Things lately

IT’S BEEN HARD RECENTLY to know what to write here. I’ve started a few posts, but nothing felt like it was coming together. Today, however, is the Winter Solstice, and as we noted in our eulogy, nobody anticipated the Solstice with more eagerness than our mom. Her fervent hatred of cold weather was unparalleled. And, while the Solstice marks the first day of winter, her glee was directed toward fact that from here on out, we get a few more minutes of daylight, and therefore less darkness with each passing day.

She hated darkness, too.

I was browsing through a batch of old photos that Mom had converted from slides – a real treasure trove of photos from back in the day. Many of them are overexposed and most are not particularly well composed (no one has ever accused anyone in my family of having above-average photographic skills), but some of them are gems. Like this one:

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She hated snow with unmatched zeal, but not even Young Rosemary could resist measuring the new-fallen snow with a yardstick and grinning for the camera.

I shared this one on Facebook because, well, Winter. And Snow. And, Mom. It’s a fun photo I hadn’t seen before – those slides languished in boxes for decades until she finally had them converted to digital images a few years ago. But after I posted it, I found myself frowning back at her smiling face wondering and why she had to leave us so soon. I mean, she was only 78. In the year 2018, why couldn’t Modern Medicine fix her?

And then I got angry at her.

How dare you not be available to commiserate with me when my Thanksgiving gravy was too salty!

How dare you leave me the tedious, time-consuming task of settling your estate!

How dare you leave us all of these boxes of STUFF to go through, leaving us to make decisions that you didn’t want to!

How dare you leave me to make decisions about investments and required distributions and other financial concerns that have to be dealt with!

How dare you not be here for me to call and share the excitement of the holidays!

How dare you succumb to your illness!

How dare you!

It’s been almost five months, and at times it still doesn’t seem real. Will it ever? To the end of her days, my mom remained wistful for her own mother, who died in 1992, and for her mother-in-law, who passed in 2005. Maybe it never gets better.

But if there’s one thing Mom would not want, it’s for me to pout. She’d probably clear her throat in that way she did when she wanted you to know she was being serious, call me Margaret Ellen, and remind me that she trained me to be a “steel magnolia.” After our dad died, leaving her a widow at age 42 with two young daughters, people would remark about how strong she was. “What choice do I have?” she would reply, with a shrug. “The rest of us are still here; life must go on.”

I allow myself to have these moments, because grief is a process, but then I take a deep breath and carry on. After all, I have much to be joyful about, always, but especially this time of year. And even though my first Christmas in a lovely new home** with Steve is offset by the first Christmas without my mom, it’s that first part I’m trying to hold onto.

So: Christmas is four days away, and I still have to bake the sand tarts. Mom didn’t bake a lot, but these were her specialty and if you ask me, it isn’t Christmas without ’em. The dough is made; I just need to roll / cut / bake. And while of course they made me think of her in the past, this year I’ll be summoning Mom’s spirit more than usual. “They’re too much work,” she said of these cookies in her later years. “Someone else can make them now.”

Challenge accepted, Mom. I’m on it.

 

**Did I tell you, we moved? Still in the same neighborhood, much nicer digs. I wish my Mom could see it – she’d approve.

 

Eulogy for Rosemary

My mom’s memorial service was yesterday. Pfoutz Valley UMC was packed – it’s not a big church, but still, we had to bring out extra chairs. It was an altogether lovely tribute to her – we think she’d have been pleased and possibly even impressed.

My sister and I worked on the eulogy  together, and her husband was kind enough to read it for us, because we each knew we couldn’t get through it without blubbering. Here it is:

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About ten years ago, we asked our mother to start writing down some of the stories and memories she’d like us to have. We asked her to include certain stories we had grown used to hearing, and to recount what it was like when she was a child. Lucky for us, she obliged, and we rediscovered the document recently. This made it easier for us to prepare a reflection of our mother’s life.

Mom was born on November 23, 1939, the youngest of five children to Pusey and Mary Losch. She arrived seven years after her next oldest brother, George, joining Doll, John, and Eleanor. She was delivered by Dr Harold Gelnett, the uncle of her future husband, Larry, in a small rural community called Pine Swamp in Juniata County.

