Together Again

Some years before my mother died, she made her wishes known about a funeral or memorial service. To each of her children, she gave instructions. I was expected to sing a song or two. In my younger years, this seemed an easy ask.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

However, as both Mom and I aged, I realized my particular assignment would be an impossible task. Oh, I knew the songs. I’d sung each one many times. From my earliest days, music had animated me. I sang boldly with adult choirs even when very young. When my older brother learned to play the violin, I followed in his footsteps. My dad brought home a Hammond organ and I learned to play; I still own it, though it suffers from neglect, no, involuntary abandonment. Continue reading “Together Again”

A True Tale of Ricky-Robby

Great news about the recent recovery in Georgia of more than three dozen missing and at-risk children, thanks to the US Marshals Service and Operation Not Forgotten! Parents everywhere can rejoice knowing these children have been released from awful circumstances and returned home. Bravo to law enforcement for their diligence!

As a little girl, I knew children who had suffered neglect and abandonment. Maybe it’s just my impression (due to hazy memories) but in those days, it seemed to me the community took a more hands-on approach to difficult relational problems. Continue reading “A True Tale of Ricky-Robby”

Locking Down Hope

“Every day has been as dark or darker than the previous one.” So says the opening paragraph of Jeffrey A. Tucker’s recent post on lockdowns. Tucker notes a host of concerns (some economic and others emotional) causing stress levels to rise beyond the breaking point. The oft-used catch-phrase “we’re all in this together” (an absurd bromide, if you ask me) seems woefully inadequate for individuals crushed by loneliness or economic disaster (or both). Aloneness tends to produce dark days with the potential to become darker.

Image by Queven from Pixabay

Search the internet and observe the number of pandemic-related stories highlighting dramatic increases of both drug overdose and suicide rates. The dismal details are distressing enough to turn one’s perfectly sunny day into clouds and rain! Continue reading “Locking Down Hope”

Heavenly Valentines

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Since my mother’s passing a week ago, I’ve reflected on aspects of her life … and mine. As a writer (and a family historian), it’s always been important to me to keep written records and when possible, to match them with images (photos mostly).

This need to retain a written record appears to be a trait I inherited from my forebears – parents, grandparents etc. going back many generations. (Consider Der Stricker for further details.) So, when I get a bit nostalgic, I tend to look at the collection of resources that have come into my possession through the years.

In a previous post, I mentioned my dad spent his working life as an over-the-road trucker. He ended up with hours of dead time on his hands, waiting for a delivery to be loaded or unloaded. Being the contemplative person he was, he wrote poetry. Thanks to his impeccable handwriting, these poems are in pristine condition, many of them penned on motel stationery (wherever he happened to be staying).

The large majority of poems are personal in nature, small rhymed jewels to express his love (most often addressed to his wife, my mom). My dad had been deceased more than a decade in 2004 when I decided it was time to set his handwritten poems into book form. I had copies printed for family members and that’s where the project stayed … until now.

As an added subsection of the Blood Type / Stricker page, I’ve included a flipbook of dad’s poetry. Toward the end (page 50), there’s a poem titled My Heavenly Valentine. It’s written (obviously) to my mother. The final lines present a fitting coda to two lives well-lived … and now reunited in Eternity.

Who She Was

As a tribute to my dear mother, I’ve been compiling certain documents in my possession that add depth to and understanding of her life. A separate section of this blog is titled Blood Type / West and under that heading, I’ve attached a couple related documents. (More documents will follow in time.)

In 2006, we celebrated Mom’s birthday with much more fanfare than usual. We threw a party, Hats Off For Ruthe, and as part of the celebration, I created a book about her life. Given she lived another 14 years, the book is somewhat dated as regards her children and grandchildren. Still, it’s a good record.

Another tab in the Blood Type / West sub-section offers some background information about the boarding school my Mom attended. It was an amazing place for a young girl who came from a modest background and was suddenly bereft (having lost her father) while her mother was thrust into the workforce.

A couple times, I had the privilege (with my Mom) to visit the location of this school (in Newtown Square, PA) which shuttered its doors to students in 1977. The buildings are still there, repurposed. We were able to enter the imposing administration building as well as the inviting stone cottages where students lived under the oversight of a dorm “mother.”

