A Brothers’ Birthday

Birthday Thoughts  

(I wrote this to my brother to celebrate his birthday on 02/20/2015.  He is gone now, almost a year.  I miss my big brother.)

A firstborn son to loving parents.

Cuddly, cute with crabby cries.

Their only winter of discontent!

Brief it was, as they found their way

Together.

Doted upon and adored, the baby

Grew strong and happy.

Until his sisters came along.

But soon enough the toddler discovered

Sibling love.

A dynamic combination of emotions that evoke

Jealousy, joy, unbounded happiness and fears

The complexity of which sweetens the years

With loyalty, pride, laughter and tears.

*****************************************************

Dear brother,

Your teasing makes me stronger.

Your intellect makes me strive to be smarter.

Your dark moods make me want cheer you.

Your watchful eyes make me feel protected.

Your humor makes me smile.

Your critical tongue makes me try harder.

Your musicality makes me proud.

Your laughter makes my heart light.

Your relentlessness in this battle makes me admire you even more.

On this day, your birthday, I wish so much for you.

I won’t put them down to paper for fear they may vanish.

But you know what they are.

They are the same wishes that you want for me.

02/20/2015 – D. J. Heatherly

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Remembering Without Knowing Irvin Pharris

 

Tears well up while polishing dry crackled wood on a magazine rack built by a grandfather I never knew.  How can this inanimate object built over 70 years ago effect my emotions this way?

Though I never witnessed his wrinkled brow in concentration while whittling, sawing or hammering, I do know he was a serious and solitary man who had creative talents in carpentry. I know that he was a man who loved his daughter, my mother.

This wonderful piece of wood was constructed with patience and caring. Was it his hope to please my grandmother Evelyn, who was never happy? Or did he need to escape from her to his workshop, to keep his sanity while she was on the verge of loosing hers? Evelyn married a man 20 years older, a railroad man. He was away a lot. She berated him often. She complained and was unkind to him. My mother shared stories about her childhood, raised under her mothers ridicule, a frightened little girl in an unhappy home hearing her parents fighting, and the loss of a daddy who was dear to her. He died in his 50s from complications of a stomach ulcer. Evelyn had an affair with his coworker who drove her to the Railroad Hospital in Chicago where he was dying. I only found this out recently, but I am not surprised. Evelyn was cold. She was never grandmotherly. I suspect she had a personality disorder but the family never discussed that, and that is another story.

Wiping wood cleanser on it’s ancient varnish to bring back its luster also brings back my own childhood. My earliest memories are of playing on the floor near this magazine rack, hiding my stuffed animals inside or using its wooden platform for my Barbie dolls to stand against, it was the perfect size for Barbie feet. However, as I approached my teens, I rebelled against it, mad that my mom insisted my sister and I dust all its crevices, along with all the other furniture, every Saturday.

Thinking about my mothers’ deep sadness makes me cry. She is gone now too. All I want to do today is call her, talk to her. I want to tell her again how blessed I am to have been nourished by her love. I want to hear her kindness flow over me and hear our laughing together while we share every little thing about our lives. I want to ask more questions about her daddy, which she referred to him as with a faraway look of longing in her eyes. I wish I had realized the significance of her sharing those stories when I was younger. I failed to grasp the hurt she endured since my own childhood and our family life was very happy.

This magazine rack is a root to our connection that I keep in a safe place in my home.  I keep my mom and her memories of my grandfather alive in my heart. This piece, as well as two chairs he built, are the only things that I have from a grandfather I never met. That, and the knowledge that my mother loved him so he must have been a good man. These pieces of wood created under times of hardship, furniture unknowingly left by him, are somehow a legacy of love to a granddaughter he never knew.

Irvin Magazine

To Be Two

To be two is to be

Completely carefree.

Belly laughs are heard

Everyday

Fascinated and fun.

