Problems Commenting?

I heard from my uncle that he tried to leave a comment on my last post, but was asked to change his settings. He didn’t and his comment did not go through. If you have experienced a problem, please use the email abbieandeveline at gmail dot com to let me know.

Thanks!

Let’s Talk … and Listen

When I posted just a few brief words the other day, hoping that more posts would follow that action, Jacqi kindly commented that blogs are just a conversation and that my blog can be whatever I want it to be. Thanks, Jacqi.

If blogging is a conversation, it remains one-sided unless you read it and engage with it in some way. If you engage with my words, I think it does become a conversation, even if you don’t comment. If you leave a comment, there is some proof of our conversation. Feel free. :)

I had a conversation with myself in the shower this morning and thought I would share it with you. It was prompted by this photograph.

hockensmith familyMy sister posted it on Facebook yesterday as it was apparently National Siblings Day – a day none of us knew existed prior to the invention of Facebook. Her sharing the photo prompted some conversation among the siblings in the picture as well as a few of our friends and relatives. I’m the oldest kid and all of our names begin with K. Let’s just call us K1 (me), K2, K3, and K4. The picture was shared by K2, who is missing a few teeth. This prompted K3 (on the right)  to crop just the gap-toothed one, repost it as a comment, and LOL. K4 (the baby) laughed at our hair – three of us with basically the same “do” – a 60s flip. Several of K2’s friends commented on how much K2 looks like our mother. I added helpfully that if you hold your cursor over mother’s mouth, you can see the likeness even more clearly. Go ahead – try it! :)

This picture was taken when I was in high school in Corsicana, Texas, probably for a church directory. My other comments on the Facebook post were that our mom is so pretty and my sisters adorable. Also that I look a lot like our dad in this photo. This is funny, because he is my step-dad. I recalled that around that time, someone had commented to dad and me about how much I looked like him. We just smiled at each other and let it be our little secret.

In the shower this morning, I was thinking about these comments, about our beautiful, loving mom and my heroic dad. Mom’s brain has been taken over by Alzheimer’s dementia. The disease has taken most of her memories and has turned a loving, compassionate, fun and creative woman into someone who can be mean and fearful. Everyone knows it is the disease talking, but that doesn’t make it easier to experience. I’m sheltered from this because I live so far away and have been unable to travel during my long illness. Dad has been a hero to me since he loved me as his own flesh and blood the minute he married my mom – when I was 7 years old. And now he bears the burden of caring for mom during a long and difficult disease. His love for her compels him to protect her and keep her in familiar surroundings for as long as possible.

As I engaged myself further in conversation (and ran up the water bill), I thought about my frustration with residual changes in brain function that remain post cancer and how difficult it is to explain when it isn’t obvious to anyone but me. And how frustrating that is for me. And how I think mom tried to tell me something was wrong with her brain long before it was evident to anyone else. And how I did what people do to me. I said, “Oh, I do that too.”

I had a check up with my oncologist yesterday and I asked him if there was anyone out there (meaning in town) working with chemo brain. He called it the “proverbial chemo brain,” which started to piss me off even though I dearly love and respect him. He indicated (with his arm outstretched), that I was way “out there” – which I took to mean that I am a distinct minority of his patients who have brain complaints, especially a year after completing treatment. He surmised that we don’t know if it is the chemo that causes the problem or if it is the cancer itself, or if it is just the beating our body/brain takes as the result of a trauma, be it cancer, surgery, or something like he experienced last year – an aortic rupture. I guess that’s why he called chemo brain “proverbial.” I didn’t stay mad at him because he said he would do some checking and on the way out told his nurse that she should remind him about my chemo brain. There – he said it!

This all makes me sad that I didn’t listen when Mom made remarks about her memory years ago. I knew she was reading lots of books and articles about Alzheimer’s and what to do to try to prevent it. I knew that. And when we talked on the phone, she would say things like, “Boy, it seems like my memory isn’t what it used to be!” And if I asked what she meant and she gave an example, I would say, “Oh, I do that too! Last Sunday I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the woman I sit behind in church every week.”

