Posts Tagged With: family


A few years ago I was in the habit of walking my dog just before dusk closed in. On one particular late afternoon we walked past our local baseball park and I noticed that far beyond the field in the grassy back corner under trees a half dozen portly men were sitting at a picnic table. It seemed they were all dressed in black. It was autumn, and the sky was darkening and they looked like silhouettes perhaps playing cards.

This became a daily scene, and more young boys on skateboards showed up. I was uncomfortable. I notified the local law enforcement agencies. They promised to do a drive by but did not seem to be concerned: there was no law against gathering in a public park in daylight.

My arthritic spine ended my dog walks, and I turned my mind to other things. During which time my 15 year old grandson, who attended school in my neighborhood, began asking if I would bring him a sandwich and some juice a big jug so he could share. His parents both work odd hours and the kids are left alone in the mornings to get themselves dressed, pack a lunch and off to school. So I did this, never EVER considering that they might be pouring a liter of vodka in it. My grand-daughter enlightened me of that scheme. I’m from the 57 Chevy days, I guess. All my boyfriends and both husbands had a 57.

One day my daughter stopped by on the way home from work, concerned about the fall in her son’s grades. They had never been great, but now they were a disaster. I said I could help, if he could come over to my house after school, have a snack and do his homework. He had always loved to come to my house,   but now he only came a few times.

He said he preferred to do his homework at home, as his house in a cul de sac undisturbed by street noises, and he quit coming.

My spinal issues got worse and I stopped walking with my dog as I was having a hard time remaining vertical. l forgot about the picnic table in the park for several months.

Grandson got consistently poor grades. He cut school. There was nobody at home until evening.  And he was suddenly an angry child.

I spoke with my daughter a number of times, reminding her I had taken a 60% cut in salary just so I could have access to the school: my boss allowed me to take lunch any time I wanted to. I was likely to show up at 9:00 am, noon, or 3:15 pm, carrying a sweater, book, some cough drops or a hanky that I “thought” they forgot.

Of course I was checking up on them. And I sacrificed: I worked locally for 1/3 the wages I could have made had I continued working in San Francisco. I was not going to let them snow me like I did my mom!

I took the salary cut, my kids were worth it to me, and the results prove my decision.

What was very different from the ‘80s, when my children were in junior high and high school is that fewer parents know enough to make themselves “unexpectedly available.”

Too often a common reason is they feel compelled to keep their jobs are fear of losing a great paying position or just unwilling to sacrifice. It’s important to note that during my parenting time employers were a lot more flexible with allowing parents “parenting” time.

These are days requiring a different set of values for child rearing, and I am first to admit that my big-fat-watchful eye did not catch one of my children before they got in a very precarious “predicament”.   This is no perfect plan:   perhaps because of this, I was more watchful.

Well, despite my efforts to keep grandson in line, I was not up to today’s standards: not alert enough to begin questioning the middle school kid about drugs & alcohol.

Hence, the purpose of this blog.

The grandson I knew “disappeared”.

Nobody knew where he was, or if they did they didn’t tell me. He was picked up by the police, wandering in the dark as a minor, (several times.) There were physical altercations at home, and he was now a surly and disobedient child, very tall child, and way too brawny.

Finally he disappeared. Parents had given up: he was violent, and he refused to follow family rules. The cops had been called and it looked like he was heading for Juvenile Detention. To his father’s credit, he did everything he could and more to keep grandson from going to Juvy. And then he disappeared.

So it was Grandma, going places nobody wants to go.

I started with the Vice Principal of the High School, who was pleased to see me proactively searching for a solution to a terrible problem.

His hope was to have Grandson back in school, and on track to college. Instead Grandson ran away.

His parents were worried, the police couldn’t find him and I was terrified.

So, I worked from home: I had already made him dependent on me and my wheels, and there was a method behind it: “in case of emergency….”

I now knew who grandson’s friends were, and who their parents and sometimes neighbors were: I got their addresses and cell phone numbers from him… because he asked me to cart him around in my car & gave me all my phone numbers which I promptly put In my address book under G for Grandson.

So I started my searching: I drove from Tom’s house to Jim’s house to Kevin’s and Damon’s asking the same questions of the parents: When did you last see him? Do you know where he went? Do you know of other friends that I might not know?   And can you give me addresses/phone numbers please. They gave it all to me.

I searched for a couple of days. Then came the evening, a dark and rainy night, when I was driving down a street near home. It was nearing midnight, and I recognized that long lanky frame. No umbrella, no jacket, wearing only a soaking wet hoody for warmth.