Pusey moved the Losch family around a lot when Mom was little. After World War II, they moved to Millerstown, to a house with no electricity, plumbing, or central heat. They carried in buckets of water and wood for the cook stove, used a kerosene heater, and had an outhouse. As an adult, she would explain her extreme dislike of camping by saying, I did all of that when I was a kid because we had to — why would I choose to do that FOR FUN??

Despite spending her early years in a house with no conveniences, she had such fond memories of her family. They were a musical bunch: They all sang and played multiple instruments. They even had a family band! “Pop Losch and his Family” played for local square dances and had a live radio program on WKVA in Lewistown. Music continued to be a big part of Mom’s life, both vocal and instrumental, and she encouraged both of us in our musical pursuits — teaching us to sing harmony, starting us early on the piano, and driving us to private lessons. She sang and played in the band in high school. As an adult she sang in the church choir, and she played the oboe in the Greenwood Community Band.

Our mother was the first of her family to go to college, and was a proud graduate of Susquehanna University. Never one to squander an opportunity, she double-majored in Chemistry and Biology, and minored in English, and earned her teaching certificate.

Mom was a talented seamstress (she gives her sister, Doll, credit for inspiring her to learn), and sewed most of her own clothes and many of ours throughout our youth. She also loved cars, especially hot rods (there are three pages devoted to her cars in the memoirs she wrote). In addition to science, she taught internal combustion engines to three vo-tech classes full of skeptical boys in Reading. She loved the story about how she had driven our dad’s ‘59 Chevy, which had “trophied” in drag races, to work one day, and ended up drag racing, and beating, a car full of her vo-tech students, earning their respect for the rest of the year.

Mom and Dad married in 1963. Meg was born in 1967, they purchased a farm in Pfoutz Valley in 1968, and moved from Mechanicsburg back to the country. Betsy was born shortly after. We grew up near many cousins, aunts and uncles, and our grandparents, and were enriched by being part of this small, tight-knit community.

Mom was a volunteer with many local organizations. She was an active leader in this very church. She led Girl Scout and 4-H troops. She was elected to the Greenwood School Board and led the District through the somewhat controversial consolidation of two elementary schools into one. She supported Dad when he became a county commissioner. She and Dad liked to socialize—they had lots of friends and hosted their share of parties, from class reunions and Halloween parties to the monthly rotating gathering of the Card Club.

She spent lots of time renovating and maintaining our old brick farmhouse—painting, wallpapering, and refinishing furniture. She remarked, once you finish the last room, it’s time to start over with the first room! She also observed that if a married couple could hang wallpaper together and not end up divorced, theirs was a solid marriage indeed. (Mom and Dad hung a LOT of wallpaper.) She loved antiques and always let us know where a certain chair or serving dish had come from, so we would feel connected to our past. She also made sure we knew our genealogy. Though we moved away in 1985, our roots here run deep.

Shortly after Dad died in 1982, Mom returned to teaching, this time in the Harrisburg City Schools. She also got her Realtor’s license and sold real estate for a number of years. After Meg left for college, she sold the farm and moved herself and Betsy to Hershey, where Betsy finished high school. Mom was very proud of having put both her daughters through Dickinson College and took delight in having accomplished her goal of raising responsible, productive citizens.

Mom shared with us the high value she placed on accurate grammar, spelling, and punctuation. She loved wordplay and crossword puzzles, and treasured a good pun and quick wit. She was a good writer. She wrote a few clever poems, of which she was quite proud, but the best one was “O, the Cussedness of Winter.” We have included it in the program.

No one hated cold weather as much as our mom did. She put significant effort into her extreme dislike of winter, and rejoiced each year on the Winter solstice. So just imagine her delight in February 2007, when after meeting Bob Fried, he invited her to spend as much time as she wished with him at his place on Florida’s Gulf Coast! She jumped at the chance and, much to our surprise, was on the next airplane out of Harrisburg on a one-way ticket.