And if that conversation only happened once, or maybe twice, that response may have been ok. But it happened more than twice.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I believe that Mom was trying to tell me that her brain had changed and she was worried. I wish I had listened to the intent behind her words. I wish I had accepted her words as truth and validated her concerns. I understand now that my misguided attempt to reassure her instead belittled her reality. I wish I could take that back.

Treasure Chest Thursday – A Poem Mystery

In an attempt to get back to blogging, I started looking for memories that my uncle had written. I didn’t find them. :( But, that led me to look through a few of his mother’s (Eveline) things and one of the items I re-found was this poem. The poem is written and illustrated in brown ink with water color details. It is on thin, but sturdy, art board.

poem.Alice Conner Harness.Hoskins

Tall Tree – a poem by Alice Conner Harness

This may have been on Eveline’s bulletin board at one time because of the holes made by tacks. Or maybe it just hung on a wall.

Several years ago I did a google search to see what I could find out about the poet, Alice Conner Harness, but I came away with pretty much nothing. Since my grandmother Eveline was a school teacher, I wondered if a student had made this for her, or if the poet was someone who lived nearby. Was it a favorite poem of my grandmother and someone illustrated it for her as a gift?

Yesterday’s google search took me to a query I had posted about the poem in 2003 on the Appanoose County Iowa Genweb board. It seems that a few other people have something similar in their possession.

A response in 2010: I also have a copy of this old poem on hard backed paper. ALso looks handwritten and sketched with a tree to the left of the poem. If anyone has any information about this poem or the author I would love to know the background. This was in my grandfather’s trunk.

A response from January 2015: Some 30 years ago my wife’s grandmother died. As we cleaned out her home I found the poem “Tall Tree” on card stock in brown ink and with the drawing of the tree on the right side. My call sign was “Tall Tree” due to me height and so I captured the poem and have had it ever since. It is slightly damaged with a water stain in the lower right corner. I would love to know more history and/or information about the author or the poem. Thank you.

About a week later, someone added an obituary, a little additional information, and the poem typed. The post provides the following information: Alice was born in 1902 in Jefferson County, Iowa, taught for one year, raised a family, moved to California in 1953 and died in 1997. She and her husband, Ezra, lost a son in the Battle of the Bulge. Alice worked as a counselor in the California prison system and started a halfway house for those released on parole.

A little more searching and I found that Alice Conner Harness wrote a 32-page book of poetry titled Along the Way. It was published by the Tribune Printing Co. of Fairfield, Iowa in 1948. It looks as though a copy of the book is available in the Grinnell College Burling Library in Grinnell, Iowa, including the author’s inscription and autograph. Copies may also be available for library use at University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City and at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

And one more thing about Alice – she was a member of the Gold Star Mothers.

150px-Gold_Star_Service_Banner.svg copy

Gold Star Service Flag – Public Domain

According to Wikipedia: “The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.”

I found one other poem by Alice Conner Harness in a google preview of a book titled That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America by Holly S. Fenelon. Appendix C contains poetry and clippings.

GOLD STAR MOTHER’S PRAYER (1950)

God, help me be worthy of the son I bore
Who, by his sacrifice in the white-hot hell of war,
Paid the price of freedom;
Help me pray for peace;
That men may find wisdom and that wars shall cease.

God, help me be humble when homage is shown
To me, his mother;
This honor is not mine alone.
In his name I am proud to accept it posthumously;
That honor alone is enough for me.

God, keep me ever true with courage so strong
That though the bitter struggle for peace be long,
My faith in the principles he died to uphold
May make me worthy to wear the star of gold.

Alice Conner Harness  Batavia, Iowa

Now I know a little more about Alice Conner Harness, but I still have questions:
*Did Alice write and illustrate the poem onto art board? If not, who did?
*Why do several random people with connections to Appanoose Co., Iowa have a similar or exact item in their possession?
*Tall Tree is about grief and pain, perhaps especially meaningful to those who had lost a loved one. Were these sold to raise funds for some endeavor? Were they given to someone who had experienced a loss? My grandmother did not lose a child in a war, but lost a 5-year-old son to complications of measles.

I hope someone can help us solve the mystery of the Tall Tree!

***
Fenelon, Holly S. That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012