! I stood up and yelled louder. Whoa! What just happened? Did I do that ? Glancing at my husband, I saw a slight smile on his face. My heart was happy. But also confused. I could get into this. And when those  guys that were “ours” continued to make touchdowns, I did get very into it. So my question to myself was, “Why do you hate football?” The thought nagged at me the more I enjoyed the game.

Each time Lake Travis made a touchdown, five or six boys carrying huge school flags literally ran down the entire football field in celebration. Second from the front was a little guy who was slightly overweight and struggled as he ran, but he never gave up. My heart ached for him, as it had for my 6th grade son when he labored on the basketball court, his cheeks and tummy flapping with those few extra pounds. Maybe I hated football because it reminded me of that. But I loved basketball! And the next year when he played football, he had lost weight and even made a touchdown. That should make me LOVE football. Right?

So what was it then that made me a hater of this sport of the pigskin? My answer came as the minutes clicked closer to halftime, and the two school bands began to congregate on the sidelines of the football field. They had been playing throughout the first half, but my focus had been on the game (surprisingly), and I had taken little notice of the bands. Now, however, my eyes were drawn to them, marveling at the similar flashy uniforms worn by the members of each band, the bright red plumes attached to their caps, and the tubas. The TUBAS. How could anyone ignore the tubas that flashed in the lights that now illuminated the field? One side had thirteen, the other eight. There were twenty-one tubas on that football field! More tubas than I had ever seen at one time in one place in my entire lifetime! Wow! Amazing – compared to the two tubas (or was it three?) in MY high school band. And there it was. My answer:  HIGH SCHOOL BAND!

How could THAT make me hate football? I loved playing in the band, and we had an awesome director. Tough? Yes. Nasty sometimes? Yes. But he put together an A+ band that sounded fantastic and won awards! After my graduation, he and I both moved to Northern State College, where I played in his concert band for one year.  Dr. Darwin Walker went on to conduct award-winning college bands and to eventually  write a textbook, Teaching Music: Managing The Successful Music Program.  So high school band is why I hate football?  Yes, indeed!

Fall is football; football is fall, and  fall in South Dakota is cold. Even in the daytime, the temperature does NOT reach 76 degrees. But during the football game, whatever the temperature, whatever the wind speed, the band plays on. And I was in the band – playing an E flat clarinet (about half the size of a B flat clarinet) with frozen fingers….. and toes….. and nose and cheeks and ears and any other body part which was not covered. Some band members may not have minded the 50 or 40 0r 30-degree weather. Tuba players, for example, have only a few keys to push. Playing a clarinet involves the use of every one of those chilled digits.Try trilling a couple of notes with fingers that refuse to move.  Puckering lifeless lips around a reeded instrument is also troublesome, especially when you are sitting in the stands  playing the “Fight” song,  and your shivering body is attempting to shake off the frost. Add to that the halftime challenge of marching and playing at the same time, always with knees raised as high as possible, numbed feet stepping in time to the beat, and eyes (if you can see through  glazed-over glasses) focused on your music AND on the players to your right to be certain you are in perfect formation at all times. Just thinking about marching on the football field brings back repugnant memories of that bitter chill. THAT, coupled with the fact that finding ways to keep warm prevented  me from concentrating on the complexities of the game, is why I hate football!

The reason I had gone to this game, of course, had nothing to do with football. Carly’s Cavalettes performed superbly during halftime, dressed as Zombies and dancing to “Thriller” with legs kicked higher than my head. In a stunning ending, the Zombies in their skimpy costumes fell to the ground writhing ( as Zombies do) on the toasty turf warmed earlier by the Texas sun. Not exactly something one would want to do at a South Dakota football game. The bands fared not so well, in my opinion. Even with the combined count  of twenty-one tubas (and I’m certain at least seventy-six trombones), the sound of neither band came close to mimicking  the music coming from the icy instruments of the magnificent  Mobridge High School Band!

Ah, yes…. the game. The Lake Travis Cavaliers beat the Rangers in a score of 61 to 7.  And there is a distinct possibility that Grandma (who hates football not so much anymore) may attend a game or two in the future.



Hello world!

Some people in their later years of life take to traveling the world, absorbing the wonderful sights of distant lands and people. I envy them. My soul yearns to join them, but my body cringes at the thought of being cramped in a car, boat, train, or plane for hours on end and sleeping in accommodations from which I arise in a freakish bundle of pain. I have arthritis. It does not define me, but it does inhibit me from doing things that I once enjoyed. Like dancing. Only in the pool can I bop to the music without my joints screaming back at me the next day. Thank goodness for Aqua Arthritis!! So my physical jaunts are limited to short stays and day trips – exploring the many scenic wonders of Texas with friends, visiting relatives, and spending time with children and grandchildren, who (very fortunately) all live in Texas.

My mental wanderings, however, can take me anywhere. That is why I write and why I am beginning this blog. (Well, also my daughter pretty much insisted that I do so, and mothers ALWAYS do what their daughters say. Or is it the other way around}? Anyway, here I am, on a new adventure, sharing my thoughts, memories, misadventures, and dreams with who knows how many people out there. Yikes! It is a bit scary, but so was learning to use a computer, mastering the internet, and getting used to a cellphone. So I will jump off of this cliff with the delight, eagerness, and confidence of a teenager. Maybe?  

Join me if you wish. And enjoy!3MyGrandma