Saturday, April 16, 2005

How Big is the Sun?

My mother's sister, Eva, had much tragedy in her life. She lost her first husband in a boating accident when she was in her 20s, leaving her with a young son to raise. She eventually remarried and moved to El Paso with her new husband. He welcomed Donnie, the son from her earlier marriage, and they settled into a military life. (Eva is on the left, my mom on the right - taken in about 1925.)

Donnie was an unusual child, asking questions like, "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" One day while Lloyd was at work, Donnie got very ill. Eva called for help, but by the time it arrived, her young son was dead. They never knew the cause of death - it was sudden and unexpected. I still have the telegram she sent to her mother saying, "Donnie dead. Body Arriving Thursday." He was buried next to his father who'd died only a few years earlier.

Eva and Lloyd had two children together - Eva Ann and Charlie. Eva Ann grew up, got married and had two sons. She named the oldest one Donnie, in honor of the brother she had never known. Donnie and his younger brother, Patrick, were very close. Her grandson, Donnie, reminded Eva so much of the son, Donnie, she had lost. He, too, asked, "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" He also told his grandma one day when she was watching him, "You know I'm not meant to be here long. When I leave you must go on." He was 5 at the time. She called my mother - her sister - crying, because she knew he wasn't talking about that afternoon's play time with grandma.

Less than two years later, on Christmas Eve, both Donnie and Patrick got very ill - sick enough with what seemed the stomach flu to take them to the hospital. By Christmas afternoon, Donnie was dead. No cause of death could be determined, despite an autopsy.

Patrick survived and "saw" Donnie many times after that. Each time he told Patrick that he was not meant to be here long. His time was over. They had to go on. He had done what he was meant to do. Each time Patrick would tell everyone. Each time the adults could not grasp it.

Years after Donnie's death, my mother told me that her father would ask the same question - "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" Apparently that question spread over four generations, with three of them asking it, unbeknownst to the others.

My Aunt Eva is gone now, but I think of her often. She is the one who wrote letters back and forth to me when I was a child, instilling in me a love of the written word and the joy of a letter. In her 80 years in this lifetime, she lost both parents, a brother and sister, two husbands, a child and a grandchild. It seems to be a lot of grief for one lifetime. They say God does not give us more than we can bear, and I know that's true, but I have always thought Eva must have come into the world a little stronger than most of us.

Spring Is In Full Swing

We had an event today at the Soroptimist's Women's Show. On the way home, after breaking down, I took time to snap a couple of pix.

I've been noticing for a week or two just how pretty things are. Some trees are blooming their pretty pink and others have that beautiful pale green that you only see in the spring. The buds are open, but the leaves aren't fully extended, and it's a green we don't see any other time. This photo was taken on my street

I started out the day this morning by stripping wallpaper. I promised myself when I moved into this house that I would not paint over any wallpaper that had not been painted over already. So, I committed to pulling it off.

Let me tell you - regardless of what home remedy someone gives you for removing wallpaper - GET A STEAMER. It's a 1000 times faster. I've used Dif gel, hot water, water with vinegar, water with downy, etc. etc. etc. Just get a steamer. I bought this one off ebay and when I'm done with it, it's going back on to ebay. I'm sure there are some there all the time - no doubt from people who have finished stripping their wallpaper.

I'm turning my sewing room into a library, although I will keep a bit of space for sewing, too. But, I need somewhere for my thousands of cookbooks to go.

I've been collecting cookbooks for close to 20 years now, and also writing cookbook reviews. I still have dozens of boxes that haven't been unpacked since I moved three years ago. They need to have a home. Some day all my cookbook reviews online will live at but so far I haven't found time to move them all over.


I used to say that my mom aged about 1/2 a year for every year she was on the calendar. Then that became 3/4 of a year, then it was a year, and eventually it became 2 years for every actual year.

It was a shock to my system when I realized she was aging a year for every year on the calendar - that she had "caught up" with her actual number of years in age. I couldn't really accept it. And I fear I pushed her too hard to stay in that mode where she wasn't aging up to her actual age.

That's one of the problems with being born late. I was only 39 when my mom died and I didn't have enough life experience to understand illness and such and I wasn't as understanding and supportive as I wish I had been now.

On the other side - having watched her go downhill and die - I see where there were so many missed opportunities to be the kind, supportive, understanding daughter and how I failed.

My brothers, with 20+ years of life experience on me, did better than I did - and their wives even more. My sister in law was the best. I always say every family needs a Mary Ann. I don't know what we'd do without her. She is the rock in our family. We are blessed. I often tease my brother that he married above himself and he just nods and says, "yeah, I know."

But, these are the things we cannot change. We can only accept. There are no mulligans in such matters. And we can only hope that if we'd known better we would have done better.