Echoes Trailer

Thursday, September 6, 2012

After Labor Day

It took me several minutes of digging around in my purse this evening to find my vehicle keys so I could drive to work. Rain was steadily falling and I was sure it would bring down some tree limbs all along the route I drive to work each evening. As much as I had enjoyed the weekend I felt my mood turning more and more somber as the time for me to leave the house drew closer. Normally, I look forward to going to work but this evening I would have been content to stay home and watch the world pass me by as I looked through the front room window.

Today was Labor Day and the reality of summer coming to an end is no longer deniable. While I will not miss the extreme heat we experienced this summer I cannot say I’m looking forward to the long cold and barren days of winter. The beautiful flowers I’ve cherished since late spring will soon be bitten by Jack Frost and the rebirth and new beginning of another season in life will take charge and hold us all hostages until it weakens and fades away. That is the way of life and just thinking about the change of the season causes me to reflect on my life and all the changes I’ve experienced.

The last two days have been wonderful. My son arrived home late Friday evening and my daughter and son-in-law arrived Saturday afternoon. My daughter and her husband had just returned from a trip to Rhode Island and they arrived with coolers filled with lobsters, clams, and scallops. Hugs, love, and laughter were plentiful in the house on Saturday as my daughter and my son took over the kitchen and prepared a seafood feast. There was a time when I would have been trying to clean water rings from beneath glasses while people were still drinking from them and trying to keep every utensil and bowl washed as it was being used but not this weekend. For this occasion, I stood back and enjoyed the interaction between my son and my daughter as they worked together like two well oiled pieces of machinery doing a job they had been designed to do. Wasn’t it only a few years ago that I was hearing, “Mom, can you make me a sandwich? School was a beast today and I’m starved!”

My son was the first to leave the house this morning for the trip back to Pittsburgh. He had already loaded up his two fur babies and his luggage when he grabbed me in a bear hug and held on tightly for longer than he normally does. He turned and headed for his car stopping one last time to look back at me standing on the front porch before he slid behind the steering wheel. His last wave good-bye as he drove off was not the enthusiastic wave he offered when he was first leaving home for the big city. His wave today was born of being torn between his new life and determination to succeed and his desire to remain my little boy at the same time. Who said growing up was going to be all fun? Wasn’t it just a short time ago that my young man would be filled with frustration and in an effort to ease that frustration, pick up an ax and head off to the woods where he would land blow after wood splintering blow to a tree until we had too much firewood for the fire pit and he had no energy left to use for anger?

Next to leave was my Goddaughter. How in the world did she change so quickly from being a little tomboy with pigtails in her hair to a beautiful sixteen year-old with plans for college? It seems like only yesterday she was standing at the fence as she intently watched two young boys just waiting for any possible opportunity to join them while they rode their bikes, or better yet, have them come back into the yard to swing her around and around like an airplane or help her climb up the ladder to the slide over and over again until they were all exhausted? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that her lower lip was constantly protruding in a pout and her favorite activity was running away with grandma’s television remote so someone would have to chase her down to get it?

The last to leave was my daughter, my first born, my first real joy as well as my first real challenge. She was always impetuous and full of questions, fragile with a determination forged of titanium, wore her heart on her sleeve but defended her family with enough courage to rival any knight. Wasn’t it just a short time ago that she was learning to drive, developing new tastes in music, baby sitting and bringing the children home with her for lunch, and soon after, falling in love for the first time?

Friends and family filled my home with love and laughter all weekend but today I had to fight an empty feeling from taking up residence in my heart as the cars pulled out of the driveway. Walking back into the house felt a bit like walking into a morgue; far too quiet, unsettling, the silence almost deafening!

My life has taken many turns through the years. Most of the paths I envisioned myself taking always seemed off course and the paths I did end up taking I never really planned at all. Everything changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, but nothing stays the same forever. These days I am working a full time job, still a care giver to my eighty-nine year old mother, experiencing aches and pains in places I don’t even remember having, and oddly enough, missing things I once thought of as irritating. Still, I am blessed in many ways, still standing, and still smiling.

