Saturday, September 17, 2016

Origins



This  is my original tribe, the parents and siblings. The parents,  May and Sid , lived into their ninety first years and died two years apart. She had been one of the first female draftsmen during World War I, being hired right out of high school. There she met Sid, an intern engineer, right out of college. He was from Alabama, and she from Masachusetts, where they met. They were married over 65 years.
 There were five siblings,  born from 1923 to 1936. Three of them, the boys, were born in Atlanta, Georgia and two of them, the girls, were born in New Jersey. The girls are older than two of the boys. There was a bit of moving between these births. They all ended up in Ohio in 1940 and hated it for quite a while. The younger boys considered it their home first. Only one of the girls now lives in Ohio. The other girl lives in Nrw York state.  One if the boys lives in Oklahoma. Two if the boys have passed a way and are sorely missed. One had lived in Montana, the other in Ohio. Both of these boys were doctors, one a cardiologist, the other an orthopedic surgeon. The boy in Oklahoma is a retired public relations/advertising professional. One of the girls is a singer/songwriter who has taken her music to many countries around the world and can be heard often on WCL Weekend  Radio syndicated  program. One if the girls is a retired prevention specialist for a mental health agency and an illustrator.
The five siblings have, between them,  produced twenty-six children. All of them have become grandparents, and two were great -grandparents, and one is about to become a great-grandparent soon.
The surviving siblings keep in touch through the Internet and telephone. Travel is not so easy as it once was, and FaceTime is a poor substitute. We've been scattered for many years, but always are able to connect through our shared past. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Visitors From Abroad



We just enjoyed a little over two weeks of having daughter Emily and granddaughter Elena (Ellie)  visiting from Germany. I had not seen Ellie for five years, and she is now an adult. Of course I've kept up with her on  FaceTime/book, but that's not the same as having her here in person. She's both lovely in appearance and bright, kind and thoughtful in personality. She is a certified Montessori teaching assistant in Munich, and hopes to get a degree in early childhood education. I think she knows more about children than I ever di even while bringing you all up. She wants to come to Kent State, and they spent some time there investigating options.
When Emily is home, so are half the people in Ohio. Well, not exactly, but it seems that way. David C. Barnett, who is Ellie's godfather and my son from another mother, was here several times, and Rich Warren, another son from another mother was here once, and they visited hum in Columbus, while also visiting a passel of Harper cousins.
There was also a day in Cleveland with a group of folks known as the Kaffe Klutsch, some former WCPN personnel, which puts together every year a Christmas CD. This CD has in the past included the Burnell Family Singers, the Petrou sisters, and presently, cousin Wille Walker, and the Corsini Brothers Trio. It is a not ready for  prime time effort, enjoyed mostly by its participants.
The weather was disgustingly dog breath, so not much cooking occurred. One of the first things Emily wanted to do was to go to Ray's Place, our favorite pub, with good eats. Emily and Ellie are vegetarians, who eat healthily back home, but had no problem downing Ray's great French fries and onion rings with their garden burgers. There were a couple of breakfasts out as well.
Since this is the corn on the cob season, we did brave the hot kitchen here at home to indulge in Ohio's finest golden treasure, along with Ohio ripe tomatoes.
We did end up once in a while with people sitting and staring at devices, clicking away texting. I don't text,  but I do get caught up in the FB vortex.
They left Thursday morning and we hated to see them go. As it does when you are with people you love, the time zipped by. The house is empty. However, as I write this post, Emily and I are having a conversation via messaging, something rather miraculous to one for whom long distance phone calls were so rare when I was a child with faraway grandparents whom I never really got to know. And they even lived in the same country as I did.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Family Business



These folks are a lilies over one-third of the Harper tribe. They are the children of my late brother Bill and his wife Eileen. They range in age from 52 to 65. Two of them live in Ohio, three of them live in Montana, and one of them lives in Alaska and Montana. Between the six of them they have fifteen children, most of whom I have met at least once. Three of them have grandchildren, none  of whom I have met.
One is a former writer and editor who recently retired as the assistant to the president of a state university. One is a nurse-practioner specializing in oncology. One is a surgeon still in private practice. One is an accountant for an insurance company, while also rearing three grandchildren. One is a TV producer whose hobby is climbing very tall trees. One started out as a theater arts professional who worked with Stephen Sondheim on the  original production of "Into the Woods" on Broadway, taught scenic design at a small college for a while, and, deciding to get a real job, went back to school and is now a nurse.
I do not see them often in person. I keep up with those who are on Facebook, enjoying photos of their families. They have all the best qualities of their parents, good looks, intelligence, generosity of spirit, and wit. They also are very close to each other, friends for life, which is the way families should be, but often are not. I am very glad to be one of their aunts.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stuck in July


This will be a short post. We are into the third week of dog breath weather, the kind that saps my energy and causes me to lose the will to go on. I am not a field hand, or a road worker, so I feel a bit guilty for complaining. I have air conditioning. That's one of the problems, actually. They are window units, which make me feel closed in. I long for cool, fresh, real air.
I know it can't last much longer. We have had much worse summers. I remember eating the evening meal in the playroom in the basement. I remember days of over 90 degrees.  It feels right now as the the humidity is one hundred percent. I think all of this is because I am old and less tolerant.
I've distracted myself with old movies and the political conventions, but that was not a very pleasant distraction those political celebrations of themselves, and the results in one case are disturbing.
August is on the way and that means cooler weather, so I shall survive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Luke