I pulled over and asked if he wanted to come home with me and warm up with something to eat and some hot chocolate.   He snarled at me asking me why I was bothering all his friends.

What was I doing! I said I was finding him, of course, so do you want something to eat?

I was unwilling to engage in a battle with him.

When we got to my house, I explained I wanted him to do an online search for me, feigning Elder Web Idiocy. I led him to the office and sat him down, saying nothing.   And when he snarled at me again, asking what I wanted him to look up, I said the name of Jeffery Dahmer.

I spelled Dahmer’s name for him, and he quickly typed it in, gasped and fell into horrified silence.

Finally he breathed “..He, he ATE THEM?” He looked at me, a really tall little boy now.

“You bet Grandson that is what he did: he searched or shall we say “shopped” for troubled young men wandering the night and invited them to his home, literally for a meal.   Get it?”

He nodded his head, shaken and pale.

We talked about growing up and the things one needs to learn, and how for a while longer he was going to have to check in with family or friends parents when he had questions, doubts and problems.

“It’s all about your brain growing up, you know. You’re plain risky when you don’t have an adult brain!”

Today he is working only two jobs, he dumped the third. He wants to buy a car and stashes most of his paychecks in the bank; and he is busy working on his GED.

I can tell by his voice and demeanor he likes the man he is turning into and that light-hearted bond between loving parents and child is definitely improved. He is no longer angry with me.

Melanie Wood

1388 Words

Blogged 8/28/15

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The common warthog is medium-sized species; their head-and-body lengths range from 0.9 to 1.5 m (3.0 to 4.9 ft.) and shoulder height is from 63.5 to 85 cm (25.0 to 33.5 in). Females, at 45 to 75 kg (99 to 165 lb.), are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb.).


Years ago our family was on our first African Safari in the Masai Mara. Masai being the name of the local natives; Mara is the name of the wide river running through the area.  The Mara is beautiful, twisting and winding through Kenya, home to herds of hippopotami and the giant Southern crocodiles. The Mara is far more dangerous than the Nile Rivers in the North: it is a fact that most human killings by animals in Africa are by Hippopotami.

We stayed at Kichewa Tembo Camp, in a spacious tent complete with an outdoor toilet, outdoor shower. One morning while my husband and our two (very) young children were sound asleep, I thought I might leave our tent and step outside to watch and photograph the sunrise over the Mara, hoping to see some of the animals living normally, waking and coming out to graze.

On our arrival we were cautioned to walk only on wide bare dirt paths or where native grasses were kept mowed down to nubs. Tall grasses often contain deadly surprises, like lion, cheetah, hyena: all predators laying low, sleeping off an evening of hard work.

On this particular morning, light spread slowly across the sky, first a metallic grey-green turning blue, exposing the short grass, as the first flickers of orange peeked above the horizon. The sun rose tentatively, picking up a rainbow of pinks, taking over the early morning blues; and awakening the inhabitants of the savannah to bask in her full beauty.

Delighted with the display, I sat cross-legged on the prickly short grass in the semi-dark, and indulged my then habit: in the untouched beauty of nature, I lit a lousy menthol cigarette! I smoked and waited, eager to see how this show would progress, confident that I, although alone, was securely seated on the protective short grass, therefore I would be in no danger.

When the sun fully rose above the horizon and spread its light, the gods opened the gates of nature and thundering herds wandered in: wildebeest, zebra, water buffalo, giraffe followed by one delicate Thomson Gazelle: mostly early-morning hooved creatures.

Apparently lion, cheetah, leopard, cervil, and elephant and others were either sound asleep after a night’s marauding or waited for Group One to tear up the earth and kick up some protein or perhaps to drive other predators away. Nature has ways of sequencing to which I am not privy.

I was enthralled with this display, and sat cross-legged and slack jawed with a half-smoked cigarette in my right hand, camera in my lap when I heard something nearby. I heard footsteps. Then I heard an animal make a snorty noise like a sleeping husband and I saw movement to the right of me.

Was it instinct that told me to freeze, to not make any eye-contact with the Leader of this Pack? Or was it because he was plain scary looking? He led his family of four Little Warthogs; Mama brought up the rear. They all slowed down, eyes on me. I froze in the clarity of my situation.

