Naive

When I was not yet 18 years old, I was headed to college 12 hours away from home. I was excited about this. Not that I had not enjoyed my super secure home life with Mom, Dad, 3 older siblings, and one younger sibling, but I had this idea that I was headed somewhere where all would be right — peaceful and orderly. Up until that time, as I told Mom some time before my leaving home, I had only had real conflict with my siblings, and they wouldn’t be there. I could not imagine that I would not get along very well with roommates, classmates, and other friends. Yes, I was in for an awakening. Yes, I was naive. And I had been to public school K-12! My home-educated 17 year old son is more ‘woke’ (forgive me) than I was at that time.

I was headed to a Christian college. And here is the other element of my excitement and ultimate rude awakening. At 17 I just knew I was going to be around real, mature Christians (expectations including fellow students, faculty, administration, and whatever local church I would choose to attend). There would not be the squabbles that I personally witnessed and those I would hear from my parents, my dad being a regular attender of the ‘Men’s Business Meetings’, serving at various times as ‘Duty Roster’ maker (rooster would always come to mind when I heard Dad say that word), Treasurer (which involved typing those Financial Reports on his manual typewriter from the 40s — on which I also typed many a school term paper), and as an Elder of the church. I don’t know what all was going on in my teen-ager mind with trying to understand why these Christians, who were reading the same Bible I was, who had been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, receiving the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’, and living a new life, as I had 6 weeks before my 11th birthday, were acting as they were; but somehow I determined that the folks I would meet, live with, study under at that college in Tennessee would be different — more mature, more honest, more patient, and know how to argue a point without nearly descending into fisticuffs — oh, and getting mad and stomping off to join another group. Once again, I had my little eyes opened.

So there you have it. Kay at 17 about to begin, what has turned out so far to be, her next 42 years around many blocks of various sizes and styles. Always learning. Always growing.

Before my senior (half)year of high school. Stars in my eyes thinking about that Eden of Christian virtue to which I was headed when I finished this high school mess.
Early college, playing in a rock band! Reminder to me of some of my rude awakening at the behavior of “mature” Christians. Perhaps one day I’ll tell this story.
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The Block around which I’ve Beeeen

From time to time I comment that I have “been around the block enough to know”, so I am parking here a post that I will update when necessary, and link to whenever I catch myself making that comment, to list that geographical and cultural block around which I’ve beeeen (extra Es to force you to pronounce it that way in order to be like the cool Pelham kids).

As of today, January 24, 2021, if I have not forgotten any, I have been in 43 U.S. States, a resident of 9 of them, and visited 5 foreign countries, and 1 principality. Trust me, even the 9 states (we’ll save the number of cities/towns/villages in which I’ve resided within those 9 states for another day) represent vastly different cultures. People are just people in so many ways.

Outside the Palais Princier de Monaco, 1985. My one principality.
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Done

When I lived in NYC, my friends and I liked to go to a Cuban/Chinese restaurant called La Caridad. It was cheap but very good food, and it had fast service. A long line out the door didn’t deter us; we knew it would move quickly. And there was a reason for that. Now, when my friends and I went out to eat, it was not just to eat but to have long talks. But that didn’t get to happen often at La Caridad. The servers would come by, see the empty plates, and say, “You done. You go.”

Sorry, no image with the lines out the door. When I went looking for an image for the post, I found articles reporting that La Caridad closed last year. Another covid restrictions casualty, I assume. It had been there for 52 years. I lived in NY from 1987-1998.

On the morning after our son James spent his first night in his “big boy bed” — which at first was mattress/box spring on floor without a frame — he hops out of bed around 5AM, comes into our bedroom and announces, “All done sleepin’!” And his Dad responds, “No, you’re not,” and escorts the toddler back to his room and into his bed.

Done. I am not done. Until my last breath is taken on this planet, I am not done here. Unless I become mentally incapacitated before that day comes, I am not done learning, I am not done changing. I am not done being a better person than I was the day before — kinder, more thoughtful, more patient, a better listener, a better communicator. I seek to know more because I want to be a better friend and teacher. Many put the books away — they are done! — after high school or college. I earned my last degree thirty-four years ago. I began teaching and working other jobs before that time. The books are still out. The conversations are still happening. I am still learning. I am not done.

Always learning. Always growing. Never done. Don’t you want to keep learning and growing, too?
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A Soldier Coming Home

“What it takes to survive war makes it so hard to survive living after war.”

