When Fathers Day is Difficult

This post seems late since Father’s Day was earlier on Sunday. Rather, Father’s Day is difficult for me and I waited until after the holiday to write about it. How many holidays that expect certain emotions or actions are difficult for you? There’s a lot to pick from; Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Thanksgiving, and many more as this Internet List shows.

Memories are sweeter now, afterward

Looking back is easier today, the pain of loss and grief less pungent. Rather, sweet memories pour over me; the smell of his tobacco smoke, the tickle of his beard when he hugged me, the white salt stains on his work shirt from a day farming in the Florida summer heat, his ability to make me laugh. One prank he pulled especially comes to mind. Whenever I came home to Polk County, I liked to visit Bok Tower Gardens. Dad loved it too. My husband and I were talking as we left our car in the parking lot and Dad and Mom were ahead of us. My inner compass followed Dad without thinking.

When I looked up and realized we weren’t where I expected, I said, “Dad, where did you lead us?”

He grinned  and lifted one eyebrow while winking the other eye. I knew I’d been duped again. We were a perfect match. He loved to play practical jokes and I never saw them coming.

Keeping his memory alive

Therefore, I return here, to Bok Tower Gardens often, choosing to volunteer both as an interpretive guide during the cooler months and an historic home docent all year. The many people I meet from all over the globe also remind me how much I’m like my father. He never knew a stranger.

May your memories be as sweet and dear to you as mine are to me.


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Closing a Chapter in My Life

The past 10 days, I’ve flown from Florida to Denver, driven 200 miles to my mother’s home with my sister and son, filtered through mountains of paperwork, pulling out the memories my mother saved, tossed 20 tall kitchen garbage bags, filled 30 boxes of things I couldn’t part with, carefully added a few pieces of furniture and ironwork my late father handcrafted, and now I’m driving a 16’ moving truck (with my 37-year-old son as wingman) the 2,400 miles back to the county where I was born and my husband, 90-year-old mother, and dogs are waiting for me.

Loading Up
Loading Up

Visiting a Sacred Place

The last thing we did before my sister flew back to Orlando was to walk up to the clearing among the rocks where Mom and I spread my father’s ashes in 2015. Just last year I could still see remnants in the dry desert soil. Now it seemed the landscape had changed the past twelve months, but I found my intersecting landmarks; a dead piñon pine and the outcropping where my husband and I exchanged our marriage vows exactly three years ago. A sagebrush had doubled in size just outside the small circle rimmed with rocks, placed with love and care. Each of us scooped up a few spoonfuls of sand to take home, placing them in emptied spice containers from the kitchen cabinet. I thought, “The remnants of the spice or herb will add an exotic hint when we open them later.”

May 2016 Wedding Location
May 2016 Wedding Location

Leaving is Hard for Everyone

Neighbors helped us load our belongings in the rented moving truck, handshakes and hugs completed the task. One special friend remained behind, visiting in the living room where she had listened to my Mother’s stories about Florida and the many backpacking and later RV trips she and my Dad had taken over the 65 years they were together. The friend and I held each other tight, soothing our sobs with mutual back rubs. We dried our tears on our sleeves and as I held the screen door, she said, “Text me every morning and night you are on the road. And give Sue a big hug from me!”

Golden Neighbors
Golden Neighbors

One Last Look

With the truck packed, we could have jumped in and started our journey. We were drawn to the high rock behind the house, dubbed La Garita Rock by the locals.

Larry said, “Let’s make one more trip up there, Mom.”

La Garita - Lookout Rock
La Garita – Lookout Rock

I found an old cane to steady myself as I carefully placed my hiking boots amongst the prickly pear and hedgehog cactus with their bright orange-red blossoms opening in the waning light. Working slowly toward the summit, we turned and surveyed the view. The northern section of the San Luis Valley laid out before us, the Great Sand Dunes clearly seen 60 miles to the east at the base of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Just below us to the left stood the house my parents lived in during their retirement of 30 years. Moving toward the right I saw the historic church just outside the gate to my parent’s property, Capilla San Juan Bautista. The new red metal roof in sharp contrast to the white stucco on the thick adobe walls. Just beyond, the metal gate of the Carnero Creek Cemetery with scores of white crosses within.

The place will pass from the Anderson’s to the next family, but the memories and friends we’ve made will always live in our hearts. I know I’ll return soon…

The Pull of the Moon

I woke up just before 4:00 am and almost immediately started crying, even sitting up gasping between sobs. The release of emotion had a calming effect as I laid back down and thought of my husband. Today I’d be spreading his ashes. I wiped away the tears from my cheeks, and sat up on the edge of the bed meant for two.

As every morning, I walked to the kitchen sink and drew water to drink, 24 ounces, and then an equal amount in a pitcher for the coffeemaker. I noticed a brightness on the dark landscape outside the kitchen window. Then I remembered the full moon was just two nights away. As I leaned closer to the glass, I saw a slightly ovoid bright moon in the western sky, and thought, “That’s cool. I wonder if the coyotes and mule deer are noticing the same scene.”

I returned my attention to making coffee and gathered my writing materials for my daily journaling. As I sat in the semi-dark, writing my thoughts on the emotional start to my day, something caught my attention in the picture window to my left across the house. The moon was starting to set in earnest. My curiosity stirred. I turned off the reading lamp and waited for my eyes to adjust. I felt drawn to the moonlight like a Luna moth drawn to a porch light.

The brightness of the moon was so intense, I shielded my eyes to better adjust to the winter landscape outside. A warm few days had melted most of the snow, revealing the dead stalks of native grasses. No animals materialized in the moonlit landscape, but I felt their presence, the rabbits like statues hoping to escape a predawn meal for a coyote or owl.

My attention turned back to the rapid setting of the moon. The shadowy surface mesmerized me as the unseen energy filled my heart with joy. A smile spread across my face.

Moon over the La Garita Mountains

I continued to watch the moon gain momentum as it drifted downward toward the rocky ridge of Carnero Canyon. At the connection between the heavens and earth advanced I saw the outline of a pinon pine branch backlit by the moon. I imagined a giant magnifying glass between my eyes and the tree half a mile away. As I watched the final seconds of the moon’s descent, my chest felt warm in the beauty of the moment, grief banished. The bright orb slipped out of sight, leaving behind a glow in the dark sky.

The simple act of being in the moment granted my soul peace and love. I was no longer a prisoner of my feelings. What had started as a very sad day had turned into the promise of happier times.