Saturday, October 25, 2014

Now I'm 64

   For the past several days , in anticipation of my 64th birthday I've been going around the house singing in a  slightly off key, but  spirited voice to my husband, Gary

         Doing the garden
         digging the weeds
         who could ask for more
         Will you still need me
         Will you still feed me
         When I'm sixty-four
  When this popular Beatle song from their album Sgt. Pepper's  Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in June 1967,  my friends and I were 16 years old  and 64 seemed an eternity from where we were at.   Our point of reference was  more immediate: Summer fun at the beach, date night , toilet papering the Smith household,  hanging out at Taco Bell, and   anticipating our  senior year at good ol' Bell High.

   But  I soon learned what seems an eternity  is only a series of  tomorrow's , soon to become long ago yesterday's .  Which brings me to this special day, October 25, 2014. My 64th birthday.

     I like birthdays, mine and everybody else's . I think of  them as the day The Lord has made , we shall rejoice and be glad in it (Ps.118:24). To celebrate the gift of life.  I like my birthday is in the Fall of the year, the end of October when the seasonal change in color moves to  autumn orange, gold's and reds, and  the change of weather takes place -  from hot summer  sun to cooler days.  I like Scorpio is my astrological sign, and opal my gem.  I like I'm  a baby boomer and remember hula hoops, silly putty, roller skates with a key, chasing through the sprinkler with my little brother, Walt and neighborhood kids on hot summer days,  and riding my bike  to Bell Park with  best friend, Linda.

  On T.V.  there was   Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The (original) Mickey Mouse Club starring  Annette Funicello, Cubby and Karen;  My Three Sons,  and The Rifleman. Today, what  I'd call sweet shows.

    At 64 I  look back and  cherish all the times of my life: My early years  in Council Bluffs, Iowa  where I was doted on by loving  grandparents, aunt and uncles, where my roots began as my parents did,  in a small mid western town. I was baptized in the same church my mother was, Holy Family Catholic Church,  and played at my Grandpa Cooney's upholstery shop. I equally relish my growing up years in Bell/Maywood, California where I attended  St. Rose of Lima grade school first through eighth grade, and Bell High starting my Freshman year, and learned lessons of faith and friendship.

     And my working years at the Herald American/Call-Enterprise newspaper and The Los Angeles Times. Editing copy, writing the story, retail sales, meeting a deadline. A job that helped me gain confidence, and gratified me with a sense of personal achievement.

   Then , the most rewarding years - marriage  and motherhood;  my Gary, and sons, Gavin and Garrett. Husband and wife making a home, raising a family, creating new memories for future years. The joy of experiencing my son's first word, first step, first day of school; family trips to Disneyland and Disney World, New York City and Yellowstone. Play days, sick days, Sunday go to church day.  Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve at Grandma Nor's, coloring eggs for Easter and  4th of July fireworks, and yes, birthday celebrations filled with smiles and laughter.

   For sure, not every moment in my 64 years has been carefree and happy, but all has been good. I'm grateful for my mother and dad, where I came from and who I am. I'm blessed in family and friends, and knowing God's presence.

    I  started this birthday reflection with lyrics from one Beatles song, and    think closing with another (with slight word change) sums up my feelings pretty well

            All these places had their moments
            with  family and friends
             I  still can recall
            Some are dead and some are living
             In my life I've loved them all










Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Sky

The  poets prose can't
accurately describe the
awesome beauty , unfiltered
and pristine of todays
north Idaho sky
Nor a painters brush
its brilliant hue;
A blue so blue
with clouds so white
bringing to mind
something pure and serene
I wonder,  is  this  what
the  first sky looked like
when the world was created ?
And God  saw what he had done
and proclaimed, This is good

Thursday, September 4, 2014

His 60th Birthday (my brother Walt Cooney)

September 4 , 2014 - note to Mother

Congratulations, Mom! 60 years ago today you gave birth to your beautiful blue eyed baby son! Walter Rod Cooney - 9 1/2lbs. 21" long. Named for your beloved Walt Thorson, Walt was welcomed into the world with great joy  by you and dad,  grandparents, aunt and uncles , and  me - his big sister. But most  especially in your tender and unconditional love, a love that nurtured and guided Walt throughout his life , and helped him become the caring , good man he was.

We celebrated his first birthday, and each year after wished Walt a happy birthday with party, cake and presents; and while all memorable in some way, his 21st birthday stands out as one his most special birthday's.  Not only because turning 21 is considered a landmark birthday, moving from youthful idyllic days into adulthood,  but because of all the friends and family there, including Patsy and Lawrence Mattix; Linda Mattix Funk and Jim Funk, Austin and Mark, Jim Moore , and Walt's best friend, Jimmy Taylor. Phyllis and Don .  You , me,  Gary, and of course, Patty.  Not only was Patty my brothers long time girlfriend, she was, and is like a little sister to me.