Learning concepts and words

Bright

Eyes and ears alert

About all things near

Everywhere

Cuddly and kind

Tight body hugs of cheer

Always

Spontaneous smiles

Unprompted, unplanned.

Happy

Soft and sweet

Nibbles of neck and feet

Yummy

Giggly and squirmy

I will hold this innocent age in my heart

Forever

Love,

Grandma

(05/03/2017) Silas turns two today!  I want to grasp his sweetness before he goes full-force into the  “terrible two” stage.

High Society At A New Low

Passed out til noon

She swigs Bloody Marys while applying

War paint with an unsteady hand.

Sunken, hungover, puffy eyes

Veiled by Visine.

Barely gets the red out.

But the sparkle is gone for good.

 

A counterfeit in coiffed curls and fake smirk.

A gussied up clotheshorse in brand name style.

Dressed to the nines to disguise DUI’s.

 

Living an artificial reality she deceives even herself.

Sipping on Crown, searching out imperfections in others.

Fabricating falsehoods while pretending frivolity.

Stirring up slanderous gossip with her silver spoon.

Tossed back with a shot of ad naseum

She makes Happy Hour an irony.

 

08/27/2014

Donna J. Heatherly

My Dad

He is a gatherer of ideas

Expresses them well.

He is an ideal man.

 

He is open minded

Uncluttered and receptive to the opinion of others.

He is a liberal thinker.

 

He laughs openly and often.

Shares sharp amusing outlooks on current politics.

He is a humorist.

 

He is approachable and friendly.

An ally to all lucky to know him

He is a conversationalist.

 

He is empathic and sincere.

Pained and enraged by global cruelty

He is a humanitarian.

 

He is loving and loved.

He is my greatest supporter.

He is genuine.

He is my dad.

    Donne Jeannine Heatherly (08/07/2014)

 Happy 80 years wise my dear dad!

IPhone 2013 009

Meramec River Boys – A Sequel to Black River Boys

Meramec River Boys – A Sequel to Black River Boys

D. J. Heatherly / July 27, 2014

 

Happy smiles from a proud grandma greet my grandsons upon their arrival.

I hug them hello feeling tight little arms wrap around my soul.

First things first.

They remove their shoes and run inside to assess the sleeping arrangements.

Well-taught and well-mannered.

They know the rules of the Raptor as instructed by Vernon.

Dylan climbs up the loft with his pillows and his thoughts.

Devin quickly follows.

Together, they stretch out for a total of 3 minutes, planning their next move.

Zip down the ladder, zoom out the door to explore.

An old cedar swingset sits 500 yards away.

We keep them in our sights giving them their space.

Two brothers swing and giggle uninhibited.

I join them.

Fearless, Devin swings willy-nilly in an attempt to hit the swing posts.

I grab a pair of ankles to suspend Dylan in mid swing.

A tangible memory floods my senses.

A palpable push that propels me back in time.

I recall how I swung them as toddlers.

I describe the feel of their tiny backs as I gently pushed, reminding them to hold on tight, and to swing their sweet, skinny legs.

I tell them how much they liked to be swung by Grandma.

Dylan says, “Show me.”

I grab his 9 year old ankles. Stronger now, and capable of hiking, running, tree climbing, pedaling.

I grab a hold and push him back, then, I run behind him, grab the swing to delay momentum, which always made him nervously giggle when he was a tot.  He roars with delight.

Love flourishes when laughter abounds.

Devin wants the same, of course, so I repeat the process.

“Again” they say in unison just as they did years ago.

Their legs are now too long for a swingset however who can resist reliving past moments?

Later, after dinner, it’s back to the old swingset again.

Perched in the swing, Dylan is stretched out, laid out parallel to the ground.

“Look at the sky!” he yells with wonderment.

I look up to see a jet black night glittering with silver stars.

At that moment my sweet mom is with me.

I tell the boys my belief that stars are the energy and spirit of good people who have left this earth.

“Yes. I know.” Dylan says. “My grandma Jean is up there. And dad’s dad, Chuck.”