I used my peripheral vision to keep track of them, making no eye contact at all, worried about challenging them with those babies. They stopped for what seemed like a lifetime as I remained a statue. The damn cigarette was burning its way to my finger nails but I dared not move. As I worried about the scent of my burnt nails Papa moved on, but the children wanted to get a closer look at me. And now Mama snorted at them.

I dropped my eyes when I heard Papa turn around, hoping he knew the snort came from Mama, not me. They all went quiet. I felt twelve eyes on me. I kept mine on the grass, avoiding challenge, hoping I would see any flicker of movement; wondering what I might need to do: sling my Nikon at the Dad?

The whole family snorted at me. They then trotted away and disappeared from sight.

I looked at my watch and found it was a heart stopping eight minute encounter.

The cigarette, burnt down to the filter was out and it scorched my fingernail painfully. The odor of burning hair was on me.

Perhaps they moved on because I now smelled worse than they smelled.   I don’t know whether that is good or bad. What I do know, is these Warthog Parents had expectations of their youngsters. They trained them to obey so they could learn how to be safe and stay alive. I guess I was a part of that lesson.

A lot of parents today could learn from that band of Warthogs.


NOTE: Wikipedia is a source I use frequently. They are in need of financial support, approaching a possibility of shut down in the near future. I encourage all who access their information to go to their site and support them J

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People who know poverty commonly will assist others in need;  people who have never experienced poverty frequently condemn the poor for being poor.  This is our American society in our new millennium, and it hasn’t always been this way.

Not everyone passes judgment on the delights of poverty.  Not everyone will label offers of help via community funds as some kind of scam initiated by the poor,  believe it only encourages “them” to remain poor.

 I grew up poor and thankfully, I lived my young life unaware of the “ungenerous factor” often present in today’s idea of charity.  I am sad when I hear people with bootstraps (resources) believe others should get resources by pull themselves up by the bootstraps.  I never knew what bootstraps were, or where a person could go to get some.  But I hear it more and more these days.

I was an Operations Officer for a prominent San Francisco Bank in the winter of 1971.  It really was a “dark and stormy night” when I caught the 41 Union bus, rode it home and met Mary.  It rolled up and over Russian Hill, crossed Van Ness Avenue and came to my stop.  My apartment was four doors up the hill on Union Street. 

I waited in turn to exit the bus, butted my umbrella against attacking raindrops, and then raised it a little to see how deep the water was in the gutter, judging if I might need to jump across puddles to prevent damage to my high heel suede platforms. 

I was surprised to see all cars had stopped at the intersection, none were moving, including a police unit.  There was a small woman, wandering round and round with no coat, no hat, and no umbrella.  And nobody made a move to remove her from the intersection, not even the police, whom I thought should at least arrest her.

I rushed across the street to the police car, asking them to please pick her up as she would surely get killed.  They said she was not breaking the law.  They said they had no right to pick her up. 

Shocked and disgusted with “law” I then walked into the intersection, and asked her name, had a conversation with her while everyone waited in their cars. 

She said she thought her name was Mary.  Not wanting to leave her, I invited her to come home with me, have a bath, a hot meal and a good night’s sleep.  Then we could sort things out in the morning. 

It was impulsive of me, but my mother brought home strangers occasionally who were caught between a rock and a hard place.  All it took was a clean-up, a meal, a good rest and some tips for finding a temporary job and off they went.  In retrospect, this was not a great idea for a single mother with two young children.  My brother and I were never harmed, at least not harmed by strangers.

When I brought Mary in our apartment my husband surprised me by being absolutely furious.  He was uncomfortable and wanted me to turn her out, and I said I could not.  But I promised I could find a place for her as soon as possible.

To his credit, Larry put up with me putting up Mary over the next several days while he went to University full time, and I worked full time.  Mary surprised us by doing all the house work and preparing meals.  She was feeling very sure that Mary was her real name, and she was beginning to think she might be from Arizona, mentioned the names of some people.  I wrote them down and I went to the library to get magazines and books with pictures and maps of the Arizona area on my breaks and lunch hours.    I also checked San Francisco’s homeless shelters, gave her estimated age and description, the dark cotton pants and white blouse she was wearing when I first saw her.   I found Mary had cycled through them all a few times; the most recent was Harbor Lights. 

I learned that homeless people in 1971 could only stay at a shelter for 72 hours.  Then they had to leave to return 90 days later.  With the handful of shelters in 1971 they, like homeless in 2014 spend most of their time in the streets until they could roll through shelters again. 

I pled with Harbor Lights to take her back in, perhaps get some psychiatric assistance, find who she was, if she had family.  I really hoped to help her home. 