For the past ten years, Mom and RJ had a lot of fun and made many memories. They enjoyed talking shop about cars and real estate, went on cruises, visited the beach, hosted dinner parties, attended concerts, went out to eat, attended family reunions, and fed the wild birds and the deer together. RJ even accomplished the impossible and got our mother to ENJOY CAMPING! RJ, Mom loved these years with you. We will forever be grateful for the comfort and companionship you brought her, and the fun you two had together. We know your friends in Harrisburg and Fort Myers will be sorry to hear of her passing.

Our mother is survived by five grandsons. Seth, Ross, Eli, Jae and Kisung, your grandma — or “Bammy Rose” — was so delighted by you. She took immense enjoyment from watching you grow up.

She also leaves behind her sister, Doll, her brother-in-law, Troupie, and her sister-in-law, Annamae. In addition, our dad’s sisters, Anne and Cathy, loved her like she was their own sister, and please know, she returned the sentiment many times over. She was proud to be a Beaver through marriage and grateful to have been so thoroughly welcomed into this family.

Before there were daughters or grandsons, there were a whole lot of nephews and nieces who looked up to their Aunt Rosie. We know you share our loss. Beyond her immediate family, there are in-laws, step-relatives, and countless friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, and classmates whose lives she touched.

In the memoirs she wrote, Mom recalled that she experienced frequent illness in her childhood. She had pneumonia 10 times by the age of 4, and her parents hadn’t been able to get their sickly daughter to church to have her baptized. One time when she was very sick in bed, with her mother by her side, she had this experience:

“Jesus appeared in the room. I sat up in bed and held up my arms the way a child does when she wants to be picked up. I said, ‘Mother, there’s Jesus!’” Our Grandma Losch, fearing her baby was going to die, made arrangements to have her baptized at home. Mom wrote, “From then forward, I knew I was His….It would be an understatement to say that I am grateful it happened.”

Well, Mom’s life came full circle, as pneumonia was the thing caused her final hospitalization in July. But we believe it’s likely that she saw Jesus just as she had as a child, waiting with outstretched arms to welcome her into Heaven, where she joined her parents, her in-laws, her first husband – and our dad – Larry, and her siblings, Eleanor, John and George.

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Edited to add: Cousin Mary “Mame” Miller and her daughter Nikki also made lovely remarks at the service. Both of them mentioned Mom’s pro-level talent for shuffling a deck of cards, and Nikki remembered her Aunt Rosie teaching her how to shuffle. So it was especially fitting that that old deck of cards I discovered? I left it to be buried with Mom’s ashes. You know – in case she needs to set up a quick round of Solitaire.

 

I ate my feelings today

I AM FEELING RATHER RAW after yet another school shooting yesterday. Here we are again – AGAIN! – having the same debate. Nothing has changed. 

(Much) more on that in a sec. I wasn’t making any friends or changing any minds on social media as I got into it with strangers, and couldn’t think of what else to do, so I went to Five Guys, set on eating my feelings:

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And yes, I am aware it isn’t healthy to use food in this way, and I also know I wrote here in January about how I was eating salads and stuff, but what can I say. I’m weak. And I just don’t like salad. Or bananas. Or lots of things that are good for me. So I got a burger and some fries, and it was really delicious, and I am unapologetic.

At least I walked there and back.

So there I sat, a lonely lady at a high-top table, scrolling through my phone, getting angrier and angrier at the fact that THIS HAPPENED AGAIN. A bunch of kids (and their parents, and their teachers, and their community, and their country) have been traumatized again by a guy intent on making some statement – we don’t know what, yet – which was pretty easy for him to do in such a dramatic way, because he had a gun. Which the adults in his home knew about. Oh, it was locked up, they said. That was our rule.

He used a gun.

Please, don’t start by telling me that guns are not, in and of themselves, bad. I understand that. It is condescending to suggest that I might actually think that an inanimate object is capable of killing without it being activated by a human. Plus, that argument breaks down when you realize that guns are designed for the sole purpose of killing other living beings. Or at least, wounding them.

