a life well lived

Friday, October 31, 2014

William Wolf Davis 10/30/00

The Reynolds branch of my family has the more distinguished heritage, but the Davis side is rich with interesting characters.

My grandfather, William Wolf Davis, outlived three wives. His first and the mother of his children was Katharine Rebecca. I am named for her. She died when she was 45 years old. At that time, everyone thought she'd lived to a good age. Since she died before I was born, I have no memories of her.

I barely recall Grandfather Davis' second wife. In fact, I cannot remember her name, just that we called her Mom-Mom. That woman was a piece of work. When she cooked anything, she went strictly by the recipe, cooking something no longer and no shorter than it called for in the recipe. This was back in the days of wood-heated stoves, without the temperature controls we take for granted these days. My grandfather developed a stomach condition because of eating too much undercooked food. The kitchen was her department, so he would not say a word. One time, my mother made an early dinner for her brother, Aram, who was going out for the evening. Mom-Mom chewed her out, saying that if Aram could not eat with the family, he would not eat at all. She was a real Tartar.

I do have memories of Sarah, my grandfather's last wife. Sarah was attractive to the eye, but inside she seemed to be a dried up, withered prune. A maiden lady when she married Grandfather Davis, he got the surprise of his life when she denied him the privileges of the marriage bed. Sarah said that, at their age, they were too old for that sort of thing. I got the impression from my mother that my grandfather did not agree, but what could he do. 

As a staunch Methodist household of that period, there was no drinking, no dancing, no cards, no nothing at my grandfather's house. Grandfather Davis only took liquor if he was having a spell. It amazed me how many spells that man had. 

I recall one time when he was visiting at our house in Arbutus. My brother, Al (short for Alpha), made ginger ale and bourbon drinks for everyone, except grandfather. Grandfather Davis perked up and asked if he could have one too. Al was only too happy and poured a generous serving. Just as he handed it to Grandfather Davis, who should walk in but Uncle Aram. 

Now, Uncle Aram was the staunchest of the staunch when it came to the "thou shalt nots." Everyone shot around a look of "what next?" 

Uncle Aram looked at them all holding their high ball glasses and grilled, "What are you drinking?" 

My brother Al remained completely unflustered. (I was quivering in my boots.) "Why, we are all enjoying some ginger ale. Could I get you some?" 

 "Yes," replied Uncle Aram, "But add some water – ginger ale is too strong a drink for me." 

 So there they all were on the wraparound porch, Uncle Aram with his ginger ale with a splash of water and the rest with more spirited beverages.

A toast - to the characters in our families who help build the character of our families! 

Love to all – Gocky

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mother 10/25/00

My father has been a favorite topic.  I have rarely written about my mother.   Our relationship was complex and still - 44 years after her death at the State Hospital in Norristown - difficult to sort out. 

How my mother reacted after my marriage to Pete - she loved him when we were engaged and resented him thoroughly after we married - perhaps colored my memories of her.  My fears of suffering from dementia, as she did at the end of her life, may also have colored my perspective. 

Over the past three years - thanks to many conversations with Elsa, who pokes about in and rummages through my memory banks - my memories of my mother have changed, expanded, filled out.

My mother despised her christened name - Idirene.  As soon as she could, she changed it to Rene (rEnah).  She and Papa met at a family reunion – they were distantly related. 

They must have made an interesting pair.  My father loved life, while my mother’s staunch Methodist upbringing considered that anyone having fun must be doing something bad.  They were so different, yet they were devoted to each other.

Only recently did it dawn on me that she was only 53 years old when Papa died, 10 years younger than I was when Pete went.  Is it always hard to see our mothers as "sisters" instead of one-dimensional figures?  I continue to work at opening myself up to give depth to my image of her, to see her as another woman, grieving for her man and left with two teenagers.

My father was quite conservative when it came to his politics and quite liberal when it came to his views on life.  I remember Papa as a passionate, loving man.  Looking back from the perch of personal antiquity, it dawns on me that my mother must have been torn between the passionately loving ways of my father and the "sex is to endured" teachings she was brought up with. Did she feel a sense of guilt over having so much fun "in the sack"?

What I know for sure is that she continued to give the negative message about marital relations throughout her life.  Luckily, being my father’s daughter, I never gave it any credence.  I do recall a conversation with Dot, my oldest sibling, when we were both young women (we were neither of us married or anywhere close).  She commented on how women have to "bear" it and all I could say to her was that I expected to enjoy every moment. 

Although I am sure I shocked her down to her toes.  All I could and can think was what a waste of God’s gifts it would be to have thoughts of  male/female relationships within marriage be anything but joyous.  I still think "Yippee!"  and look forward to a FULL reunion with my O! Best Beloved, warming myself at what John Donne called  a bonfire of two loving hearts, one light burning clear. 

Love to one & all - the Gramster

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time to lift the lid 10/23/00

When I think about my father's death, for some reason I sense myself back then as a full-blown adult, not as a young woman in her late teens.  Still, ever since the women's weekend at Tonche, I am becoming more and more aware of how  I tend to hold hard experiences at an arm's length, reconfiguring them into something okay. 

I tend to keep a tight lid clamped down on my feelings from that time.  It was just around this time of year, late October, when Papa died in 1929 – just before Wall Street crashed.  

Maybe it is not so surprising that I cannot connect with how it all felt - it must have been overwhelming.  First my beloved Papa died, then the world came tumbling down around me, and I had to say good bye to my plans for becoming a teacher. 

It seems interesting, that I cannot feel any feelings from that time.  One of the things that came out of a small discussion circle I was part of at Tonche was seeing that no matter what fate throws me, I reshape and reconfigure it to make it okay, even good, even great. 

