Sunday, May 27, 2018

My Own Memorial Day Eulogies

On Memorial Day, we here in the United States remember all the deceased men and women who have served as members of our military forces. However, I want to remember today nine deceased friends and family members who touched my life with goodness. 

Because of my age, many of my friends have already died. To celebrate all their lives today would make this posting too long, so I’ve chosen these nine from a larger number. All of them were once a blessing in my life and they continue to be so.

I believe in the Holy Oneness of All Creation. That is, I believe we are all One—all of us living today, all who lived in the past, all who will come in the future. For me, Holy Oneness sums up my belief in the Love that bonds us all—past, present, future—together. 

Each of the nine people whom I’ll celebrate today continues to touch the lives of others through me and through all those whose lives they touched in the past.

Mom—Hellen O’Mara Ready—died in May 1968; she was 58. She was totally nonjudgmental toward everyone she met. If I am open to what life offers, it is because of her.

Dad—John Ready—died in 1975; he was 69. Lacking confidence and unsure of his parents’ love, he began to drink. Yet after Mom’s death, he endured. He even flourished. He taught me to look forward to possibilities and to work with probabilities.

My aunt—Gladys Ready Thomas—died in 1998; she was 84. Despite life’s difficulties, she was joyous throughout her entire life. Her belief in me gave me the confidence to write.

Annette Chastain and I entered the convent together. She died in 1997; she was 58. Deeply philosophical, she frequently helped me—in the years after we left the convent—to put things into perspective and to find humor in the vagaries of life.

Mary Alice Guilfoil and I were nuns together. She died in 1997; she was 61. She had a rare gift for making friends. Her example helped me become less self-conscious and more aware of others and their needs.

Miriam Frost, whom I met when I moved to Minnesota, died in 2009; she was 67. A critical thinker, she was an iconoclast. She taught me to question what I heard and saw and encouraged me to touch life lightly.

Jim Bitney died in 2013; he was around 60. A gentle man, his mind roamed far and wee, always open to new possibilities, always seeking a way to build community. His refusal to be rushed to a decision tempered my own impulsiveness.

John Welshons died in 2013; he was 76. Astoundingly intuitive, he was able to bring out a person’s best talents and gifts. His belief in my abilities led me into a career beyond teaching.

Florence Flaugaur died in 2016: she was 92. A beautiful simplicity, which she maintained throughout life, led her to get to the pith of every issue. She taught me how to develop curriculum and thus gave me a freelance career.

These nine and others blessed my life with their graciousness.



If you have the time and inclination, please click here to read the guest posting I did on Rick Watson’s blog. He asked five questions that really got me thinking! His great talent is to ask questions of those he meets in Alabama and to write their unique stories.

Photo from Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

What Interested My Mom

On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to explore interests my mom had. She was a whiz-bang at pinochle. When my brother and I were old enough to understand the game, she taught us how to play. Then the four of us—Mom, Dad, my brother, and I—would play one or two evenings a week. Once a couple of hands had been played, she’d know what was in all our hands. She was, as Dad said, “as sharp as a tack!”

On other evenings, we’d play Monopoly as a family or listen to the radio. All of us enjoyed the comedians of the 1940s. If my brother and I had homework or Dad needed to examine blueprints for his job, Mom would sit and play solitaire or read. I picture her still, with the lamp light shining on her book as she turned the pages.

Mom was an avid reader, especially of historical fiction. On Saturday she had our car to herself. She’d drive uptown to the library and bring home a stack of books—always the latest historical fiction, plus books on gardening, embroidery, animal husbandry, and card playing.

I can remember seeing names like Graves, du Maurier, Llewellyn, van Wyck Mason, Roberts, Hilton, Ferber, Buck, and Douglas among her weekly stack of books. To write in a book or— horror of horrors—to scribble with a crayon was a punishable offense. She’d send my brother or me to sit in the corner and think about the wonder of stories.

Those historical novels gave her so much information about past centuries, eras, occupations, discoveries. About wars, revolutions, and luminaries. Knowing all this and being Irish meant that Mom was a great storyteller. On any trip into town or over to my grandmother’s she could keep my brother and I enthralled with her storytelling.

