How to Live All Your Life

Pencil sketch of Roscoe Holdaway by Kathleen Holdaway Swain done in 1941 when she was twelve.Kathleen's Pencil Sketch of Roscoe 1941On her last visit with her father, she tried to spend a lot of time with him, knowing it was unlikely she’d see him again.  Overwhelmed with the demands of a large family, she often felt her life was not her own.  Most afternoons, she struggled to get both little ones to nap at the same time and used that precious time to catch up on her laundry and whatever she couldn’t get done with them underfoot.  She’d come to visit with the intention of staying two weeks, but extended her visit to a third week, trying to get a lifetime of visits in before she lost him.
Up since five-thirty with a teething baby, she finally got both little ones down for a nap after lunch.  Though she yearned for a nap herself, she joined her father on the porch.  Watching from the open door, she memorized him before going out, think how frail he looked in his wool coat and old felt hat humped over in his straight chair in the brutal, August of the afternoon.  He’d laid his paperback Western open-faced on the porch-floor.  Inferring he must be heartbroken, knowing he couldn’t live much longer, she took a seat beside him thinking he might have something to say.
“Kat,” he started.  “I’ve been watching those ants on the ground down there.  Look how they are so busy on their little trail.  Some are rushing forward to pick up a load, and some are headed back to the nest all loaded down.  Every once in a while, a few of them stop to talk then turn round and round in the trail before getting back in line. Isn’t that something?”
Surprised to hear of his pleasure in the ants, she realized he wasn’t sad at all, just absorbed in their activity. She sat with him till her little ones awoke and called her back to the ant trail of her life.
That was the last time she spent alone with him.

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Goodbye, Randy

A dear friend died this weekend.  He’d suffered for years, rarely complaining.  He was the best father I’ve ever known, even doing little girl hairdos with matching bows to socks and dresses.   His cardiac illness was first diagnosed twenty-three years ago, when his girls were tiny.  Thankfully, he recovered some cardiac function, enabling him to guide his daughters into warm, lovely adults.  Though it has to break their hearts to lose him, what a blessing it is his family had that twenty-three years.  The girls knew a great father instead of always hearing what a wonderful father he would have been.

What a blessing to be whole again after so many years of pain and struggle.  We’ll miss you, Randy.  Our tears are only for ourselves.

The Bear, the Princess, and the Hearing Aid

Papa Bear doted on his only daughter, Princess Bear, who was not only beautiful, but sweet, gentle, and wise.  He adored her, trying hard to give her all she needed for a good life.  He rocked her, ran behind her on her bicycle to catch her, lest she fall, dried her tears, and brushed her long, curly fur, never tugging at tangles.  He tucked her in at night, dreading the day she’d leave his cave.

One day, his lovely Princess Bear ventured out into the wood.  Young bears started to coming to pay court to her.  Papa Bear asked, “Please bring your friends home to meet me.”  Of course, she didn’t really care for the idea, but since she loved Papa Bear, and he was so kind, she did as he asked.

One evening, she brought yet another young bear to the cave to meet Papa Bear.  “Pleased to meet you, Sir.  I’ll have her home by eleven.”  He said in an extraordinarily nicey, nice bear voice.

“Grrrrr.”  said Papa Bear.  “I’ll be waiting for you at nine-thirty.” They were home at nine-twenty eight.

“I didn’t really like him,” said the Princess Bear the next morning.  “Something about him was a unbearable.”

“Oh, well,” said Papa Bear.  “Sometimes that just happens.”

In a few minutes, there was a knock at the cave door.  “I don’t want to see you again.  Don’t call on me anymore.”  Princess Bear closed the door.

Seconds later, a second knock sounded.  “I told you.  I don’t want to see you again!”  Papa Bear was right behind his little Princess, not the sound of any of it.

He asked her, “Is that young bear bothering you?  At her nod, he stepped from behind her, speaking to the pushy young bear, quite gruffly.  “Princess Bear doesn’t ever want to see you or speak to you again.  Now, if you’re having trouble understanding that, I’ll be happy to meet you in the woods and explain it!”

The young bear understood Papa Bear perfectly.   He had just needed a hearing aid.

Rare Gift

bowl and pitcherAmong my possessions, I number one precious gift from my father.  He had a bowl and pitcher set made for me and each of my three sisters.  I have mine in my writing room, where I see it every time I enter and leave.  I only remember him buying me two gifts.  The other was a keychain he bought in Mexico, which fell Continue reading