And let's not forget Harris the Parrot! Your gift to Walt, the number one gift on his wish list!  Although, I do remember it was a cockatoo, like the crazy bird on the popular T.V.  show, Baretta Walt had  originally asked for , but when learning the  high cost, he said, " you know, Mom, I think I could like a parrot just as well".   Harris fit right in with all  of us laughing, dancing, singing folk - at first a little shy, he quickly began with his squawking, talking parrot sounds. Not exactly, "Polly want a cracker",  but more a deep throated , "Caw, Caw, Caw" .

With Walt's birthday so early in September, the sounds of summer still played in our heads and we listened to some of the great pop  hits of 1975 - Elton John's Someone Saved My Life Tonight, James Taylor How Sweet it Is To Be Loved By You, Bee Gees Jive Talkin , and a favorite of Patty and Walt's,  One Of These Nights by the Eagles .

Mom prepared a lovely buffet of meats and cheeses and homemade dips . My childhood playmate and life long pal,  Linda  (she had known my brother since he was 6 months old) fixed herself and Walt a Rum and Coke  (now that he was a legal age ) , then offered a Happy Birthday toast . When she finished we all clapped our hands and shouted cheers,  and took turns giving Walt a birthday hug.

It is sweet memory of a happy time , when life was good with loved ones near.  But the years pass quickly, and today would be my brothers 60th birthday, though he is no longer here for us to give him a party or buy him a parrot. Yet,  we love him still - the baby , the little boy, teenager ,  and man he was.  Happy Birthday,  dear Walt! Love,  your  Sis.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fabric of Friendship

    I'm home from a weeks visit with  a very dear friend of mine since high school . Diana and I spent leisurely hours reading, watching movies , going for a morning walk .  Along with her husband Bill, also a friend since high school we played Scrabble each night ,  enjoyed a glass of wine (for Bill n' me a mug of beer ) and ate ice cream . It was a most pleasant time.

    Diana and I also went to Cheesecake Factory and Mimi's Cafe - two totally different  restaurants , but both with an ambiance suited to the ladies lunch set.  At Cheese Factory  we met a long time friend of mine to help celebrate her 70th birthday - a special day, indeed. Phyllis and I became friends when we worked together at The Herald American/Call Enterprise newspaper; she was 27, I was 21 and have remained close friends over these many years.  The  next day , Diana and I met our mutual friend,  Manya   at Mimi's CafĂ©.  Manya is  another cherished  pal from high school days.

    It was during that lunch I began to think about the thread of friendship, and the fabric it weaves. Diana, Manya and I are three of a larger group of high school friends that try to get together at least once a year to reminisce
our youthful antics,  and renew our vow of friendship. To celebrate our past , while at the same time build new memories. Just this past April we met at Susan's home in Eatonton, Georgia; we laughed and played, and carried on like we were the same carefree teenage  girls from long ago.

    The truth is we're now women in our 60's - 2018 will mark 50 years since we graduated high school. Underneath the L'Oreal or similar  product, our hair is some shade of gray, our skin wrinkled and crinkled,  and dotted with age spots, and our once slender bodies a bit fuller than they once were. Each of us in some way have endured heartbreak in one form or another, and have persevered. Faith, family and yes, abiding friendship.

     I listened and watched Manya and Diana as they spoke - Manya telling us about her husband Bill who just left for Tennessee  on a work related job; Diana, about her grand-daughter starting her first year of college. I saw them as they are now , but also saw them through the eyes of time, remembering who they were then, and recognized at once  their same familiar smiles, the lift of Manya's eyebrow, the gentle sound of Diana's voice. A warm feeling washed over me knowing we have been friends the greater part of our lives, sharing  much happiness and deep sorrow. I am joyous that the fabric of our friendship is made of cloth strong and enduring, that our friendship doesn't reside only in the past, but is present in the here and now, and no doubt, long into the future.

                   (a favorite photo of a favorite time with friends Diana,
                     Manya and others. Our first Mammoth ski trip 1969)


Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Grandpa, Cecil E. Cooney

    He was a slight man, not tall by today's standards, under 6 ft., but to me he was a giant of  grandeur and goodness.

     After mother and dad, my  Grandpa Cooney was one of the first to welcome me to the world on the day of birth   October 25, 1950. From the  beginning  we shared a sweet camaraderie and  were very simpatico -  perhaps because I was his first grandchild born in Omaha, across the river from his Council Bluffs home,   ( the only other of his grandchildren born there was  my younger brother, Walt),  or maybe  it was because I reminded him of my Aunt Myrtle,  his eldest child,  with my dark brown eyes and  brown hair so  like hers at that age.   In fact, Grandpa called me his 'Little Brown eyed Sweetheart' , and doted on me all the rest of his days.

