Happy Jack

Some called my dad, “Happy Jack”.

And a happy fellow he was.

But he wasn’t quite like the other dads on the block.

Putting a hammer or fishing pole in his hands would surely put you at risk.

Dad’s passions ran more towards community, family, and friends.

Always a people person even though I knew he was a little shy.

Dad’s jobs in advertising and public relations gave him unique opportunities that his kids thought were pretty cool.

Like organizing ping pong drops by helicopters at shopping malls for promotion purposes. Each little ball caught by eager tiny hands below would win the toy or book neatly stamped on it.

And dad’s volunteer work in the community gave us the chance to meet personalities with names we’d only heard about on radio or TV.

Like politicians and actors who came to town to appear in festivals and ride in parades. I was taught early to play hostess to my favorite childhood stars like Captain Kangaroo when Dad was busy.

The Captain, played by Bob Keeshan, was on network television in the ’50s to the early ’90s.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that the we spent so much of our time together with other people.

Like visiting with my piano playing grandmother, staff, and the other residents in the memory unit of her care facility every Saturday morning.

He’d charm each and every one.

And also those sweet ladies generously giving out free samples to us at the grocery store afterwards.

He’d bring smiles to their faces, too.

Mom always seemed to wonder what took us so long.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad this week, ever since driving by Grandma’s old care facility on my way to an art class.

And again when I met up with two pleasant Wisconsin restauranteurs giving free samples at the same grocery store where I used to shop with Dad every week.

On their sample menu were wild Swedish lingonberries on pancakes.

My dad sure loved his ritual of weekend pancakes.

And his loving Scandinavian wife.

One of the restauranteurs went on to tell me their restaurant keeps goats on the grass roof in the summer to graze and amaze visitors. And they have for years.

The restaurant even has a goat cam and the lucky animals enjoy a summer parade.

Now those are the kind of promotions Dad would have adored.

I bought myself one big jar of those wild berries.

So this Father’s Day in honor of both my folks, and their kids (who are now old goats themselves), I’ll be enjoying delicious lingonberries on pancakes.

And this goat ‘Wacky Jackie’, Happy Jack’s namesake, will surely be promoting smiles to the heavens with every last bite.

Community at large

I purposely parked on a pretty tree lined street this morning so I could walk smelling the freshly mowed grass in the shade.

Crossing the creek, I saw my final destination in the distance.

It was both a church and a community volunteer fair.

The church had invited a local bluegrass band called Monroe Crossing to be part of their morning service and to help celebrate volunteerism at the fair.

I’m in a Facebook creative arts group with a friend named Candy, a talented photographer and blogger, from Vermont. https://candyinvt.wordpress.com/author/candyinvt/

Candy had just met the band last month when she was singing with her choir at another church in Hoosick Falls, NY.

It’s a community of particularly nice folks who once helped me out when I got lost rushing to an airport in Albany.

Candy told me I just had to hear them play in my town and to say hello to the female singer Lisa on her behalf.

I know this church venue in my community well, having attended their church camp as a teen and some of their services over the years.

It’s a large city place of worship, yet with a small town feel. In spite of its size, I recognized the name of one of the two members who had passed this last week.

He’d been very active in the community and through his work had become a good friend of my late father’s.

Back outside after the service, I recognized and spoke to another smiling woman who worked with my daughter at the same church camp 35 years later. She was looking for volunteers.

And at a nearby table I met the community volunteer coordinator at a local care facility where I’d considered placing my husband in his final days.

I saw her sign asking for pet visitors. When I mentioned my chi mix Rex back at home her eyes lit up.

Then she smiled.

One of the residents had been particularly devastated when her chis had to be re-homed after she’d moved in recently.

“Rex is up to the challenge,” I told her.

A woman listening at the next table wondered if Rex could make visits to her adult day care program also. I remembered her name as she shared it with me. I had spoken with her several years ago about my husband.

Though Rex isn’t fully trained yet as a therapy dog, he can start with both groups right away.

Looks like Rex’s community is growing as fast as the corn since moving up here from the south in December.

On my way back to the tent where the blue grass band was now playing, I stopped to pick the group up some mini donuts at the stand behind me. I’d heard a band member mention that sweet scent of the warm sugar blowing by in the breeze.

But first I stopped to greet a small five year old just as sweet in sun glasses who was calling my name. He attends the school where I work several towns away.

Once I introduced the donuts and myself to the band Monroe Crossing, we spoke of our mutual friend Candy, and the friendly community of Hoosick Falls.

And then the band members insisted we all take a picture together.

And we did.

After, I whistled their songs crossing back over the creek to my car.

And then I smiled thinking how fortunate we are to have so many communities in our lives, big and small.

And also, how blessed.

Canine caregivers

While balancing 55 hour work weeks and caretaking responsibilities a few years ago I came to an important realization.