Angelina Stanford

I am currently reading The Odyssey in a class with Angelina Stanford of House of Humane Letters. The stories and books we are reading this school year all use the journey motif and have characters on an identity quest. The Odyssey tells the ridiculous story of a soldier taking 10 years to return home from war. Ah, but is it really ridiculous? Angelina told us in class last week that she has had several old soldiers tell her that it is not at all outlandish to say that it could take 10 years for a warrior to adjust to civilian life. This is what is happening to Odysseus on his tangled journey home. He is learning about who he is and what he needs to be in order to return to his life as a son, a husband, a father, and a king in a time of peace.

Most of it is about letting go. Letting go of the Warrior and the quest for Glory in victory. In the different episodes of the story, we see Odysseus (and his men, when he still had them) reacting like soldiers and suffering consequences for it. They have to learn that the rules of the battlefield are not the same as in the rest of life’s arenas. Vaunting, a part of the Warrior’s code of glory, where the victor will shout out his name and homeland, causes Odysseus a lot of grief when he reveals himself to the cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon. Not good to make the god of the sea mad when you’re headed home by sea.

Odysseus being tempted by the Sirens to return to past Glory

So just how hard is it for a soldier to stop being a soldier?

You’ve been trained and have consistently put into action — for years, at times — being on constant alert, being on the front line of defense, being the one expected to respond first. You knew who your comrades were, and that there definitely was an enemy and who that was. How does all that training work in civilian life? Odysseus and his men had spent 10 years in the war with Troy using as their battle tactic skirmishes with retreats to the beach. It had been their custom for 10 years. It doesn’t work out so well in a few of the episodes on their attempt to get home. They’ve got to stop thinking like soldiers. But how in the world do you get 10 years of the demand to think and act in this way out of your system?

And how do you get out of your memories the horrors that you saw? We used to call it shell-shock; now we have PTSD. I believe my WWII vet Dad had it. My Korean vet Uncle was treated for it pretty much up until his death in 2020 at the age of 92. The writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both served as soldiers and saw horrific things in the Great War (WWI). While in the trenches in France, Lewis saw his comrade next to him blown to bits by an exploding shell, which put shrapnel in Lewis’ own body, sending him home from the war. How do you get over the horror of seeing this happen, and knowing that the same shell that killed the man next to you saved your own life for the moment by sending you home and away from the battles? Understanding what Tolkien and Lewis did and saw in war brings much more meaning to their stories of Middle Earth and Narnia.

My soldier dad, Bedford Davis, during WWII
Uncle George Ritter, veteran of the Korean conflict

Somehow the blind poet Homer understood. He knew that there are things a human has to go through to learn about who he is, who he ought to be, and how to get there — and he understood that this is an especially hard task for a warrior. So he told his story over and over, and if we are really thinking and allowing our hearts and minds to be transformed, we become more understanding of and of more assistance to those soldiers coming Home. Even when Home and civilian life outlasts Warrior life by 60 or 70 years.

Dad (upper right) and Uncle George (lower left) in the late1990s on civilian duty. (To be replaced if I ever find that @*%^ picture of them in the vet parade in 2000something.)
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Why I want to teach Story, Rhyme, & Song

Our world is becoming more and more chaotic. Without getting into too much political theory, let me say that I believe that there are some who are glad to see this and are working for this culture of disorder. The story at the beginning of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, as well as other mythologies, tells of order (cosmos)being brought to chaos, and that this is a very lovely way to live and for a society to function. Why would anyone want it any other way? I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

In Al Pacino’s 1996 film “Looking for Richard”, he involves several American & British actors in discussions of Shakespeare’s play Richard III and in filming many scenes from the play. He also goes out to the street and interviews random people about their knowledge and thoughts about Shakespeare. From my memory (maybe one day I’ll hunt down the scene on my VHS tape) he talks to a man on the street who has the appearance of living on the streets. I remember that the dental work seemed to be lacking. But this guy spoke very eloquently. He spoke about how kids don’t have language anymore. He said maybe if they knew some Shakespeare, they would have words to express their feelings, and there would be less physical violence going on.

Words. Words with meaning. Phrases and sentences with rhythms to communicate clearly their meanings. Words and rhythms of stories and songs that touch our hearts, souls, and minds. Stories and songs of fiction. Stories and songs of history. Stories and songs of heroes. Stories and songs of the Everyman like you and me. They touch our Minds. We know we can be better —- kinder, more honest, more giving, more gracious. They touch our Hearts and Souls. We want to be better. We want to live in community where each part does its work and looks out for his neighbor as he does himself.

