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”

Art for Art’s Sake

Throughout childhood, my older brother was a role model and I eagerly followed him, learning from his example. He’s two years older and surely, I must have been an annoying shadow at times. When he decided to learn the violin in grade school, I followed suit. If he climbed a tree, I’d be directly behind him. An incident from junior high comes to mind.

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

My brother and his friends (all boys) were hunting rabbits in the barren cornfield near our house. Naturally, they didn’t want a girl tagging along but I begged and bargained:  I agreed to carry any rabbits they managed to snag. (It probably wasn’t the best bargain I’ve ever negotiated!)

I thought it unlikely they’d catch even one rabbit … imagine my chagrin when they bagged two! But I kept my side of the bargain, grasping a pair of rabbit ears with each hand for the trek homeward.

Needless to say, this experience ended my “hunting” inclination. I began emerging from my brother’s shadow to do my own thing. But even today, he acknowledges gratefulness to his younger sister (shadow) for introducing him to one of my classmates – now his wife with whom he recently celebrated 53 years of married life together. Continue reading “Art for Art’s Sake”

Asleep In Jesus

Though it seems nearly a thousand years ago, back in early January (when the world seemed relatively calm) my Beloved bid adieu to his younger brother. This was before Covid-19 had rocked everyone’s world, but the expectation was that my brother-in-law’s days on this planet were ending. He moved out of state to live with his son.

We were privileged in recent years to have him living near us. Initially, he lived in our home, moved out, temporarily moved out of state and eventually returned to the area. An irrepressible individual, his stories never ceased to entertain and his bottomless reservoir of energy made him well-loved by all.

But cancer’s destruction would not be abated, rendering him a wisp of the man he once was. Bidding him adieu entailed numerous phone calls through January and February, until he was too weak to hold a phone. He passed into Eternity on March 4th at the age of 66.

Everyday, my Beloved feels this huge void from the loss of his brother. They talked daily including a regular Bible study time every morning by phone. Saying goodbye was sorrowful, but my Beloved knows the assurance of seeing his sibling again … such a blessed hope! Continue reading “Asleep In Jesus”

Striking Gold

The dictionary uses evocative terms to define and describe the unique properties of Gold (chemical symbol Au):  durable, malleable, resistant to corrosion. It is a precious metal, connoting beauty and elegance as well as great value.

image from: all-free-download.com

These definitions may be applied to a 50-year marriage:  durable, malleable, resistant to corrosion. Likewise, the long-lived marriage is precious, signifying beauty and elegance in addition to great value. Continue reading “Striking Gold”

Serial Number 37 404 688

Ninety-seven years ago today, my daddy entered this world. As one might expect, he had a significant impact on my life and I’ve posted about him numerous times in this space. With the recent commemorations of D-Day, I’ve been thinking often about Norman Arthur Stricker whose Army Serial Number was 37 404 688.

Searching for a Stricker crest, I found this artwork. It was just what I needed!

In an interesting turn of events, I’m spending this day some 14 miles from the Florida condo he and my mother shared in the years before his 1994 death. I thought this would be an appropriate time to debut a new subsection of my blog devoted to my Stricker roots. It’s located here and if you’re related to the Stricker family in any measure, I hope you’ll enjoy this tribute to my dad.

Know When To Hold

The recent commemorations of D-Day have sparked my reflections. With this final day of June 2019, my thoughts center on my father-in-law (FIL) whose birthday it is. He was born in 1921. I’ve mentioned him in several previous posts, most recently here.

Born in Kansas, the second child of Fred and Georgia, Max learned early the importance of hard work, a way of life embedded deep in their German heritage. He often reminded his sons how his own father tied a block of wood to the child’s foot so he could reach the tractor’s gas pedal. Able-bodied children learned the value of work to help families survive.

This work ethic propelled young Max into adulthood. Ambition and aptitude directed him to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University) where he prepared for his future career as an engineer. As sometimes happens, these plans were interrupted by the shadow of war. Like many of his peers, this engineering student enlisted in the US Army.

When Max reported for active duty, he served with the Signal Corps stationed in the Philippines. His eldest son (also named Max) was born during this overseas deployment.

Following World War II, Max pursued various engineering and corporate positions that brought him success. He was wise and expert, an admirable man. He and his wife raised four sons, each of whom exhibits distinct character qualities (even facial expressions) learned from their father.

Looking back though, I’ve come to realize … to my regret … I didn’t know my FIL well. He was an imposing figure to me, tall and commanding as one might expect of a former Army officer. As his daughter-in-law, I found myself unable to establish a comfortable level of familiarity where I could characterize him as my friend. Though he was kind and cordial, he seemed a generally quiet man, sometimes prone to share stories, but usually content to observe the interactions and conversations of those around him.

Mostly, what I know of the man is what I’ve seen reflected in my Beloved. The second child of a second child, my Beloved mirrors his father’s disposition as a generally quiet man. Observing my Beloved’s love for me and for his children and grandchildren, I’m grateful to his father for being a good dad and provider.

Perhaps more than anything else, I realize my FIL passed on to my Beloved a precious spirit of play. Pictured at right in the final years of his life, Max displays the winning hand in a monumental match of Texas Hold’em. To start, there may have been eight or ten competitors sitting at that roundtable contest. One by one, they went down in defeat to the most seasoned (and senior) card player at the table. Even as a man in his 80s, Max delighted in being champion of all.

We don’t have much occasion to break out the cards these days, but whenever my Beloved splashes his grand-twins in their mini-pool or welcomes the grandchildren to hop on top his truck for a raucous ride around the lawn, I’m gratified by his joyous spirit of playfulness … and how Scriptureonce again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.

In Remembrance …

Memorial Day. A designated Federal holiday, the name signifies a specific day set aside annually to memorialize and honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Earliest observances of the day pre-date the Civil War.

In my younger years, I recall hearing the day referred to as “Decoration Day.” That was understood to mean my relatives were headed to the cemetery to decorate graves with flowers and flags … and occasionally, a sprinkling of tears. I don’t recall the decorations being placed exclusively on graves of military deceased, though I admit, I probably wasn’t paying close attention.

Continue reading “In Remembrance …”