Mom and my husband Richard were both suffering from late stage dementia at the time, and I also had a teen and grandchild at home still needing support.

I was running short on sleep, and even shorter on spirit.

Then one Saturday morning I slid down to the kitchen floor to scratch my corgi Maddie’s belly. In response, she licked my hand and looked up at me with soulful eyes full of love.

Then and there I realized this sweet corgi and the rest of my canine crew were there as my own caretakers.

Specifically caretakers of one very shaky spirit and soul.

I was not alone.

As a result, along with Alzheimer’s non profits, dog related causes have been a yearly recipient of my annual donation dollars.

But this year, those dollars given to the dogs have been less than I’d like due to unpredicted expenses.

I’d been feeling a little guilty, until meeting up with two spirited grade schoolers at a neighborhood festival last weekend.

They both had a love for animals, and a vision.

The first shy brown eyed brunette sat at a table with her father collecting dollars for dogs found roaming in Costa Rica that they’d met on a recent trip. She made brightly colored candle holders out of paint and canning jars to sell for the cause.

I emptied my left pocket and added all the coins I pulled to their bucket.

A few tables down, I met another sweet girl who had a different idea to help out the dogs.

She was busily selling dog toys she and her Girl Scout group assembled to support the pound where I adopted my dog Rex in December.

After asking her to pick out a special toy for my boy, she did so proudly selecting one of deep burgundy and blue that she had made.

I emptied my right pocket this time, knowing these pups needed the donation more than I needed the grilled hot dog I was smelling from the stand behind me.

Driving home, I was happy I’d been able to help the dogs some. Yet I was still a little regretful I couldn’t do more or had the vision to help in a creative way like the two young girls I’d just met.

But then after looking at a newsletter I pulled from my mailbox after pulling into my driveway, I reconsidered.

The rescue group that I’d adopted my chi Grandma Greta from republished a post in it that I’d written in early December right after she passed. I’d talked in the piece about what this old girl meant to my spirit and that of others. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/christmas-story/

In the same issue, the group mentioned a total of over 700 dogs that they helped last year.

If even half of those new owners donated only a dollar in honor of a second hand dog, maybe I have helped in more than a minor way.

And also in a creative one.

I thought the same as I also looked back on another post that the local pound republished of mine on Facebook in late December after I adopted my pup Rex. I wrote about what this little guy is doing for my soul and spirit today. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/handsome-man/

The pound received over 700 likes on the piece. If even half of those readers donate as well, perhaps I’ve made more of a difference for the dogs than I’d ever realized.

Though arthritis limits what I contribute by hand, perhaps I can continue giving with my words and as many coins as I can muster.

My canine caretakers have given me so much.

I owe it to their legacy to try and do the same.

Dog Town, U.S.A

I’ve been thinking alot about community lately in relation to successful aging.

Both were important criteria to consider when I downsized to a new home last fall.

As luck would have it, I’ve found the right spot just for me.

It seems I’m now living in my own version of Dog Town, U.S.A, which may in fact be the perfect place for many of us according to a study I was telling my pup Rex about this morning.

Rex and I were both up early and decided to walk around the lake just as the sun rose.

And so did plenty of other canines and coffee carrying dog owners.

Sure, there were some solo joggers around.

And also those text reading tech types who kept tripping on tree roots that trimmed the dirt paths.

But they were missing the real action before them.

I’m talking about the dog owners smiling, then saying hello to each other.

And often stopping to chat while their pups get to know each other as well.

We were the ones who were noticing the sweet scent of the apple blossoms overhead.

And the shining red and yellow tulips turning even more brilliant in the rising sun.

Though a bit shy, I even found myself starting conversations with seniors pushing sturdy strollers occupied with spaniels and shih tsus.

I’d incorrectly assumed sleeping grandchildren were inside instead of senior pups who weren’t up to the three mile trek.

I quickly took notes on the brand names for my lame corgi Maddie who was resting back at home.

After our walk Rex and I moved to our favorite morning coffee spot up the hill where he’s a welcome guest like the rest of the canine’s.

Rex’s nose then led me across the street to the butcher shop where a saxophonist was playing in the window.

But I know Rex and the dogs who followed were really hoping for some juicy scraps instead of jazz.

For his dessert, Rex and I shared a berry scone over a shiny bowl of water outside the bakery.

Several more canines and a couple soon joined us for conversation.

A relaxed looking Rex then reached for my lap.

Smiling in the sunshine, I thought to myself there’s nothing like community.

I’m thinking Rex in his own way thought the same.

Reflections on community

Community is where you find it.
And tonight our celebration has just begun.
With smart phones as our party lines.
Warm casseroles of comfort being shared across the miles.
We’ll devour byte by bite, on our keypads.
Rich food for thought, savored by our hungry souls.
The evolution of a community cafe of ‘good stuff’, and some very good people.

Another great reason to celebrate.