The guy on my old VHS is right —kids don’t know Shakespeare. Kids don’t even know standard nursery rhymes, folk songs, and folk tales. I’ve learned this through decades of teaching piano. I learned this as I listened in on my husband’s public speaking class for teens. As he was trying to find something they could relate to for whatever his purpose of the moment was, he listed song after song, tale after tale, rhyme after rhyme, and this table of about a dozen homeschool(!) kids said, “Nope, nope, nope, didn’t know it.” I’m over there thinking, What a waste of homeschooling!

My friend Angelina has a Master’s degree in Literature. (She dropped out of a PhD program, weary of an academic world that really doesn’t care about the material.) She teaches Literature classes to middle school, high school, and adults. She also hosts, along with her husband Thomas Banks and Cindy Rollins, a weekly podcast called The Literary Life. Angelina’s main mantra is Stories Will Save the World. I highly recommend going to the podcast and finding the episode on “Why Read Fairy Tales?”, as well as others of this general nature. You will find her on a few other podcasts speaking about the importance of story — fairy tales and myths. (For starters, see here and here.) She believes that a child needs a foundation of these stories. I love to hear her stories about the connections that her middle school students are making with other stories as they are understanding the elements of story under her instruction. And it doesn’t stop with story. They relate what they learn through story to what they see going on in the world around them. And having been transformed by story, they are resolved to live rightly in the world.

My friend Cindy raised and home-educated 9 children. She speaks of the poems that they read and memorized together, and how some of those poems have strengthened her adult children as they remembered phrases from the poems in their times of need. They began with nursery rhymes, as we did in our family. Many of the rhymes I will be doing with my pre-school class are ones that my husband and I chanted over and over with our son. “Diddle-Diddle-Dumplin’, my son John….”  So fun. So easy to learn and remember. Wonderful rhythms. And did you know that these rhythms aren’t just in poetry? You find them in prose and in the spoken word. I often notice the rhythm of my son and husband’s speech. They use a lot of triplets! These rhythms of rhyme and song get inside of you and help you to be a more effective communicator. It is not just about the right words but how you deliver those words. Who in the world wants to speak empty words to the wind? Don’t you want what you have to say matter?

When it comes to folk songs, in my world no one is more a champion of singing and singing these songs of work and play and history than my friend Wendi Capehart. Wendi is a founder and advisory member of the curriculum we have followed since my son was a toddler. (He will be a high school graduate in May.) AmblesideOnline has “folk songs” as part of the curriculum and gives monthly suggestions for your students to learn. Wendi often writes about the history and meaning of the songs on the Advisory blog. As I related in this post, her soulful rendition of “The Happy Wanderer” that she taught at the AO retreat was one of the most moving moments of that event for me. What singing does for a person has been well-documented. And singing in community is even better. Singing songs that bring joy just with their rhythms, singing songs that move us with their sad, cautionary tales, singing songs that tell of historical events that inspire us to be brave and stand for what is right.

Over these past several years I have been inspired by the words of Angelina, Cindy, and Wendi, and it occurred to me as I approach my retirement as a home-educator, that I want to be a part of filling this void in the life of the children around me, and where better to begin than with some of the youngest of the children. Thus was created from my heart — “Story, Rhyme, & Song” for 3 to 6 year olds. I’m really looking forward to this — part of this is fulfilling a wish to “do over” (with one child, I only got to do this once, and I’ve learned so much through these years). I’m hoping to inspire families to make these stories, rhymes, and songs part of their family life. We did, and I know it has had a huge impact on our life as a family and in our care about and work and communication with the world around us.

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Bringing up liars

Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making. Mothers are on the whole more successful in communicating this knowledge than are teachers who know the children less well and have a narrower, poorer standard of measurement for their minds. Parents do not talk down to children, but we might gather from educational publications that the art of education as regards young children is to bring conceptions down to their ‘little’ minds. If we give up this foolish prejudice in favour of the grown-up we shall be astonished at the range and depth of children’s minds; and shall perceive that their relation to God is one of those ‘first-born affinities’ which it is our part to help them to make good. A mother knows how to speak of God as she would of an absent father with all the evidences of his care and love about her and his children…We recollect how ‘Arthur Pendennis’ walked in the evening light with his mother and recited great passages from Milton and the eyes of the two were filled ‘with tears of holy joy,’ when the boy was eight…

https://amblesideonline.org/CM/vol6complete.html#6_1_10_01

You see my title and then read my quote and may wonder what in the world is the connection. The thought I intended to share is from the title, but this morning the quote above came up in my FB memories from a query I had made a year ago about Charlotte Mason quotes concerning ‘what a mother can do’. So let me address this quote and then ease my way into the title topic.

