Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Places Spirit runs deepest

Didn't I just write about roller coasters last post? Well, here I am on one again. I want off.

After my hopes for a job were dashed last week, I received an e-mail this week saying I qualified for the final round of a rather robust grant. BIG news, yet also BIG work. And, I have a BIG weekend with two major kids' arts events that I lead.

Did I mention my back is also acting up?

You know, I did get a day off, Thursday, in a strange, unplanned and not-necessarily welcomed manner. I got to catch up with old friends. Friends from my first working days as a full-fledged reporter fresh from college. Friends who knew me when and care for me no matter what.

Only easy-to-find photo of my early newspaper days [with Tad]
Ronda and I bonded easily when I arrived in the newsroom. She worked for another paper in the chain and traveled between offices. She was always easy, generous and funny. Her laugh, infectious. She showed me the ins and outs of local bars around Dayton, especially her favorite, The White Rabbit. It was just a strip-mall bar, but with Ronda there, it seemed magical.

She was nearing her first-year anniversary and making vacation plans. I told her I'd love to go to Florida, but I wasn't due for another few months. She waited.

Ronda, me, Jean and Mary at a newspaper reunion

We took one of our grey Chevettes, though I don't remember which one. Maybe mine. Black vinyl and no AC. That's what was affordable to a moneyless, new graduate. And it got us to Daytona Beach. Our first stop was somewhere in the mountains of Virginia. I am not sure. I wasn't much of a navigator back then, but Ronda taught me all about reading maps. Before being hired as a reporter/photographer, she took baby pictures at department stores. She knew how to get around and ask for what she needed. We pulled into a small motel and, after settling in, discovered our TV didn't work. Ronda went to the manager and sweet talked him into bringing us his from his house! I learned a ton on that trip, such as:
– Betting on a dog called flea-bite because we were so chewed, winning and taking ourselves to a posh dinner in a French restaurant owned by Hugo of Marseilles.
– Learning to make hobo stew of hamburger and vegetables in foil cooked over a grill on the beach.
– Throwing caution to the wind and heading to the world's fair on the way home sans a reservation and sleeping in the back of the Chevette in a camp ground. One of our air mattresses went flat in the night.
– Lucking into buying someone's ticket stubs to get into the fair in Knoxville, TN. Still not sure why it was there.

We have so many memories of weekends, other trips, meeting between her home in Toronto and mine in Cincinnati with our spouses and kids.

The reason I was able to see Ronda this week is because her father died. There's no way I wouldn't go to the funeral, north of Dayton. I arrived at the visitation in enough time to use the restroom and, when I returned, another reporter friend (one I have known since college, who also happened to work with me and Ronda) had just arrived. Ronda couldn't believe we had both come to attend the service.

Because Jean only lives a half-hour away, we are in touch more frequently. When my mother was recovering in rehab after an extensive heart surgery, she visited numerous times to give her healing-touch therapy. That's just the kind of soul Jean is.

We agreed to go to the cemetery, then the reception. I was the last in the car assemblage and lost my way to the American Legion. Somehow, I thought I heard VFW and, when Siri directed me there, found an empty parking lot. Even the funeral home couldn't tell me where to go. Fortunately, I had Jean's cell in my contacts.

I was grateful to find a full parking lot this time, entered and noticed a gathering around the bar. There was Ronda's husband, the lovable Canadian for whom she had left us and the States. He offered to buy me a beer, then we laughed at how cheap, $1.25, it was. "Heck this would be $5 at home." As we shared some conversation, Jean called to see where I was. "On the other side having a beer with Bub." She led me to the reception and a nice spread.

It was really good to touch based with these wonderful, longtime friends, even in their grief. I loved reconnecting with Ronda's family and her high school friends, who also felt like family. These are wonderful, good, honest people. Just like Ronda's dad. Nothing fancy, but real and full of tremendous love for his wife and three daughters. That was so apparent in their tears and grief. Ronda's mother has never lived alone, so the girls quickly drew up a plan where she lives with each of the three for several months the first year before she has to make any decisions.

For several minutes during the visitation, I held a three-month old. Good as gold though she was teething. She's the granddaughter of one of Ronda's longtime school friends. It was so healing to hold this sweet creature in the shadow of death and the open casket. I was stirred at the cemetery, before the skies opened with more tears, as the lone Marine trumpeter wailed taps through his instrument.

I was out all day, living an honest, hard truth among friends and grief. My prayers and blessings are with this family as they move forward without their beloved father and husband and I am grateful to have witnessed such love, grief and grounding. These are genuine people who don't stumble over what matters most in life.

• When do I feel life is a roller coaster?
• How do I get off?
• When was a time it happened serendipitously?
• Who teaches me about love and being grounded?
• What lessons are there in grief?

reeling from

I was called
away, out

to real

the stuff
that matters:
life, death,
love, grief,
and friendship

the places
runs deepest

Listen to this post:


  1. I really liked this post-- a good reminder. and the roller coaster-- don't wish to get off. it's only the highs and lows that make it fun.

  2. thanks for reading AND commenting ... good to have your perspective ... maybe just not such wild disparity