They finally agreed.  Elated, I took time off work to rush back to the apartment. 

I found my husband lying on the sofa in our living room watching cartoons and eating fried bologna sandwiches.  He jumped up and explained that his last two classes were cancelled so he came home.  Oh, yeah, Mary was not in the apartment when he came home.  And it’s just a good thing nothing was missing. 

I said I wished that he had found something missing. 

He said he thought I was crazy. 

I said if she stole, we could report it and finally she’d get into a facility with food, water and medical care:  jail.

I went back to work and my department manager called me into his office.  He’d discussed Mary with a Senior Vice President.  Both men sat on charitable boards, and they both had pulled strings with the shelters for Mary.  They even arranged a psychiatric evaluation specifically regarding amnesia. They handed me the information and contacts to get her back in the cycle and treated.  Everything was set up.  It was hard to tell them it was a few hours too late and Mary had disappeared.  For a long time I kept the paper work.

I think about Mary frequently, wondering if she ever made it home, to Arizona.  If she is still alive she would be in her eighties now, perhaps nineties.  I’m grateful that for a while she experienced shelter, food, clean clothes, a bed, the use of the shower, the use of our TV and Fritz, our rabbit.  My hopes for her have always been that she did find her way home; that she lives, or lived, happily.

My hope for our world, in particular this great country of ours, is to become a more generous and kinder nation again.

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Today’s Journey

I stayed up late last night piecing together ancient memory for my eventual best seller. 

It nearly wore me out recalling the chaos I was born to:  I so wanted to cradle my poor broken parents and my beloved brother in my arms.  They all passed far too young.  I am out-living everyone, except for my Brother John, first born of my mother, of her first marriage.

 I didn’t meet her three children until I was twenty-six.  For the eldest and the youngest of my new half siblings, John and Sylvia, it was an immediate love match; for Robert, the middle child it was merely another painful experience.  So painful that he had a “me or them” attitude walked away from his own  birth family.  A painful reminder of the healing forgiveness can truly give, not to mention the fun  Today it’s me, John, our sister’s three sons and my two children who march on.  

For decades I have maintained a morning kick-start after performing my ablutions:   I read something inspirational, something that will give me a thought to consider for the day.  Sometimes it blasts me in the face, like today:  I picked up my copy of Mala of the Heart, a wonderful collection of contemporary and ancient poetry.  I blind-opened it to a page with a piece by St. Teresa of Avila worthy of consideration today:

We bloomed in spring.

Our bodies are the leaves of God.

The apparent seasons of life and death

our eyes can suffer;

but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:

they are God Himself,

we will never perish

unless he


St. Teresa of Avila



Today is Veteran’s Day.   I clicked the television on to see if there was anything interesting in the usual blither and yukking it up of our self-styled “news entertainers”.     Today I was rewarded with an interview celebrating the life and bravery, of an inspirational veteran.  He is truly the example of Hero, and although I can’t recall his name, I will never forget him, for he is the person I would like to become.

This Son of America was injured in our recent messes of war.  He and his comrades survived an IED, though his once handsome face was a shambles.   A husband and father, he returned home with horrific injuries to his body, but not to his soul. 

Over time, countless facial surgeries restored his features as his little ones grew up and accepted each change in Daddy’s appearance.  His eyes, clearly the portal to his soul are captivating.  He is our future in many ways.  All we have to do is follow his path: bind our wounds. 

This sounds simple, but it is a colossal stretch for those who don’t yet comprehend that we can change our life, simply by changing our mind.  It doesn’t appear that any of my birth family had a sense of this truth,  Early in my childhood I found that I could  shift my attitude to what was going on in my world:  I did not have to believe what appeared to be truth.     



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Another Today

I’m in  Pensive Mode today.  I’ve found new friends in unexpected ways –some on-line, one through some lost mail I was given dating back to WWII.  I’ve found bunches of relatives, and a bunch more have found me prowling the records of  That’s been a riot, having lived my first 60 years clueless that there was “anyone” out there.

I’m grateful, very grateful, that I developed survival skills at a tender age; and grateful for the flip side:  I haven’t needed them for many  decades.   In a dream I wrapped an imaginary ribbon around those memories and left them beneath an old sprawling live oak tree in the park I played in as a child.