Not at all in the spirit of current congressional shenanigans of erasing gender-specific terms, I would like to substitute ‘parent’ for ‘mother’, or let’s just add ‘and father’ because I believe both parents have a significant influence on the heart of their children. Parents know their children — or they ought to know their children. They certainly have more opportunity than the children’s teachers. Knowing the mind and capabilities of children — and their children in particular, a mother or father does not talk down to a child, nor does he play manipulative mind games with a child, nor does she show disrespect for the child as a fellow human being in any way. Parents and children share their hearts and thoughts about the realities of life, seen and unseen, from the get-go.

I’ve been observing children and the effects of their relationship with their parents my whole 59 years on this planet. I grew up in church where parenting standards varied even amongst a people that claimed to be following the same ‘blue-print’/manual. I saw children very close to their parents, who would and could talk to them about anything, and others that seemed to have very little connection to their parents. Long before I read any ‘Charlotte Mason’ I had determined that children were quite capable, but very few parents knew those capabilities nor saw their own responsibilities for being involved in directing the hearts and minds of their children toward the good. When my husband and I became parents relatively late in life, we both had many adults years of observing various parenting and were determined to practice some intentional parenting. We’re not done yet, but I believe our ‘experiment in parenting’ has been quite successful as we near the eighteen year mark. We 3 are quite the team. We have respected the personhood of our son from birth, and he knows it.

Several days ago I noted to my husband that I believe people train their little ones to be deceitful by making ‘getting in trouble’ be a scary thing. The child develops the habit of immediately trying to hide the fact that they did the deed, they blame someone else, they make excuses, hide the evidence, claim ignorance. Why? What is so horrible about owning up to it and taking your licks? And how does this little game prevent the child from doing ‘the bad thing’ again? From the first ‘ooh, you’re in trouble’ (adding in the taunting of the other children) the child begins the practice of ‘fixing things’ to avoid the punishment. The poor child doesn’t get to experience grace because this idea of the punishment is so huge and scary. And note the word Habit. It becomes his unthinking practice to immediately deny responsibility. And so the child grows into a deceiving adult with this automatic response of denying responsibility.

As we were traveling home from our recent cross-country road trip, we drove through yet another fast-food establishment. It was very early morning and yet the line seemed to be moving slowly. We got to the second window, after paying at the first window, and all our items were given to us except one. The window closed and the person disappeared from that spot. Perhaps she was retrieving that last item. But she didn’t reappear for many minutes. The item was a bottle of water; how hard could this be? Were we going to have to wait for her to reappear as she was delivering the items for the car behind us? Still not there, still not there. Jack finally resorts to the horn. She appears at the window. He explains we still had one more item, and she says, “Oh, I was in the back.” What did that have to do with not completing our order in a timely fashion —- before you went to “the back”? None of us recall her even saying “sorry”; she just spit out what she thought was an excuse. As we drove away, I thought (and said out loud) how this was a good example of how some are trained to deceive — it’s an automatic, unthinking response to make an excuse without any indication of sorry —and to people she will never see again. What’s so hard about saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I hadn’t completed the order before I left this station and went to the back for something. My apologies.” Most likely whatever frustration/inconvenience we were feeling would have been alleviated by this simple show of humility and honesty. But you see this kind of thing everywhere. Why are people afraid to own up to the least little thing, over which the consequences would be so tiny, and maybe even disappear with the simple act of honesty? It really is an unthinking habit. What a ridiculous way to live. And it starts from the stupid manipulative games parents, siblings, and teachers play with kids.

On our trip to the other side of the country, we had the chance to visit with my niece and her family. Lovie is the mother of two boys, age fifteen and nine. Without giving away too much of family talk, a comment was made along the way in discussing dynamics of cousin relationships, that the nine year old often went to his mother crying about some situation. One relative said that he does this because he is trying to overcome whatever temptation for bad behavior/retaliation. I believe this. I am confident that Lovie and her son have this kind of relationship, and that the boy sincerely wants to do what’s right and understands the struggle that it is. I know that Lovie (and her husband) practice intentional parenting. I’m also familiar with the books and studies that the boys do in school because I have used the same with my son. It is possible to use this curriculum (just follow the book list) and fail to fulfill the aim of the education, but I know that Lovie gets the whole picture. The books and music studies and nature study and art study are used with the goal of touching the heart of her children. She gets that it is not about how much do they Know, but how much do they Care when they finish their education. I was extremely encouraged by my great-nephews in the week we got to spend with them. I’m very proud of the standards of my niece and her husband, and their honest relationships with their sons. You can see results already, and I know the years will show some unusually (for this culture) honest and caring men.

