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Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Weekend of Remembrance

Memorial weekend has always been a time to reflect on those who have gone on to a better place. “Decoration Day” originated following the Civil War to honor those who died while fighting in the war. General John A. Logan, representing northern Civil War Veterans, called for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died during the war and whose bodies were buried throughout the land. He chose the date of May 30 because it did not coincide with any major battle.

The first Decoration Day was celebrated at Arlington where 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were buried. After General James Garfield’s speech, volunteers decorated the graves of the war dead.

The holiday became known as Memorial Day and during World War I, it became a day to remember all who died in battle. In 1971, the date was changed to the last Monday in May to comply with the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Since 2005, I’ve always driven to Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Higginsville for the Memorial Day ceremony and to place flowers in front of Jim’s niche. This year, thinking ahead, I purchased flowers on Friday. Saturday morning, my son asked me if I wanted to go to Higginsville with him and his family. After giving it a few moments thought, I quickly made the decision that a day with family would be a better way to spend the day. Sort of an answer to the question: what would Jim do?

After our visit to the Missouri Veteran’s Cemetery, we decided to get a few stamps on my grandkid’s “Passport” to Missouri’s numerous state parks and historical sites. They already had one “stamp” and decided to pick up a couple more. The Veterans Cemetery is next to the Confederate Cemetery and only a short distance from the Battle of Lexington State Historic site. We spent a day learning more about the war that began the entire tradition of the holiday.

The weekend of remembrance continued on with church services this morning. We were encouraged to write the names of loved ones who had passed away on a piece of yellow paper and place them on a wreath at the front of the sanctuary.

As I was sitting, head bowed, during a moment of prayer, an image of Jim popped into my mind. He had a big smile on his face and stood at a  split-rail fence, with one foot propped up on a rail. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a memory or a visual reassurance of the here and now. A thought crossed my mind that because dementia snatched him away, I’ll never know what he would have looked like as an old man.

Jim was a veteran, and although he didn’t lose his life in Vietnam, he certainly lost some of his spirit. I’ll never forget how devastated he was the first time we visited the Wall in Washington, D.C. Every day is Memorial Day at the Wall.

Judging from the traffic this weekend, I’d say most people are more interested in the three-day holiday than anything to do with Memorial Day itself. Picnics and celebrations abound during this holiday weekend. Isn’t it a little strange to say “Happy Memorial Day” or “have fun this weekend”? Maybe, maybe not. After all, our love of life and country are made possible because of the men and women who offered up, or made, the ultimate sacrifice. We need to appreciate the legacy they left us, and in turn, pay it forward to the next generation.

Copyright © May 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Real World

My graduation from WWU 2005
As always, May is a turning point in young lives everywhere. The caps and gowns are a visible symbol of young people leaving the comfortable nest of home and “Pomp and Circumstance” into  the “real world.”

My two oldest grandchildren both earned the all important diploma to signify their accomplishments—one a college degree and the other finished high-school headed off to college. Although I’ve been with them through the years, it doesn’t seem possible they are both adults now.

I can imagine how proud their Grandpa Jim would have been! The grandkids were the center of his life, before his real world became a scary and confusing place.

I can’t help but compare the world today to what it was when I graduated high school long, long ago. When I was a teenager,  problems and failures were private family business, not shared with the world via the internet. I probably have a dozen photos of me growing up, but now kids may have a dozen photos posted online in a single day.

In my wildest imagination, I could never have predicted a time when we would carry around a device in our pockets with access to the entire world at our fingertips. I couldn’t have foreseen flipping through hundreds of channels on a television set. We had three channels and the remote control was whichever  kid was told to turn the channel, and rotate the antenna.

We still don’t have flying cars like the Jetson’s had, but some have truly amazing optional features available: Cars that warn you if someone is in your blind spot, adjustable everything, and cameras that seem to know exactly where to point.

My son told a story about his daughter sitting in an older vehicle. Looking around, she pointed at the manual window crank, and asked, “What’s that for?”

“You roll the window down with it,” my son said, demonstrating.