A previously coddled child myself, it was difficult for me to imagine my mother as a six-year-old being brought to this cottage and entrusted (by her own mother) into the care of strangers. It was (no doubt) a crucible for the development of strong character. She could have felt the bitter sting of abandonment; instead, she learned gratefulness for God’s unique provision. She also learned the value of self-reliance.

In large part, the person my mother became reflects the transformation of tragedy (the death of her father) into beauty, as she received an excellent education within a safe environment where multiple benefits (usually reserved for wealthy families) were available to her. Thanks to the generosity of an unknown philanthropist (who’d been dead 20 years when my mom was born), young fatherless girls received a wonderful start in life. Though I wasn’t one of those girls, I’m certainly a beneficiary of aforementioned philanthropy … and how thankful I am.

She’s So Fine

This morning just before four o’clock, my dear mother opened her eyes in Heaven. The nearest thing to my “other self,” she woke to find Jesus had wrapped His arms around her and welcomed her into His glorious presence.

In this space, I’ve posted more than a couple times with stories and recollections concerning my mom. The picture above was taken last December. We knew at that time her days on earth were winding to a close. Once the lockdowns were put in place at her long-term care facility, visits with her ceased. She died six weeks short of her 94th birthday.

It’s impossible to leaf through my memory to provide a full picture of Marion Ruth West (1926-2020) who fashioned herself (early in life) as Ruthe West and on one occasion, Bobbie Pringle, eventually living most of her adult life as Ruthe Stricker. Just the variations of her name offer a bird’s-eye view into her fun-loving, often-impulsive character! The world is poorer for having lost her, but Heaven is blessed … because she will do her part to keep St. Peter on his toes! Continue reading “She’s So Fine”

Spinning Yarns

Stricker Bicycle Company Emblem

A couple weeks ago, one of my nephews and I conversed about my limited knowledge of the name he bears … my maiden name Stricker. He is one of three remaining male descendants who carries my grandfather’s name. Whether there will be future bearers of the Stricker name, only time will tell.

My nephew sought information about our forebears, where they came from, how to view himself through the lense of previous generations. It’s always heartening (to me) when someone shows an interest in our heritage. Of course, I acknowledge it’s a consuming lifelong pursuit.

Without being an exhaustive resource, my Blood-Type Stricker pages offer a brief exposure to our family’s history. I also directed aforementioned nephew to a blog post I wrote in 2011, Needles and Pens. Continue reading “Spinning Yarns”

A Peculiar Crossroads

Almost a decade ago, I launched this blog. The nameplate has changed slightly but my general high regard for Flannery O’Connor (from whom the blog name was admittedly plucked) hasn’t diminished. I don’t recall our first meeting (in the pages of a book), but my philosophy as a young writer was partly formed thanks to her insights.

Her book Mystery and Manners set in motion my lifelong interest. I borrowed the book from the library. We were casual acquaintances then. By the due-date, I realized I couldn’t relinquish the book! In those pre-Amazon days, I scrambled to find a hard copy to purchase but found none.

As a last resort, I located a photocopier and proceeded to copy over 200 pages, dime by dime. (The above photo shows that well-worn copy.) I omitted the first chapter (21 pages) which relates O’Connor’s tale “The King of the Birds.” It was an amusing story but not worth the extra buck. Continue reading “A Peculiar Crossroads”

Educated Opinions

Experts. We rely on them. We make life choices based on the advice of experts. Before having a vehicle/appliance/roof/computer repaired, we consult the expert, someone who by reputation has achieved a level of knowledge and expertise worthy of respect. In fact, we so highly value their abilities, we pay them.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

We crave the wisdom of medical experts. A highly-respected figure who’s both a physician and immunologist, for instance, would logically command attention and even admiration. Or a government official (less an expert but we listen nonetheless) may yield information worthy of consideration.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. A physician could remove your leg instead of your appendix. Your computer guru could delete 30,000 emails instead of a virus on the hard drive. (It could actually happen!) In the real world, human beings – yes, even experts – can be miserably inept. Continue reading “Educated Opinions”