I miss the noise and commotion a house filled with children brings. I miss the door slamming shut oodles of times every day. I miss the constant stream of teenagers and even their appetites which left me in the poor house more than a few times. Would you believe I even miss cleaning the floors at two in the morning because that was the only time I could do it without someone walking across them to get to the refrigerator? Well, I do.

I miss having people always at hand to talk to, being able to share my thoughts about a book or movie, and most of all; I miss the feeling of accomplishing something every day just because I made them smile. I am really thankful they have cell phones so I can keep in contact with them as often as we need to talk to each other. I am also really thankful for the friends who still come home to let me share their lives as their “other mom.”

The nice thing about this time of the year is having several holidays in a close time frame. I had better start planning the holiday menus now. No matter where they go, what they accomplish, or who they spend their time with, they are still my family and my family is always the most important thing on my mind. The seasons will continue to change and we will change with them. As long as we are here to go through those changes we can still change the path we’re on at any time. The important thing is to never forget the way back home!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guard House Reflections


Guard House Reflections

Annoying Sales Associates

It’s Sunday night and I’m on duty. The night is quiet except for rain drops tapping against the window panes. In the distance the red lights of railroad crossing arms flicker and from here they are blurred into a fuzzy red line that reminds me of the red correction marks my high school English teacher used in class to show us what needed to be studied.

Moments earlier the train jerked forward almost violently before slowing to start off in the opposite direction. That movement sparked thoughts of life experiences and how quickly things can change. I guess we all have everyday life experiences that annoy us or threaten to drive us mad if we give in to the unexpected.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my son on the telephone and during the course of the conversation he said, “Mom, sometimes I feel like I don’t do enough for my customers but there are a few customers that make me wish I could strangle them or hang myself.”

My son is a recent college graduate now working at Sears. The job has nothing at all to do with his chosen field but it is an honest job and he is meeting quite a few interesting people. He is also working with a real estate company to film property in a favorable light for potential clients and an insurance company doing goodness only knows what. He is frustrated that he went to college and can’t find one good paying job that would cover his expenses and student loans.

He mentions some of his customers as if they were neighbors living close to him as he grew up. He frets when an elderly person has a heavy package to carry and he is always concerned that people are standing in line too long. He cannot understand why some people expect far more from sales people than others do.  When he voiced his concerns to me I replied, “Son, you’re doing your best.” I meant that sincerely because I know he really is giving his best to his job.

I confess there has been many times over the years when I’ve stood in a store and been a totally frustrated customer because finding a sales associate was next to impossible. In fact, finding a hen with a mouth full of teeth would have been easier most of the time. I won’t even mention the time I considered stripping off to stand naked with a T-bone steak tied around my neck to get someone to help me carry a Christmas tree out of the store.

Then there are the overly dedicated sales people like the one I found in a chain outfit store this past week. I would hide myself away from the public if I ever thought my son had turned into this type of creature.
I walked into the store with the intention of checking the new models of lawn mowers and as well as their pricing. I was barely into the store when a sales person stepped in front of me and blocked my path. I’m telling you, this guy was like a dog in heat. He could barely contain himself. “Is there anything I can help you with today? I’m sure I can be of assistance to you. How about if I just walk along with you and answer any questions you might have today?”  I can only assume the man gets a commission on any sales he makes.

I’m also taking a wild guess that he picked me out of the customers on hand as the one most likely to make a purchase. Maybe geriatric citizens using walkers to get around can’t carry much or maybe he is intimidated by the men with cut off t-shirts, tattoos, and baseball caps. I’m not sure but for whatever reason I guess he thought a woman dressed in blue jeans and worn sneakers who hadn’t had time to put on make-up or style her hair was there to lay down some real money.

To be honest, for a minute there he was so excited about helping me that I looked down to make sure I didn’t have a boob hanging out or a hundred dollar bill pinned to my ample assets.  “No, thank you,” I replied to him without looking him straight in the eye. “I’m just browsing today and I’ll be fine.  I appreciate your offer though.”

I started to walk toward the lawn and garden area of the store and once again the sales person blocked my path. In fact, he jumped in front of me so fast and hard his feet made a thud sound when they hit the floor.  “Now just let me know if you need anything at all.” He nearly sang this proclamation while wearing a full face smile that was as fake as any three dollar bill. About the only thing missing from his act was a bee-gum hat and claw hammer coat.