We recollect how ‘Arthur Pendennis’ walked in the evening light with his mother and recited great passages from Milton and the eyes of the two were filled ‘with tears of holy joy,’ when the boy was eight..

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Here is a post to say

My blog, as well as other family websites, was down with malware for many months. My husband recently rescued this one, and now I can write again. This post is to explain my absence. Also, I’m testing some new look here of writing and editing with which I’m uncertain. So here goes. Where’s Publish?

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Look Out!

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace   ~Helen Howarth Lemmel

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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~the author of the letter to the Hebrews

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Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

~from Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph

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“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O YHWH, open his eyes so he may see.” Then YHWH opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  ~as told in 2 Kings

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I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord, I saw the light.  ~ Hank Williams

 

Me, Looking Out,  circa 1990

 

 

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My Obsession, Regrettably

Parking this thought here for now. Something I want people to know, but holding back from posting it on social media.

When you pull away from me and/or my family, it hurts. It says you don’t like me or us, and you do not wish for you and/or your children to be influenced by me and/or us, nor to be like me and/or us at all.

I suppose I am to just brush the dust off my feet and move on. But I obsess.

I do the logical (and rightful) thing to ponder if I or we are in the wrong. How might I and/or we have have wrongfully offended? And the very great majority of the time, I’ve got nothing. Note that I said wrongfully offended.

But even when my conscious is clear, I obsess. I try to make sense of a senseless thing.

So, as I said in this post, I resolved this year to #GetOut, mostly to deal with this obsessing. And I explain how that works in that post. I should step away from this screen right now, but I have too much work today to do here that must be done before this afternoon, so I remain. Not being as efficient as I should be and could be. Because my mind and heart are obsessing.

What a sad world. Where is the honor? Where is the care for getting better at this being human thing? The Creator did indeed fearfully and wonderfully make us. When are you ever going to live up to all that human potential?

And so I bear this weight of sorrow over the state of people and, as I often do, I revisit this post from a similar emotionally weighty time for me and remind myself that ‘you ain’t so bad’ and decide that I Will overcome and continue to do the good that I know that I Ought and Can do.

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.” This was the motto she gave us. ~Michael A. E. Franklin, one of Charlotte Mason’s students; from “In Memoriam”

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
~the apostle Paul to his fellow-believers in Galatia

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Jesus

Why the Gehenna do the people not Care, God? ~ Kay Pelham

 

 

 

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I’m Not Sorry About My Parents

My mother was a teenage bride. My mother was a teenage mother. Yes, in that order.

Life came full circle in some ways for my parents. In 1987 they returned after more than 35 years in Illinois to the Ritter farm in Tennessee and built their own house. Mom still lives in that house. It was to that farm that Bedford Davis drove on this day (April 5)  70 years ago  to take Edna Ritter away as his teenage bride. (Although, at the time, I think the idea of  a “teenager” was just beginning.)

I’m sort of playing around with my post title because of this post that I wrote after Dad’s passing in 2015. Sort of. Because I really am not sorry about my parents. I’m not sorry that they “ran off” to Kentucky, without a formal wedding ceremony, to get married.  I’m not sorry that they spent their first night together on the floor of his sister’s house. I’m not sorry that they had to leave their Tennessee home and go to Illinois for work. I’m not sorry that my biggest sister was born before their first wedding anniversary. I’m not sorry that they made Illinois their home (except for one brief return to TN before baby #2 when Dad was laid off) for the next 37 years. I’m not sorry that Dad was an excellent and faithful factory worker all those years and that Mom was always there when I got home from school. I’m not sorry for the peanut butter and syrup sandwiches in my school lunch. (I told my son James about this, and he said, “Yum!” Growing up, I didn’t know it was because we were poor. I thought it was because Mom and Dad were country). I’m not sorry for all the bowls of tomato soup. I’m not sorry for all the singing in our house, at church, at the nursing home, at funerals, and on the road. (Dad wouldn’t let us turn the car radio on while he was driving.) I’m not even sorry for the raised voices in frustration or anger I would hear from time to time. Only because at the end of those “discussions” were people who stuck it out because of a promise they made before God and the witnesses there on that day 70 years ago. She was his Dearie. He was her Bedford.

They were completely faithful to each other. I know this for a fact. And they were committed to their five children.

Until death parted them.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth ~ Solomon

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. ~ Jesus

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up. ~ Ogden Nash

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. ~Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

 

Celebrating 65 years

Celebrating 30 years

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