She loved to sing. Coming home from school, I always entered the house and heard a song coming from the kitchen—songs by Cole Porter, Hart, Gershwin; songs from the twenties and thirties; songs by Frankie and Bing. Mom so loved singing that she sang as she cooked, cleaned, gardened . . . as she did everything . . . and she welcomed my brother and I singing along with her

Both Dad and Mom enjoyed fishing. This posting’s photo was taken by a couple with whom they vacationed back in 1932. They traveled westward to Arizona to see the Painted Desert and fished along the way. Both of them continued to fish after my brother and I were born and after we both grew up and left home. Dad had more patience when they fished; Mom had more luck. “The luck of the Irish,” Dad said.
Several weeks ago, Dr. Kathy McCoy wrote a review of “Prayer Wasn’t Enough” on her blog: “Living Fully in Midlife and Beyond.” Kathy’s postings cover “emotional issues, health, sexuality, marriage, love relationships, parents, retirement planning and more.” She has been a practicing psychologist for many years and has published several books that reflect those concerns. Her postings often speak to the experiences I’m having as I age. Yesterday she did a podcast about “Prayer Wasn’t Enough.” If you have the time and inclination, click here to listen. The 8-minute podcast segues from Kathy’s youthful thoughts about the convent to the reality of the memoir itself.
This past Monday, a second blogger—Betsy Adams—posted an enthusiastic review of the memoir on Facebook and on her blog: “Joyful Reflections.” Reading it made me grin at how she captured the personality of a young Dee Ready. Click here if you have the time to read a few more words about the memoir.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

My Mom—Part I

Friday, May 4, was the 50th anniversary of my mother’s death in 1968, at age fifty-eight. Today I’d like to share her with you so you will understand why I consider her the greatest blessing of my life.

Mom had nine siblings. The older children—Mom included—were born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri; the younger on a farm outside Anderson, Missouri. Mom left school after seventh grade as did most young people at that time. She was 13; the year was 1923.

The Depression weighed heavily on the minds of both my parents; they never wanted to revisit the years of the 1920s and ‘30s. As I grew up, Mom talked little about the past, and I was too young to ask the questions that might have drawn forth a history. Thus, I know only that she held down a job from the time she was 13 to when she married at 18 in 1928.

She met my dad earlier that year when she came into the grocery store where he worked. He was 23 when they married. Mom was beautiful. (Dad said she reminded him of a movie star.) Dad was handsome. (He reminded me of Gary Cooper, another movie star!)

Mom was a devout Roman Catholic; Dad had just joined the Church because his best friend had entered a seminary to become a priest. Dad was so impressed with this that he and his family converted. So there were no impediments to the marriage: both were Catholics.

They settled in an apartment in Kansas City. Both wanted children, but Mom didn’t conceive for several years. Finally, she had some sort of operation and got pregnant with me. I was born in 1936—some seven-and-a-half years after they married. Three years later my brother was born.

One thing Mom did tell me is that during those years before I was born, Dad began to gamble. When Mom had enough of strange men coming to the door demanding payment because of Dad’s gambling IOUs, she gave him an ultimatum: If you don’t stop gambling, I’ve leave you.

That was no small thing for a woman to say back in the early 1930s when divorce was rare. It was also no small thing for a Catholic woman because the Church prohibited divorce. She’d never be able to marry again or receive Holy Communion each Sunday at Mass.

Dad stopped gambling before I was born. When WWII began in 1941, my dad couldn’t serve because he was blind in one eye. It was then he began to drink. He did so for the rest of his life.

His drinking made Mom’s life difficult. He drank away the money he’d once gambled. His behavior when drunk scared me. When I begged Mom to take my brother and me and to walk out of the house and away from the scary scenes, Mom always said, “Dolores, your father doesn’t chase after other women. He doesn’t gamble. And he loves us.”

None of that made sense to me. Why would he chase other women when he had Mom? What did gambling have to do with it? (I found that out only when Mom finally explained.) And did he really love us when he drank away the rent and food money three times a week and acted so strange when he came home?

That’s enough background for this posting. Next week, I want to explain why Mom didn’t leave Dad and why she was such a blessing in my life. Peace.

PS: A fellow blogger, Penny O’Neill, who is a prolific reader and perceptive reviewer of books, posted a review of Prayer Wasn’t Enough on her blog nearly two weeks ago. If you have the time and the inclination, please click here to read what Penny said. Perhaps you’ll also want to look at some of her other postings. She has a gentle touch when she writes. Peace.