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.















Monday, July 28, 2014

Old Photo's & Stories They Tell

    One day last week I posted a picture of my brother, Walt  and me on Facebook. It was one of those photo's popular in the early 1960's where companies solicited doting mother's to have a 'professional'   picture of their children taken for a   low cost,  while at the same time  cleverly advertising  their company brand. For this photo,  the company was  Foremost Dairy. It's a sweet picture, made more fun and memorable with the Foremost logo in upper left hand corner, and  1963 calendar below.

   I recently came across it in one of my Mother's albums; Seeing the picture brought a sense of happy nostalgia and made me smile,  but not until a writer friend of mine commented  "there must be a story to tell behind this photo"  did I think of it from that perspective.  So I decided to look at the picture more closely to see what story there might be.

    I studied the  girl and boy in the picture and knew we were happy kids,   our lives still young and innocent, secure in our Mother's embrace. I thought about our parents  being divorced and Walt longing for our father's attention, how the world had been in the midst of the cold war and drop drills were the norm in classrooms throughout southern California.  How after my parents divorce we moved to an apartment next to the  railroad tracks.   I remember the  first  night after we moved  in  a train loudly  chugged by  with all  its bells and whistles,  and  my little brother ran from his bed to mother's room asking if the Russian's were coming. While it seems a funny story now, then it was tender and endearing , and completely understandable that a frightened  9 year old might ask that question, especially since the week before he and other classmates took cover under their desk in response to a drop drill in fear of the Soviet Union bombing the U.S.   Only mother's assurance  'all was well ' gave Walt  comfort and peace before he could fall back  to sleep.

    In 1963 I was at that awkward age, 13. Kind of twixt and in  between. No longer a little girl, but not yet  grown up. I still wanted to play outside games with the MacInnis kids, ( our good Catholic  neighbors and school mates),  but also wanted to be popular and pretty  enough to have a boyfriend.

    I suppose if there is  a story to be told, it's  my brother and I were always the best of  friends. We liked each other, had fun together.  Oh, that's not to say we didn't get mad at one another,  we  surely did, and  Walt would be the first to tell you, I was his bossy big sister. And  as we got older,  I was  sometimes  disappointed  in decisions he made, like one that took him far from his roots and home.  But no matter, whatever differences we may have encountered were overrode by the bonds of love we shared -  a bond  that our Mother instilled  in us from the day she brought Walter Rod Cooney  home from the hospital, and introduced me to my baby brother.








Friday, May 30, 2014

My Brother Walt ( May 30, 2014)

                                                  Walt & Mom    

       Many of you, like me, may remember Memorial Day was always  May 30, and  only in recent times  is  Memorial Day celebrated on the closest weekend to that date,  to allow for a  three day holiday.  No matter the date change ,  I  will always think of May 30 as the traditional and true  Memorial Day - not only because I recall the sweet stories  my mother told  me from the time I was a young girl of  how she and her family drove each Memorial Day  from Council Bluffs  to  the cemetery in Odebolt, Iowa  to place a fresh bouquet of Peonies on  grave sites of aunts and uncles and other beloved , but because May 30, 2010 is the day my brother, Walt Cooney passed away.

        I'm  not alone in knowing the pain of losing a sibling, there are many, including friends who  have lost a  beloved sister or brother . How  easily I can  sympathize and  understand their anguish and sadness of losing one so dear, one  they were so connected to, one   so cherished.

      My brother was very dear to me, I loved him unconditionally, and was always proud to be his  big sister - from the day our Mother brought Walt home from the hospital I was his champion, he was the most perfectly beautiful baby - from the beginning we were simpatico, and I instantly   felt  called to be his protector, a feeling that would remain with me throughout my brother's life.  I'm happy to say Walt and I  would always have a close bond - we shared and experienced so much together.

     On this day, the fourth anniversary of his death I especially think of our mother who lost her youngest child, her only son - the one she called her 'Golden Child', and the lifeline they had one to the other.   And Dad, too , who just last month showed me a view  near his   house in The Village's my brother liked very much when he visited there - a place Dad  now calls 'Walt's View'.
     Mom and I often talk of Walt, about some fun thing  he said or did - how for so many years we were the "Three Musketeer's".  Today,  mother will share how Walt called her the morning of May 30 to tell her he would be there (at her house) in a month to help clear out her garage, and fix  bathroom plumping, and how she couldn't wait to see him.  I will silently relive  mom calling that evening to tell me my brother had died  -  how together,  our hearts were  broken and  our sorrow,  at that moment seemed unbearable.

      But for the grace of God, and the promise of His enduring love in the glory of Jesus Christ ,  we would not have been able to carry on. We know Walt is with the Lord - praying for us,  waiting in Heaven, like we are here on earth until one day when we'll  meet again.

                             Walter Cooney 1954 - 2010  RIP+

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Precious Moment

O peaceful morning!
How lovely you are
the sun rising
over the mountain
streams light across the lake;
It glitters like gems found
in a treasure chest
The red fir , white fir and
pines are still shrouded
in a dewy mist,
the air is fresh and crisp
The busyness , the noise
of the day is yet to come
and I'm grateful for
this moment of solitude
to ponder, and give thanks
for God's creation and
nature's beauty

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bird Song

(for my Dad, who recently read aloud to me the verses of  Kate Greenaway)

I sit on an old
stump of a log
and watch as
early morning sun
shines like a spot light
on a forested  stage
and listen to 
a chorus of birds
perform their sweet
Spring song, making
me wish I could
sing along