I want to cry. Instead I smile and hug him and Devin tight.

Early morning awakens us. We eagerly prepare for a 6-mile float.

Skin slathered with SPF. Skulls protected with bandanas.

A school bus like none they have ever ridden awaits us.

Loaded with coolers full of beer. And adults full of excitement.

Cracked windows with a solitary spider hanging on for dear life on a web.

Blows into the bus as the bus driver picks up speed careening around a corner.

I scream as Bobby rescues us by closing the window.

Startled by a loud pop, we all jump in our seats!

Dylan’s window has been hit.

Realizing it was a water balloon thrown by a random camper, we all laugh.

Except Dylan is not laughing. He barely manages a smile.

I imagine the many scenarios running through his head. All the questions he has. All the reasons. Why was it his window? All the what-ifs. He is a deep thinker.

Scramble to the raft.

Attach tubes to the raft for the kids, to which Dylan and Devin’s faces say it all before they even speak it.

No Way!

Scared of snakes striking. Fear of fish biting.

“It’s an adventure” I encourage.

They bravely get in their tubes and we take off!

We move at a snail’s pace.

Dangling legs in the murky Meramec River.

Fear of unknowns’ unseen in the water.

Anxiety overwhelms Dylan.

“We are survivalists!” I tell the boys, as I get in his tube as he takes my place in the raft.

“Ahhh, this feels sooo good.” I smile. And it did, so happy to share this day with them!

In a valiant attempt later, Dylan gets back on a tube.

Trepidation of turtles. Worry about the white water.

“Lift your bottoms up.” His mom and I say together approaching faster moving “rapids” so river rocks would not bump them.

Dylan straightens his entire self out on top of the tube, elongated and nearly hyperventilating with worry.

We laughingly decide it is time to give up the tubes.

Eight people and 2 coolers in a 6-man raft.

The tubes glide empty behind us as we fill up the raft with gaity and contentment.

Boys on swingDylan Tube

Ethnocultural Empathy

Our society is comprised of people from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, unfortunately, we are far away from being a successful pluralistic society. Although some integration happens spontaneously, a pluralistic society is one that acknowledges, allows and accepts the cultural diversity of its citizens. Multiculturalism is an ideology. The term refers to salad bowl or melting pot. Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether the multicultural ideal of nonthreatening, co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, while remaining separate, is possible, logical or even desirable. It is argued that cultures who would previously have had a distinctive cultural identity of their own, lose out to enforced multiculturalism and that this will ultimately erode the host nations’ distinct culture.

In a political context, the term multiculturalism is used for a wide variety of meanings, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity. The politics of today limit an honest discussion of multiculturalism. Leaders will only express what they think their audience of the hour will want to hear. The heated debate about immigration reform has been ongoing for decades, and yet it continues with no real solution. I disagree with the idea that people do not need to integrate with the society in which they immigrate to. I do not think that you can set up your own little country inside of another, with differing laws and extreme values. Immigration should be examined and laws implemented in order to aid both the immigrants, as well as the host country. I think outreach action from communities to accept immigrants into their neighborhoods is crucial as well, in order to help them become and feel more integrated.

The Census Bureau predicts a shift in the composition of the U.S. population. With an estimated yearly influx of 1 million legal immigrants, there is an equal number of illegal immigrants entering the United States each year. The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from the Third World. Another factor which will radically change the ethnic composition of the population — a factor given less attention by the Census Bureau — is the differential birth rates of the various groups involved. It is quite likely that, given current trends, the European American will find himself in a minority long before 2050. This would suggest that the United States of 2050 will be America Balkanized, an America without Americans, an America in which citizens will identify with their minority status and forget about the nation as a whole. This is due to three of the four major population blocs will constitute visible minorities: European Americans or Whites, African Americans or Blacks, Asian Americans or Yellows, and Hispanic Americans. These four blocs will be relentlessly political, locked in a struggle to determine how the increasingly scarce economic goods and natural resources are to be distributed to each group. Can a nation so wracked by internal struggle long endure? History suggests not.