On the first full day of the retreat, during a discussion circle, I reflected on how I have been lucky to have an easy life.  Now, we had been discussing quite a few things over the day, so the young women had gotten to somewhat know this Ancient One.  One of them just looked at me in startled disbelief and said, "Mrs. Lockhart, your life was not easy - it was hard." 

That made me think and think and think - I am still thinking.  For as far back as I can remember, putting a happy face on events has been more important to me than experiencing events as they were.  That was a real ground-shaking thought for this Gramster. Doing that has helped me keep the lid clamped shut on things that might distress me, make me uncomfortable and sad.

There are so many things that I miss about Papa that I typically tune out because of how they make me feel, so many things about the life I had before October 1929.  Maybe now - 71 years later - I can lift the lid a bit. 

My goodness, this is a dark, introspective posting.  Let me end on an up note.  Three years ago today, John's Mom died.  Sounds bleak, I know.  It was not.  She went out in a flash - a heart attack that apparently took her in one fell swoop.  I was sad for John, who loved his mother dearly, and for the rest of us who appreciated her from tip to toe, but I was a bit (well, more than a bit) envious of Marie, going so fast, no bother to anyone, no declining health.  I miss her. 

John and Elsa gave each other "Mom hugs" all evening - "Here's one to her Johnnie"  "Here's one to her budgette-in-law."  

Will they give each other "Mom hugs" from me one day?  No doubt in my mind.  It is nice to know that while I will be gone, my hugs will still be making the rounds.

Nite nite and God bless - Gocky

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Own Academy 10/22/00

Well, another Charter Day has come and gone.  I managed to get to the Theta Alpha luncheon on Saturday - time very, very well spent - but that was all I was able to do.  Instead of going to activities, I spent a lot time thinking about wonderful Charter Days in the past.

As I recall, when I attended elementary school at Bryn Athyn back in 1920 and '21 - 5th and 6th grades, that would be - 3rd Grade through Theological School marched to the cathedral on Charter Day.  That is how I recall it.

When my own children were in elementary school, we always had a birthday celebration on Charter Day, complete with a birthday cake.  When Mim was taking care of Lach and Jean Pitcairn's children, we had them down on Charter Day.  I remember asking the children to make a wish for the school before we blew out the candles.  Brooke, who was probably around 10, looked up at me quizzically, like she wondered if she had heard me correctly, and said, "Kinda hard to make a birthday wish for a SCHOOL."

Unless the weather was nasty - which meant no procession - the Lockhart family always made its way up Alden Road to the "Black Path" then along Alnwick to the road that once connected Alnwick to the Pike.  We would wait in excited anticipation of seeing the procession from Benade Hall to the cathedral.  The children seemed to enjoy as much as I did watching all the class banners go by, carried by the Senior Class.  (As I have mentioned in an earlier posting, my banner from 1928 has a ship on it and the motto Semper Perge.

It still gives me a thrill, just thinking about watching the banners go by, and all the different classes, and the faculty, and the Corporation, with the Bishop and the President of the Academy completing the procession. 

This Charter Day, like every Charter Day, I thought about the football game and all the class reunions and all the activities that take place over those three days.  The most remarkable thing I thought about this Charter Day was my father, Benjamin Reynolds.

My father, as I have mentioned before, felt so strongly about the value of a New Church education that they kept two homes – a sometimes one in Bryn Athyn and our full-time home in Baltimore - so that we Reynolds kids could attend a New Church school.  

This year, it occurred to me for the first time that my father's devotion and determination to give us the advantage of a New Church education shortened his life.  

My Papa literally gave his life for that special, special blessing.  The stress of it all took its toll on his heart and he died the year after I graduated from ANC.  Betty was still at ANC when he passed away.  

That thought - that he loved the idea of NC education so dearly that it would have been worth the cost to him - just kept going through my mind all weekend.   

I love my Papa and I want to take this moment to tell him so.

To all you this Charter Day weekend ~ my love, my loyalty - Kay

(As I transcribed this posting with Mom sitting to my right & slightly behind me, in a chair in the doorway to the computer studio, next door to her bedroom, I became aware of quiet sobbing.  Startled, I looked at Mom.  Tears streamed down her downcast face as she choked out, between sobs, “I should have done more, I should have done more.”   Gently, I asked her, “Are you saying that you should have been able, at 19, to save your father from his deteriorating heart condition?”  Mom lifted her eyes  – the eyes of a 19-year old in torment – to mine and just repeated, “I should have done more.” ~elm~)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Eye tests 10/13/00

Because this is such a busy time at her work, Elsa could only take a half
day on the day of my second cataract surgery.  John took me and was his usual, caring and thoughtful self.  All went without a hitch, although this time my eye was ickier and there is a little discomfort.  It looks and feels a lot better this morning, three days after surgery.

As I said, Elsa took Wednesday off to be with her Mom.  We went to
Daddypop's  (a favorite diner) in Hatboro for a late breakfast.  There was a table filled with two Moms and four or five children.  One of the little girls just stared and stared at this old lady who looked like she was dressed up for early Halloween, what with my bandaged right eye.  So I waved and smiled and she smiled back. 

After lunch, we went to the doctor's office to have the bandage removed.  He put me through my paces reading eye charts.  I go back in three weeks, then after that I get new glasses.  Yippee!

On the drive home, Elsa drove around the cathedral and gave me her own eye exam. 

"What color is that flower?" 

"What color is that bush?" 

"What color is the sky?" 

I saw pinks and all shades of purples and blues and deep yellow and rust and a bright blue October sky.

Love to all - a practically 20/20 (I wish) Gocky