This is a portrait of my nephew, Luke Walker. I first saw it in the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, to which my sister took me to see it. It is by Thomas Beuchner, a New York state painter. I bought a museum catalog so I could keep a copy of this very fine portrait. I didn't see Luke at this age, and the last time I had seen him, he had been a little blond boy of seven. Our families lived 300 miles apart, and in those days when my sister and I were raising kids (her 8 in western New York and my 4 in northeastern Ohio) we didn't do much visiting.
Barely two weeks ago, Luke died as a result of an accident in his workshop in Rhode Island. An expert craftsman, a machinist, an artist, a carpenter, a restorer of antique motorcycles and airplanes, a biker, a pilot, a multi talented  man.
He had met his wife Bess at Rochester Institute of Technology some 30 years ago. They had settled in Rhode Island, in the Newport area, Bess as a seamstress and decorator, Luke as an all around genius at all of the above. They were a very important part of the community and their work was and is very much in demand. Twenty two years ago their daughter Jackie was born, now a beautiful and gifted horsewoman.
That little blond boy I knew all those years ago had impressed our family even then. It's become a family story that foretold what he would become. While we were visiting, one of the children found a dea bird  in the back yard. Luke disappeared into the basement. An hour or so later he returned with a little wooden box he had built as a coffin for that bird. If you don't know woodworking, a box is one  of the hardest things to make, requiring precise measurements and the ability to cut and join the pieces correctly. As I said, he was seven.
One of his older brothers told me that he and the others in the family called Luke whenever they had a problem with a project, for advice and he was always right on it, and knew exactly what needed to be done.
Three years ago, Luke was in a terrible accident. A woman turned left in front of him as he was on his motorcycle. He was very badly injured, and suffered the partial loss of one of his legs and a traumatic brain injury. He fought very hard to recover, with the help and love of Bess and family. It was an epic struggle, and he was strong. He took up painting and ceramics and developed his artistic side.
The last time I talked with him was last year, when he called me on my birthday. He always kept track of birthdays.
Part of a large, close family, Luke's death leaves a huge gap that there's no way to fill, but everyone treasures the impact he had on each life he touched. The world needs people like Luke, makers and restorers of beautiful things, now lasting objects of his life's work. And that's a good thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Old Hands



i used to have rather nice hands. I had rather nice feet, too, not that I paid much attention to my appendages other than keeping them relatively clean, considering the sorts of things they were up to. I spent a lot of my childhood barefoot. I delighted in my prehensile toed feet, with which I could, until the past few years, pick up almost anything. I treated my feet to nice shoes, owning more than I actually needed, a trait that has been inherited by a couple of my daughters.) I can still pick up a few things, but my toes on one foot are crooked, and I have shoes I can't get into now.
But back to the hands.They are showing the favages of the years I have accumulated. They  are gnarled. The joints are swollen. They are claw-like. It would be nice if contemporary old ladiies wore those lacy mitts one sees in movies made from Jane Austin novels. I can do without the bonnets and caps of that era, but those little y mitts would cover a multitude of bumpy knuckles.
Not only are my hands misshapen, but they won't do things I need to do in an average day. Doorknobs are hard to turn. Pull tabs are impossible to pull. Ubiquitous plastic lids are resistant. For jar lids I have a gadget that helps, but as my hands weaken, even that gizmo has become harder to use. Buttoning a shirt takes a while, so I tend to pre-button them to save time and slip them over my head.
These things have a tendency to sneak up on you. What was easy last year is not so easy this year. So you keep on anyway, and adjust , and hand jars and yogurt containers to someone else if they're handy. If no one is available, you can just eat an apple.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Fourth and Then Some


In my family the Fourth of July was not just the day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of  the United States of America. It was also the birthday of my sister, Mary Lucille, or Merry Old Seal as one of our great nieces called her.  For the last seventy some years she has been known as Mary Lu, the shortened version which her siblings don't use.
This year, she will celebrate her 90 th birthday, an age she neither looks nor sounds like. She has always been quite a beautiful woman and still is. She will deny this but the description fits.
After giving birth to eight children all now extraordinary adults, she learned to play the guitar at about the same time as churches began to use the folk music genre. She  decided that there were no suitable songs of that type for children.  She had always been musical, but without any formal training, but she started writing songs about the kinds of things that were important for children to learn about, things like friendship, kindness, peace, sharing, all those positive  aspects of human behavior that enhance life. They were not preachy, the tunes were simple and easy to learn, and could fit into church or school or home. Word spread about this music and soon she was maKing recordings, traveling around to conferences and presenting workshops on how to use song with children.
One of her most popular recordings grew from her life as the mother of a large family. It's called "Middle Age, Middle Class Mama Songs." I've always thought of it as an Erma Bombeck song book. It's funny, moving, and very true. She wrote further humorous songs, and songs about nature, the environment, and frustrations of the computer age. She's written songs about peanut butter, fire flies and dandelions. She's written songs for all of her grandchildren, specific to each one. She has brought a lot of joy and laughter with her music.
So this weekend, her children and their children are gathering in Corning to celebrate a life well lived and  their remarkable mother. And it's great to have her as a sister whom I dearly love.