I stepped to the side and continued to walk toward my destination. He walked behind me and proceeded to stand directly behind me while I looked at lawn mowers and accessories that go with them. If I paused for a short time to read an information pamphlet about one of the machines he seized the opportunity to tell me how great the product is, how long it would be on sale, and how many of that particular item was left in stock. According to him, the store didn’t appear to have more than two of anything and would probably be closed due to lack of inventory by early evening if the pensioners got checks that day and showed up to buy supplies.

I was beginning to feel like a jewel thief attempting to heist diamonds at that point. I looked at the salesman and asked in a quizzical tone, “You do realize that none of these machines would fit in my purse don’t you?”
“You’re a funny one, Miss.” He folded his arms across his chest and continued.”We just want to please our customers and we offer all the support we can to make sure each customer is satisfied.” He winked at me and that’s when I noticed the small finishing hammer hanging from a belt loop on his trousers.

“So you like to do carpentry work? I was just noticing your hammer. If you are supposed to be in another area of the store I understand. I’ll be fine here.”

I am sure I saw dollar signs flash though the pupils of his eyes as he winked and started to move closer to me and whisper, “We can give some discounts on floor displays if they have dings or scratches. I’ll help you all I can if you buy one of these displays.”

He looked up and down the aisle before using his hammer to make a nice sized dent in the deck of the mower he had seen me looking at very closely.  He turned and winked at me again. I’m surprised I didn’t have a hissy-fit right there in the store but I retained my composure and headed for the exit doors so I wouldn’t do the man bodily harm.

I didn’t buy a lawn mower but then I hadn’t planned to make a purchase that day when I went into the store. I definitely wouldn’t have bought one from that sales associate. I found it unnerving that he was stalking me and trying to pressure me into making a purchase.

Sometimes I just want to go into the store and get what I need and leave. At other times I want to walk around and take my time to get new ideas and maybe price materials I plan to purchase in the near future.  I don’t want to have someone breathing down my back the whole time I’m in the store.

Then as I was leaving the store there was another sales person near the door. “I’m glad we could be of service to you today. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“As a matter of fact, there is,” I exclaimed. You can help me get our government back into the hands of the people. Make sure you vote!” I said with the biggest smile I could muster.

That was far more lady-like for me to say than what I was really thinking about what they could do for me!

©Dianna Doles Petry

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guard House Thoughts 3/11/2012

Guard House Thoughts

Here I sit in the guard house again with too much time for thinking. It is a peaceful night with a few sprinkles of rain tapping against the windows sporadically. Frogs are croaking in the distance and traffic has slowed at the evening hours travel toward the beginning of a new day.

I leave a journal here in the guard house for anyone who wishes to write in it. I share many of my thoughts in this journal as well as keeping one of my own. Tonight as I read a few entries that had been written since my last shift my thoughts turned to the movie Forrest Gump. It has been several years since that movie premiered but I think nearly everyone remembers the line; “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

When I get a box of chocolates it has a little printed diagram on the inside of the lid to the box. By using the diagram it is possible to find your favorite candies and avoid those you haven’t tried or know you don’t like. The chocolates all sit there together in the box but they are all different. They also have no choice in who gets to eat them or if they get eaten at all. Life doesn’t come with a diagram or directions. Would it be better if it did?

We don’t get to pick our family, many of our life experiences, or our DNA. From the moment we are born we operate on a sort of auto-pilot. Instinct plays a large part in every life. Some people are attracted to light hair and some prefer darker shades. Everyone has a preference when it comes to food, colors, and hobbies and either we are driven to succeed or content just to get through each day as it comes.

We do get to make choices but very often they are choices made without full knowledge of what we are choosing. We can’t see the future, we don’t always know about someone else’s past, and we are all eager to find at least one little something in each day that gives us a reason to smile or have that warm and fuzzy feeling of contentment when we close our eyes at night.