“Well, that’s just stupid,” she said. Things that seem stupid now were commonplace not so long ago.

My pursuit of a degree was delayed due to having children and then going through many years of trying to stretch the dollars to pay the bills. I received an associate’s degree from a community college when my kids were young, but didn’t get my bachelor’s until 2005.

School certainly changed between high school and community college. I tested out of a math class in junior college without realizing that it wasn’t considered cheating to use a calculator. Who knew?

By the time I was working on my bachelors, I had a PC and internet. I took online classes. One of my classes required us to check out websites and evaluate them for trustworthiness. In many ways, getting my degree later in life gave me skills and confidence to tap into the power of technology.

The changes I’ve seen throughout my lifetime, make me realize how mind boggling the world will be in another century. What will the world be like for my grandchildren when they are my age? What will the “real world” be like then?

Copyright © May 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Snapshot

Jim in Oregon 1994
A few mornings ago, my husband woke me up. “You’re a bed hog and I have proof,” he said.

I opened one eye and glanced at the photo on his phone. The photo clearly showed me sprawled facedown with arms and legs stretched out to cover the entire bed. One leg was out from other the covers, and I was rocking the blue plaid pajamas and red and white polka-dot socks.

“I’m going to sign into your Facebook account and make this your profile picture,” Harold said, teasing me.

“Knock yourself out,” I said, as I rolled over and went back to sleep. 

We live in an age where anything can be captured in a digital photo. That can be good, or it can be bad. Photos and video clips have caused riots, property damage, and deaths. On the flipside, photos can touch us in a special way when we see the beauty of a tiny newborn baby, a cute animal, or a digital version of an old family photo.

Because of the capability of social media photo sharing, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing photos for the first time although they were taken decades ago. These photos can bring back memories of times long gone by. These rare, family photos reside in a file on my Iomega external drive where I can access them at my convenience.

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos. Jim was the videographer, but I was the snapshot queen. Before any special occasion, I stocked up on rolls of film. A roll of film would take 24 or 36 photos. How well they would turn out was always a surprise. The occasion would be long past by the time the film was processed. Even worse were double exposures. Some cameras did not automatically advance the film, or you could accidently run the same roll through twice.

One time when Eric was a baby, we took a roll of film capturing some memories. Unfortunately, when the pictures came back, they were of another family. I didn’t have any luck tracking down our photos, and the other family’s vacation photos were never returned to them.

Photos can help us remember small moments as well as the important times in our lives. I recently looked through an album of photos taken during one of our Oregon trips in 1994. It brought back memories of how Jim loved to travel, especially to Oregon. Jim enjoyed showing me out-of-the-way places—and of course, the back roads.  

When Jim’s memory was fading, he still recognized some people in photos. I came home from work one day and the caregiver said, “He showed me the picture of your daughter’s wedding.” Jim had pointed to the photo of our son’s recent marriage. He said, “Stacey’s wedding.” For some reason, he had trouble remembering our son’s name, but he had correctly identified the bride.

I fixed up a few small photo albums for Jim to keep at the nursing home. One day he tapped his finger on a photo of his brother and his wife and said, “Bob and Barb.”  

At a recent three-day conference, I took nearly 500 photos. At one point my 16 GB memory card was full and I deleted enough duplicate photos that I could keep on shooting snapshots. The photos I had taken did not fill the card, but I left downloaded photos on the camera card until I was sure I had backed up the photo files.

I’m in the process of organizing my “red drive” where I store my photos. So far, I have nearly 80,000 photos stored in 5,530 files. My digital photos make organizing the boxes of printed photos seem quite underwhelming.

I rarely print photos anymore, but when I do, I no longer have to wait patiently to see how they will turn out. I can enlarge them on my screen and crop, zoom in, enhance the lighting or color. I don’t have to worry about them being lost with one-hour photo.

Snapshots are visual memories. Some will be treasured by our descendents and others will be relegated to the recycle bin. In the meantime, trips down memory lane are just a few clicks away.

Copyright © May 2016 by L.S. Fisher
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