    I have often thought of the endearing and wonderful gift Grandpa gave me ,  even now, by  lovingly naming me  his  'Little Brown eyed Sweetheart'. I felt  confident in Grandpa's love , it    helped lift my spirit whenever I was plagued with lowly  feelings of doubt and insecurity. I was his sweetheart; he was my hero.

    Grandma used to tell the story how when I was still a toddler and  came to visit  I'd run right past her to give Grandpa my first hug, or  how he'd be sitting in the old Morris chair  in the back bedroom after work waiting for me to bring his slippers,  and  I'd climb up on his lap and we'd talk about our day.

  Grandpa was an upholster, the best in the Midwest ! His shop was Cooney's Upholstery on Pearl St. in uptown Council Bluffs. When my dad was in high school he helped Grandpa at the shop,  and  according to my mother,  Dad learned a lot about the trade, stretching material over sofa's and chairs in just the right way,  pulling thread and tacking nails,  and became a good  upholsterer himself. When I was a little girl I often    visited the shop, too. I can still picture the  large spools of thread and rolls of fabric all about , and how tickled I was  to be near Grandpa. I remember how he  would stop his work, no matter how busy he was , pick me up and  carry me in his arms the whole time I was there,  like I was royalty.

     When Grandpa came home from work he washed his hands with Borax and soothed his aching muscles with BenGay .  When I had trouble with warts on my thumb he cured the problem  by  rubbing  a  ball of  hot  bee's wax on the warts, and never again did they return.  Grandpa smoked a pipe, and enjoyed drinking  a  Schlitz   beer   every evening. Although I've never smoked (at Grandma's request ),  I associate the sweet smell
of  pipe tobacco with  Grandpa - it gives   me  a pleasant, nostalgic       feeling of him being near,  as  does BenGay , the ointment  I  so   often use to sooth my  own  sore   muscles. Borax and bee's wax find a place on my  bathroom  shelf, too,  and I enjoy drinking a beer!

     Both Grandpa and I liked  raspberries. During summer months we'd  pick a basket full from his patch in the backyard . When I was a little older and the berries weren't so plentiful on the backyard bush, Grandma would buy frozen raspberries at Piggley Wiggley.  On  Tuesday nights Grandma  taught an Adult Education Cake Decorating class at Thomas Jefferson High School, before she left  for class she'd  always have  dinner prepared, and card table set for two in the front room for Grandpa and I to eat together. Our dessert was always a bowl of raspberries.

    Grandpa's early life wasn't an easy life , I'm sure;  he left school after 6th grade to go to work.  Grandma once told me  Grandpa was an industrious young man, and would  buy  her  lovely gifts when he was courting her. In Grandma's  high school memory book  she   listed one of those gifts as a  diamond lavaliere to  'Vera from Cecil' for her   graduation. Many years later , it was  grandma's gift  to me to wear on my wedding day.

   Like many young men of his generation, Grandpa was a soldier during World War I and  shipped overseas; He and  Grandma married after his return home. While I'm sure there were troubles and challenges for Grandma and Grandpa during the course of their marriage,  I know Grandpa was a faithful and loving husband, a father who did his best to   instill high morals and responsibility in his children.  Grandpa loved baseball , even played on a team in his younger days, and   was an  avid  fisherman; At one time  he was  president of the local Fish and  Game, and was   also   Boy  Scout Scoutmaster, encouraging each of his three  sons -   Lloyd, Skip (my dad) and Pep to become  Eagle Scouts, which they did.

    Grandpa was very ill at the end of his life. Today he   might  be    diagnosed as having Alzheimer's .   I recently came across a youthful essay I wrote about visiting Grandpa at Veteran's Hospital in Omaha - an essay I included with other little stories  and poems I wrote and sent to Grandma   for Christmas 1962. This one about visiting  Grandpa in the  hospital and the nurse allowing     me   to feed my Grandfather, and how overjoyed I was to be near   him.   Dad and Mother  had already told me Grandpa probably   wouldn't  know me, but  to everyone's great surprise, upon my entering the room Grandpa lifted up, reached out his hand toward me, and  smiled . I  rushed over to  him, crying out, "Grandpa, I love you, it's me, your little Brown eyed Sweetheart ".

       Grandpa   passed away that April.  My heart was broken and I  cried for days. He was one of   the great love's of my life. Today, August 3 would be his 118th birthday.  Looking back  through memories eye, I see us as we were then, a loving grandfather and his devoted young  grand-daughter laughing and playing, and enjoying each others company.