I’m sitting high watch on a young family member who is going through a very painful metamorphosis that has cost everyone many sleepless nights, especially him.  I was the last one he clung to as he began the crazed business of trying to get comfortable in his life, and finally I too became too much for him and ran away again:  he found I’d been” tracking” him.  He doesn’t understand this is part of my nature, Nancy Drew and all that.   Intrestingly, he sort of set it up long ago by introducing me to his friends, asked me to take him to their homes.  Well, hellyeah I knew who to contact and where they llived when I needed info.  But I came a little too close,  I got Z-listed, just like his parents.

I sat back on my heels, let the old earth take a couple of spins and a wonderful calm came over me:  I understood he was going to be alright.  I recalled my own words:   the child you see at the age of five or six is the person who emerges from the cocoon as an adult.  They cannot hide from themselves.

I decided to call him once weekly, understanding he would not answer when he saw my phone number pop up!  My plan was to leave a very brief, up-beat message of caring and love.  I was very surprised when, after a few weeks, he answered my call on the first ring.  We talked a few times, and I’ve not suggested we get together, that will be his job.

Then he asked if I could take him to the Junior College to turn in some assignments.  Of course I said I would.    And when he is ready to talk, I will listen.  Just Listen.  And if he asks for an opinion I will give an opinion, emphasizing it is mine.

This close to Home & Heart experience really got my attention.   I’m thinking our lives, unbeknownst to us, are driven by trying to get what we need, even as we believe we pursue what we want. This was covered once in an old country-western song, many other times throughout the ages and their cultures.

Here we are in the new millineum and for eighty years generations of Americans have chased money in order to purchase excitement and exhilaration, respect and love.

I say “chasing money” because for so many decades we two-leggers of The First World have been groomed to consume this, wear that and drive these, as carefully as a pedophile targets his prey. We have become worker-bees, and forgot about where we live, relax and gain sustenance.

So where is that Honey who asks “How was your day?” and wants to hear about it. She won’t get off work for another two hours.

Where is the time to go sit down and share time with husband, with wife, with youngsters:  Sorry, I promised I’d show up for the “BlaBla Association” lecture tonight.  We can talk then.

And are we really so busy we can’t reach out and brush a cheek, give a pat on the head, or say “I love you” and not say why?

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My only surviving sibling, my half-brother John is 87 now. He is my favorite of all those discovered family members. He is the one I have turned to in times of distress, a fatherly element in my life.

John is also one of my proudest “accomplishments”: I personally turned him from a die-hard Republican into a ticked off Republican who turned Democrat. To the extent that he really wanted Hillary Clinton as President.

But it was not easy. I’m not a political activist other than participating in a few demonstrations here and there for things I feel are very important, but the administration of George Bush #43 got my attention: it was clear that other interests were running the Bush White House.

I believe oil was his reason to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. I won’t go into the transcripts of the Downing Street Memos other than to say PM Tony Blair was his chief back-up man. It can all be found online or in the many and profitable books explaining it all.

For me the screeching in the back of my brain began the evening Colin Powell, a great and good man, stood before the American public and said weapons of mass destruction were being manufactured and stored in Iraq. He just didn’t walk his talk. I became frightened, for I knew we would attack eventually. And so we did.

I was greatly disappointed when George W. Bush took office, and alarmed when he was voted in for a second term. I knew I had to get off my duff, so I protested, I wrote letters, yelled at my congress reps. And I called my old Bro John frequently, and when he answered his phone with his customary “Hullo” I always responded with “Well, are you scared yet?”

John just laughed and said “Awww, Sis, you know I’m a straight ticket Republican just like my old man !” Then we would both laugh and go on to our sharing of non-political gossip.

For three years our conversations were like that. I was “fogging” him deliberately, no arguing, no insisting, no questions, just ask and move on. After a couple years of such phone calls I suppose he got off his duff and investigated what I was hinting at. The day came when I asked if he was scared yet and there was heavy silence. And then he let it rip: he finally realized that Eye-Rack war was a trumped up……and so on.

He told me he re-registered as Democrat and he thought Hillary Clinton would be the best candidate for President. And he converted all his friends and extended family who lived in the tough farmland of the California Central Valley, told them they must watch what goes on in political and corporate America much more carefully now.

I’m certain they understood the timing of the financial collapse of the world and America’s part in it, and quite probably they helped President Obama get his second term.

The “fogging” technique is something I learned from my therapist years ago. It works very well over extended periods, a quick and light hit at the subject then move on. Combative persuasion rarely works, but piquing curiosity on an issue invariably works if one is willing to spend the time.

Fogging is exactly what commercials on media do. It’s what Hitler recommended when he said:

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”



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