Hardiness comes in all forms. Fading whitewash on the northside of a house. window glazing dulled by grit and rain lashing against it. Or a stone at the water’s edge. Years of tides, waves, storms crashing against it and its rough smoothness, a few sharpened barnacles. A redwood forest, astronomical growth standing firm against unimaginable winds, snows, ice storms.

And then, through ice-crusted snow, a slender, bright green spear, unnoticed, then longer. A bud, evolving yellow. One morning you go out to retrieve the newspaper and a nodding yellow trumpet greets you as if to say no matter what life will bloom.

Word walking

I love words. Not just because they make communication easier but because there are so many, and so many derivations, so many different uses. When you think of the vast number of words there are it is a shame we do not use more of them, like those of us who I am told, only use 12% of our brains. What do you suppose the remaining 88% is doing?

Take the word gress. I had no idea it was a word but it means to walk, to move forward. Makes sense when you think of how many words are made from this one. Like aggression, digression, progression, regression, retrogression, and one I just learned, introgression. Which has nothing at all to do with walking or moving forward, that I can tell. It refers to the introduction of new DNA or genetic alteration to a cell. Not cloning exactly, maybe creating a hybrid plant or something. I never read the book Chimera but maybe that, also.

Or take the word press. Everyone knows this means to move or push on, more emphatic I think than to walk forward, this word indicates more of a sense of urgency. So again there’s impress, depress, repress, oppress, suppress, express. Probably more but that is all I can think of with my 12%. So this root basically means the same for each of these words but that little prefix makes all the difference. Subtly in some cases, a variance between depress and suppress, or even repress and oppress. But then impress and express save the day, moving back into the light.

I guess all of us move up or down, forward or backward or sideways and we all use words to describe what we are doing. If we can keep the light a little brighter in each of our little corners what a great light we can have shining.

Vaccine drama

Be forewarned: I highly favor giving vaccinations to children.

So when I was 3 or 4 (I actually remember this because it was a house my family shared and it only had one bathroom) I had German measles. I remember lying on the living room sofa under a blanket while my mother spoke in a hushed voice with the doctor, then being whisked up in her arms. Next thing I recall is waking to the soft-spoken prayers of our Presbyterian church minister, Dr. James Fogartie.

I suppose I must have survived the ordeal well, even though following the high fever accompanying the measles I had a bout with encephalitis, something many young ones do not survive, or survive badly with some brain damage (pause for the “ok, that explains a lot” comments).

Anyway, I must not have had the mumps vaccine either (if it even was available??) because I also had those, on one “side”. So I am a tremendous advocate for vaccinating children.

It is how pertussis (which I also had), polio, a very crippling disease, diphtheria and now measles/rubella and mumps have been largely eradicated. And there is now I understand a chickenpox vaccine.

Apparently many parents believe these vaccines, or combinations thereof, will harm, even kill a child. Well, they did not seem to harm us and it is because we were vaccinated that these diseases are largely avoided. Except now people are refusing to vaccinate their children so they will come back, trust me. You can subvert or subdue a germ or virus but it (or its mutations) is almost unkillable. There are isolated instances where a child (perhaps coincidentally) did die after receiving one or some vaccinations. I am not a doctor. I do not know whether there were other factors or complications. I do know I did have my son vaccinated with everything they had, even the hepatitis ones when he went on a mission trip to Mexico. Good thing I did, too because he dropped the sharp point of a heavy shovel on his big toe and injured it rather badly. But he did survive, with new toenail.

Even now aging folks such as myself have the options of pneumonia and shingles vaccines. So at the recommendation of my doctor I have had them. And survived.

I am all for doing anything I can to keep any form of germ, virus or microbe out of the stream of life if at all possible. Maybe some think it unnecessary to live beyond the age of 35, but at my age I am so grateful for the years beyond that age I have been gifted.

Not afraid of the alternative but do not want to rush or encourage it either.

Reunions and family gatherings

I grew up in a painfully honest family. We couched nothing in kid gloves, we told it like it was so consequently we all had pretty warped senses of humor. We had to have a strong sense of the ridiculous because that’s what our lives, laid completely bare, were. Nowhere to hide.

Fast-forward to my 21st year. I still only had one brother, a Mother and a Father. Two cousins that I had seen twice in my life since we lived in North Carolina and they were in New Jersey. And one visit was in New Jersey after my dad was transferred to New York and we lived just outside Princeton.

I married someone who had an enormous family. His immediate family consisted of both parents, one brother, but his mother’s family had throngs of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins– first, second and third, and then they started on the removeds. I thought this must be just wonderful. A never-ending sea of potential friends, cohorts, partners-in-crime.

Boy was I ever wrong.

I doubt all large families are like this. Most likely warmly recall the frog stuck in Auntie May’s purse when she wasn’t looking and then went to find a pen… or Uncle Bob’s attempt at a one-and-a-half gainer and the resulting broken ankle. The stories told as dusk faded to black, or as darkness turned to the groggy eyes of dawn on a stroll to the lakeside for a little pre-breakfast fishing.

No, this family was like none I had ever seen. I only made two of these “meetings” and both terrified me. I am still unsure of the purpose of them every two years, but from what I understand (I bowed out of this family only 5 years into it) they still happen. And now the relatives are so distant I wonder they even recognize anyone at all. My son still attends them, occasionally, but comes away in such a foul mood I can’t imagine what can be the point of going.

Most families relish the joys of recollection or sharing of personal successes, commiseration of unexpected setbacks. Not these. They fed on one-upmanship and critiquing, unsolicited, and to embarrassing degrees. I often wondered whether any of them would want to even see the others, ever. But sure enough, next time I attended there they all were.

I guess people show love in different and peculiar ways. Which may be why I remain a shy and reticent observer, happy to stay out of any limelight, but also happy to share anyone’s joys, recollections, or empathize with setbacks and restarts.

Snipe hunting anyone? Not me, thanks.

~Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.