On Death and Life

Per previous post, I was in Modesto, CA this weekend… the reason for my delayed Photo Phriday was that my sister and I went up to Modesto for my Aunt’s service.
We opted to go up on Thursday night (flying into San Jose) and spent the night with my Aunt Mary K and Uncle Bill. Cousin Jay flew in from New Jersey so the Simpson side of the family was well represented.

JUNE 11, 1921 – FEB. 18, 2008 Betty was a native of St. Paul, Minnesota and a resident of Modesto, age 86. She was interested in art and was an Artist herself, she was an avid reader and loved to travel. She is survived by her husband, Raidesel Vargas of Modesto; and her son, John Vargas of Sparks, Nevada. She was predeceased by her children, Nancy Lynn Vargas and Jeffrey L. Vargas. Visitation will be held from 3:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. Friday, Feb. 22 with Services, same day, 4:00 P.M., at McHenry Chapel-Franklin & Downs. Private committal at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery. Remembrances may be made to Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1663, Modesto, CA 95353. www.modbee.com/obituaries
Published in the Modesto Bee on 2/21/2008.

I’m so glad we went up for the service, and that we were able to spend the day with my Uncle Ray– who’s nearly 90 and still as handsome as ever!! We used to visit them frequently, but it’s been a while. I even forgot that Uncle Ray and Aunt Betty were my godparents, until Uncle Ray told me that he and Betty wanted to adopt my sister and I after my mom passed way. The picture here was taken in front of their house in San Jose. I’m the sceptical blond in the front row.

They moved to Modesto 8 years ago! I had never seen this new house they bought (and you won’t either, I forgot my camera!) They turned one bedroom into a studio so my Aunt Betty could paint. I walked through the halls of my Aunt Betty’s house admiring her paintings and I came across a Family Photo wall. I recognized my Grandma and Granddad (Betty’s brother and sister-in-law), my great grandmother Simpson (Betty’s mother) and a photo I have never seen of my Great Great Grandparents Jay Ferris and his wife (name unknown at this moment).

As I stood there at the wall looking at pictures a woman came behind me and said, “La Familia.”

“Mi familia!” I said, turning to look at this dark haired, dark eyed woman a little older than me.

“Mi familia” she said.

“I guess we’re related then!” I learned that she calls my uncle Ray, “Uncle Red” because his name is Reidesel. She pointed out her mama, abuela, bisabuela los primos…. tio Red y su hermanos…

I came home with a tamale recipe that upon closer inspection calls for 12 pounds of meat. The Vargas family is much larger than the Simpsons!

There were broken dishes…

I saw this meme on a fellow bloggers blog. Grab the closest book. Go to page 123, and copy the fifth sentence. And the following three.

From Linda Hogan’s The Woman Who Watches Over the World (my new favorite book):

There were broken dishes I remembered, lying on the ground alongside other discarded, burned, or otherwise broken goods. An instant iced tea jar still contained brown crystals of tea. I picked up a chip from one of the dishes and put it in my pocket along with the plant fossils from the “tankque,” our name for the man-made waterhole. I carried away mementos not only for the memory and connection, but as if these things would prove my life, my tribe, my worth.

And so I ask, what do you carry to prove your life, your tribe, your worth?

(not so) Wordless Wednesday

Backrow L to R: Granddad, Grandma, Dad, Mom, Great Grandma Simpson, Aunt Betty and Uncle Ray.
Front row- Cousin John, Debby. I seem to be MIA. Or not here yet. Since I am four years younger than Debby (look at her posing for the camera in her red dress and matching tights) I am pretty sure I am not the one taking the photo.

Aunt Betty passed away the day before yesterday (she sure was a dish!). (Uncle Ray is still with us but he must be sad. He and Betty were married for over 50 years for sure) She was actually my great aunt, my granddad’s very much younger sister. The last of the Minnesotan Simpsons. We had not been close the last few years. She and my Uncle Ray had moved from San Jose to Modesto. They were older and didn’t travel much. I think they stopped travelling all together. And I didn’t have much call to go to Modesto.

I was busy with my life. (you know how that goes– work, home, writing, friends, busy busy). I think the last time I saw them was for Granddad’s funeral in 2004. (This is a problem with my family– too many funerals and not enough weddings!) The truth is I didn’t make the time to go visit. And except for the occassional Christmas card, didn’t make the time to keep in touch much either, relying on my sister or my Aunt Mary K and Uncle Bill to keep me posted.

My fondest memories are of going up to their house when I was a kid, swimming in their pool. I could say I’ll miss Betty… but really I’ve missed her for a long time I guess.

Pray it forward

If you’re like me you go through the routine of your day. Maybe you start out with a latte at your favorite gourmet coffee stop on your way to work. Maybe you get ticked off at the guy who cut you off or the woman who is going too slow. In the fast lane.
You go to work. You have lunch with friends, run some errands on the way home, cook dinner, tinker around on the computer a bit then go to bed.
You start the whole thing over the next day.

And maybe somewhere in the routine of the day you come across a post on a blog by a woman who asks the question:

….what you would do if you had only 12 months left to live. What would be really important for you, the things that mean so much, that you would regret if you didn’t do them and left this planet soon….


As you read further you discover that this young woman, young mother, who’s name Jen is similar to your own but she has only one ‘n’, is asking the question because she has an agressive form of colon cancer.

Maybe that gets you to thinking about what really IS important.

You wonder what WOULD you do. Or maybe you just DO.

Not even for Obama

I got all excited about Obama and signed up for the email list. They send a lot of emails. That I delete. Usually without reading. This one caught my eye, however, because of the subject line

Come to Texas for Barack

So I read:

Barack Obama LogoDear Friend,

My name is Mitch Stewart, and I’m the Texas Field Director for the Obama campaign.

Barack’s won the last eight primaries and caucuses decisively, and we’re heading into the next set of contests with a lot of momentum. But the race for the Democratic nomination is still extremely close.

The March 4th primary in Texas is the single biggest remaining contest, and we need supporters across the country to get involved.

Sign up to take a trip to Texas before March 4th and help Get Out The Vote for Barack

With all due respect to my good friend Julie, and her fine family whom I have met and who graciously hosted me in Winnsboro, Texas… can I just say, I am NOT a fan of Texas. I won’t be going. Not even for Obama.

Y’all feel free to sign up and go to Texas. It’s a lovely place with big trucks and guns and oil and republicans…. Obama is surely going to need the support.

Happy Valentines Day

While I don’t agree politically with Ben Stein (he’s a little conservative) I do think he is well intentioned and honorable, not to mention a damn good writer. This commentary and the one Stein wrote for mother’s day brought tears to my eyes.

Just goes to show you, we (liberals and conservatives) are not as far apart as the current political climate (or the media’s portrayal of the climate) might suggest. We all want the same things out of life. And we all rank as important the people in our lives. Not the stuff, not the laws, not the budget, nor the primaries but the people.

So this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the opportunity to show a little love for one of my favorite conservatives, Ben Stein.