Basic courtesy and respect for each other seems to have vanished. We have become so intent on chasing a dollar or finding the love of a lifetime that we seem to have forgotten how to appreciate each other or respect the needs of others to have privacy or moments of emotional upheaval. Maybe we have just become blind to the obvious or maybe we all just try too hard. I think a lot of us set our standards so high that it’s impossible for anyone to meet them. I guess we all need to learn how to get past our own preconceived notions of what life SHOULD be and explore all the possibilities of life COULD be.

Last evening I watched a movie I normally would not have chosen. I tend to avoid movies that will make me cry like a blubbering whale. I tend to avoid movies that make me risk wetting my pants when some hideous creature grabs an unsuspecting victim even though there was music playing that should have warned them. I tend to avoid anything that is too realistically gory or painful and I definitely avoid movies with sappy endings! Thinking about it right now, I tend to avoid movies of all types these days but that is another matter entirely.

At any rate, this movie, “The Way,” did not have a single love scene or high speed car chase. There was no profanity and no sexy leading man to make my heart throb with thoughts I will not share here.  Martin Sheen played the lead role of Tom, a father who loses his only son in a tragic accident in France. When he goes to identify the remains and bring the body back home he changes his mind and decides instead to complete a pilgrimage his adult son had started.

This journey changes Tom’s life and the way he has viewed life up to that point. One of the last things his son had said to him before leaving on his trip was, “You don’t choose a life, you live one.” By the end of the pilgrimage, Tom knew his son had been right all along. It is a strange twist in life that when something we love is taken from us we really start to appreciate what we have always had but failed to see.
I have often dreamed of taking a cross country trip to explore different places and experience new things. I enjoy meeting new people and learning how other people live and no one would know anything about me or the life I’ve lived that has made me who I am today. I would be just another tourist checking out the sites and striking up conversations.

The truth is; I could start expanding my world right here. I could ignore the little diagrams in the box of chocolates and just sample all the pieces instead of sticking with the tried and true. If I wasn’t so sure of what I like I might find a delightful new flavor. I could open my eyes and my heart to the people around me and be more receptive if I could let my armor down just a little bit.

There are at least three employees here who have lost a child to death. That is a blow you never fully get over and yet you have no choice but to continue living. As the song goes, whatever you survive only makes you stronger. Sometimes it is just not easy to comprehend that others feel the same pain you feel or experience the same events you experience. Just knowing there are other people like you does not make your own feelings any less intense.

I’m positive the people I work with have all experienced a vast array of life changes and emotional highs and lows. Love and heartbreak, profound joy and soul shattering sadness, knowing the peak of health and fitness and the decline of the body and capability, success and failure, all dance with each one of us at some point. We are like those pieces of candy in a box. We are all gathered here together but we’re all different.
Why don’t we just try to be polite and kind to each other because we all have different mountains to climb? Why don’t we start to accept ourselves for what we are and let go of those ideas about what would make someone else a better person?

There is no such thing as perfection,
We’re all human, we all have flaws,
Instead of fighting a useless battle,
We could stand together for a cause.

I once thought I needed to be blonde,
Younger, richer, thinner, I never felt quite right,
Then I heard a whisper; I mattered to someone,
I felt beautiful and desired that night.

Now I’ve got some age behind me,
But I can still give and receive love,
I know I can make a difference,
For each day of life I thank God above.

I think I’ll find the movie Forrest Gump and watch it again soon. Forrest was a person born to this world with little hope of becoming a success but he saw simple pleasures and truths most people overlook. He also overlooked a lot of things most people see. My life is forever changing and maybe it really is like a box of chocolates after all.

© Dianna Doles Petry

Monday, January 16, 2012

Letter for my Father

Letter for my Father

The hours were painful and long,
Sitting at the side of your bed,
Reliving years of memories,
Leaving nothing left unsaid.

Your once strong hands feeble,
I was afraid to touch,
So I whispered softly in your ear,
Dad, I love you very much!

I hope you felt my love.
How lucky I was to be your daughter!
You made me strong and proud,
I was blessed to have you as my father.

I can’t forget the twinkle in your eyes,
I talk to you through my tears,
Guess I’ve never really said goodbye,
Even after twenty-three years.

The hours were painful and long,
The days since even longer still,
I miss you from the bottom of my heart,
I know I always will.

© Dianna Doles Petry