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Being Me

This column comes from the editor of The Grant County Beat, Mary Alice Murphy. I have signed up for a course that helps a person dig out from the depths of oneself, one's personal story. My theme for the course is: How did I get here and where am I going?

We are just supposed to let the words flow and not strive for perfection. So please don't get upset, if I'm not my usual Grammar Nerd self. 

Join with me in the journey and if you want to to it yourself, have at it. Maybe I'll tell your story, too.

From my observation, as a practicing Roman Catholic, these prompts seem to bring us to confession.

Is that the purpose of this Be Yourself Community to make us confess, if not our sins, our fears, failures, conflicts and weaknesses?

So on to today's topic.

Day 9 Is my theme what I should be exploring?

Maybe I'm meant to be here and not go anywhere else, literally and figuratively.

My theme questions how I got here and where I’m going.

Perhaps everything I've done up to this point makes this the perfect place and perfect job for me.

Why didn't I find this "calling" sooner?

I've had my brain thinking about this one for hours.

I can't think of a true failure related to my theme.

Plus, I guess I look at setbacks and what others might call failures, as opportunities to learn and grow.

Day 7: Confusion caused by obfuscation and procrastination

Yesterday, I heard a speaker that seemingly wanted to obfuscate what he was saying by telling people what they wanted to hear.

The people he was talking to understood that he was not speaking truth but twisting facts to fit an agenda, his agenda. From what I heard, I think he was pandering to a group that he considered beneath him in intelligence.

I feel I have lived a happy life, in general, but some things have thrown me for a loop.

My mother and I traveled in Europe for a couple of months in 1966. I was in graduate school studying French, so I would have the opportunity to practice the spoken language on site.

I know where I live and where I work and play, but where am I in this long journey of life?

I've accomplished so many things already. I've traveled the world. Although some on my bucket list of destinations will never be reached, I actually have experienced them vicariously through my children.

When I'm at my computer, I have a separate pair of eyeglasses that are trifocals. The ones I wear at the computer are bifocals, so I can read my reporting notes, without getting a crick in my neck. The glasses for all-day wear hang around my neck on a tether that my daughter brought back from her and her husband's trek in Peru, which included a visit to Machu Picchu.

Day 4 Quiet, but Strong

My father was a quiet man. Mom and I were the chatterboxes.

Daddy died when I was 28, but I truly believe he had the most impact on the person I am today, 48 years after his passing.

I have such clear memories of him. He was not only quiet, but strong.

He was an accountant, so he led a sedentary life at work. Every morning, he would walk several blocks to the local drugstore, which was also a coffee shop. He would meet with other men at the same time every morning. Then he would walk the additional blocks to the post office and back to his office, and up the stairs. I don't recall an elevator in the building.

Other than his daily after lunch brief nap, before going back to his office, when he was at home, he was outside, gardening, fixing something that needed it, lifting heavy bags of fertilizer, mowing, working on the well pump, whatever needed doing.

His strength lay not only in physical ability. His mental strength and patience were almost legendary in the small town we lived just outside of.

Some of you may remember an old advertisement: "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen." That's the way Daddy was. He spoke so sparingly that when he did everyone got quiet and listened. Even, and especially, Mom and I.

I know he was gassed during World War I, and that did not slow him down, but I've always wondered if the gassing affected his vocal cords, because he had a soft voice.

A survivor of the Argonne Forest Battle in World War I, he stayed in the U.S. Army Reserves between the wars and ended up getting called back in 1943 at the age of 46 into World War II. He spoke six languages, and the Army put him to work as a translator under Allied Occupation Headquarters.

His strength also lay in his faith, as a Roman Catholic.

I came from a "mixed" marriage, in that my mother was Baptist and my father Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed Catholic and continue to practice the faith along with my husband. I met and married my husband when I was serving as faculty sponsor of the Newman Club at the university where I was teaching (yep, French) and my husband was working on his Ph.D.

As a child, I went every Sunday and Holy Day to Mass with Daddy, in the small wooden church he had helped build. We knew everyone there and we always sat in the back pew on the righthand side near the wall and windows. That was Daddy's spot. The few times I saw him annoyed occurred when some newcomer or visitor was sitting in "our" seats.

When the diocese decided to move "his" church to the other side of town to fill a need for more Masses that were convenient to the much larger Hispanic Catholic population than our mostly, but not all, Anglo population, that was another time he was annoyed that they were taking away his church. We then went to the larger brick and stone church in town or to the church at the neighboring town.

I explain his faith, because the one and only time he spanked me as a child was when on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to wash my doll's clothes. He spanked me for working on Sunday.

When I'm writing on a Sunday afternoon, which I often am, I think of that spanking and wonder if Daddy would consider my writing as work. If so, he would be annoyed.

I never saw true anger from him, except that spanking. But I think he just sought to teach me a lesson. Which made a great impression in more ways than one. I remember looking backward in the mirror to see the red spots on my derriere.

He was so even-keeled in spirit, so strong in faith and resilience, so loving and kind. He always stood tall and straight even before his death from cancer, which spread quickly and took him in less than a year.

Our older daughter was not quite one-year-old when he died, but she had met Daddy when she was about seven months old. I treasure the photos of him with her in his lap and being carried at the seashore. He loved babies but missed much of my toddlerhood serving in World War II. He relished his time with his granddaughter.

I dedicated my book of 81 interviews with World War II survivors to my father. He, too, was one.

I still miss his quiet strength and the lessons he taught me, including in arithmetic, languages, and faith.

How did I get here and where am I going?

Background from Day 2, so please read it first.

I remained discombobulated for more than 30 years, but had lots of fun in the meantime, learning new things.

There I was in my mid-20s when I'm totally discombobulated, because I'm not going to be a teacher of French. I'm thinking: "I plan to have a long life in front of me, what am I going to do with it?"

I kept teaching for a few years, because by then I was married to a graduate student. I earned my Ph.T—Putting Hubby Through—at the same time he earned his Ph.D.