Hey: If you are so fearful that MS-13 gang members or bad hombres are coming to do you harm, or your home is an ideal target for a middle-of-the-night break-in that you feel the need to keep a personal firearm, to be used in the unlikely event something like this actually happens to you, then I trust and expect you are doing so with great care and forethought, in compliance with applicable laws, despite the odds being that your gun won’t actually save you in such situations. But, we all have the right to protect our people and our stuff in the way that makes sense to us. So, you do you.

I don’t want to take *your* guns away. What I and many others want now is called gun “control.” Control means some sort of moderating effort, to ensure people who shouldn’t have guns, can’t get them. It does not mean a total ban on every single gun in the whole world. You can still keep your pistol, if it helps you sleep at night, and you can still hunt deer or whatever. So take a deep breath, Captain Hyperbole.

I do feel strongly that no civilian needs to have access to semi-automatic weapons. Ever. I cannot think of a situation where having one of these handy has made things better, but I can name a dozen off the top of my head where their availability made things unbearably, irreversibly awful.

Seriously: If you can point to a time when a civilian used semi-automatic weapons to make things great, I’d love to hear about it.

I don’t want to hear ever again about how if someone is intent on killing a bunch of people, they’ll use other means if they can’t get a gun. They’ll use fertilizer to build a bomb, maybe, or just drive a car into a crowd. The argument goes, therefore, it doesn’t make sense to regulate gun access because crazy people gonna kill. This argument is a gigantic, oozing, throbbing red herring. It attempts to divert attention away from the fact that a *gun* was used to kill.

To kill. Kids, at school, and people who devoted their lives to educating them.

He used a GUN.

 

The naysayers reply, well, he was mentally ill. THAT should be our focus! I agree. But I don’t believe any efforts towards improving availability and coverage for mental health conditions need preclude efforts to get semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians. We should be talking about both, simultaneously, right now. And not just talking, but acting.

We are stuck in this insane, nightmarish loop where a mass shooting happens, elected officials offer thoughts and prayers, someone organizes a candlelight vigil, people propose gun control legislation, congress doesn’t act on it, until the next shooting, at which point we lament that nothing ever happens and “thoughts and prayers” again and the whole thing happens over and over. How have we not learned yet? How can we allow our lawmakers to be more beholden to the deep pockets and propaganda machine of the NRA than to the families they were elected to represent?

I had the relative luxury last night to choose to not immerse myself in the news of the day’s mass shooting. I was able to make that choice. A whole bunch of people in Florida were not so fortunate. Reality hit them over the head, hard, and demanded, in the cruelest possible way, they immediately pay attention. Kids live-tweeted and texted their parents while hiding in closets, fearing for their young lives. What if it was your kid? Or your grandchild? Can you even imagine the anguish of receiving those texts? I can’t. And those were the ones who lived! Many died. Because a troubled guy had a gun and decided to use it to kill students at the high school he had attended, there are a bunch of parents who hurried their kids out the door yesterday, urging them on so they wouldn’t be late for school, not knowing that it would be the last time they’d see them alive.

He used a gun.

So, 2A zealots, spare me your fear-driven rhetoric and your false arguments. You have been missing the point this whole time. I want to live in a country that seeks to protect my kids and yours, and not just through a full-term pregnancy, but for the rest of their (hopefully long) lives. It’s time for all of us to do a root-cause analysis to figure out what’s really at the soul of this madness, so we can do something to minimize the risk of it happening again. We may never prevent all mass shootings for the rest of forever. But doing nothing isn’t working. So let’s try doing… something different. Anything. And let’s keep trying till one day, we will shake our heads as we think back to how terrible it was, back in those years when there were all those school shootings, during that dark time in America’s history.

One last thing: As you take measures to protect your property from bad guys, I will take measures to protect my own slice of cyber-real-estate (this blog) from those who would disrespectfully argue with me. I have had unproductive exchanges with too many individuals whose minds were obviously made up, and acknowledge that I’m not likely to change their views, any more than they are to change my mine. However, if you wish to put forth a discussion that suggests new ways we can work together to protect our children from being shot up in places where they should be able to feel safe and protected, that would be a worthwhile conversation to have.

Just as soon as we figure out this gun problem. Because to me, that seems like a logical place to start.