The September 26, 2011 issue of Newsweek, on page 48, titled “Marry or else!” by Michelle Goldberg, there is a quote by former Associate General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Walsh, who gives the opinion that the Balkanization of America is underway. I wonder, is this just fear-mongering? Walsh states, “Immigrants devoted to their own cultures and religions are not influenced by the secular politically correct facade that dominates academia, news-media, entertainment, education, religious and political thinking today,” He further states, “They claim the right not to assimilate, and the day is coming when the question will be how can the United States regulate the defiantly unassimilated cultures, religions and mores of foreign lands? Such immigrants say their traditions trump the U.S. legal system. Balkanization of the United States has begun.”
In an interesting decade-long study by Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam, showed how multiculturalism affects social trust. He surveyed 26,200 people in 40 American communities, finding that when the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities “don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” writes Putnam. In the presence of such ethnic diversity, Putnam maintains that we act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not similar to us, we distrust those who do not look like us.

I think the humane and moral solution to ease the fears, and thereby aiding in a greater understanding of all peoples on this great earth, has to begin with teaching individuals cognitive and behavioral ethnocultural empathy. This should be done at an early age. Once children understand the physical differences with other groups, they then are able to become aware of the perspectives, experiences and attitudes shared by other ethnic groups, and finally develop the ability to take the perspective of other ethnic groups. Using cultural empathy as a “learned ability” may prove to aid in conveying an accurate understanding and more peaceful interaction between the mosaic peoples of the world. Using cognitive, affective and communicative processes together, perhaps we can probe for deeper insights, find similarities, and help to accept our differences.

Traditionally, empathy is roughly defined as the intellectual ability to take the role or perspective of another person and/or an emotional response to another person with the same emotional display. Increasing research found that people usually hold different levels of empathy toward different individuals based on perceived psychological similarities, such as ethnics and culture. Particularly, people usually feel more empathetic towards individuals who are in the same ethnic/cultural groups as they are than those who are not.

Ethnocultural cultural empathy has been used in many other research areas such as racism, feminism, multiculturalism and ethnic identity, and is sometimes applied in cross-culture and/or cross-ethnics analysis. Degrees of ethnocultural empathy were reported to vary by demographics and societal factors. Previous research indicates that women are more likely to report higher level of ethnocultural empathy than men. Non-White individuals are found to have significantly higher levels of general and specific ethnocultural empathy than their White counterparts.

The doctrine of multiculturalism encourages passivity and limits intellectual discussion, and poisons perception. The mere idea that we believe that cultures should coexist without problem, does not eliminate the problems of coexistence. Blind rhetoric is not a substitute for solution to problems, so a more practical approach that is focused less on kind words and more on the best practical results, is the best. Pragmatism wins when it is at conflict with ideology, and different situations require different practical solutions. In my opinion Social integration and Social Blending is a superior alternative. But, can we create one culture that can embrace new customs?

Donna J. Heatherly

 

Moments From My Daughter’s Wedding

                    My Favorite Memories From My Daughter’s Wedding (May 28, 2011)

My happy father, road-trip ready, full of life and conversation on the long ride to Minneapolis. His continuous chatter, jokes and anecdotes made for a more enjoyable journey.

Toasting the bride and groom at Friday night’s ‘meet the parents’ dinner.  Being introduced to Kent and DarLa Anderson, and getting good vibes from my daughters’ new in-laws!

Arriving at Loring Park for the ceremony and finding Tyrel’s dad all decked out in his suit, and armed with a leaf blower doing goose poop removal duty. Now that is going above and beyond!

Lauren, cool and collected by all outside appearances.  But, knowing her heart was truly all aflutter.

Tyrel’s pacing pre-ceremony, waiting for his bride’s arrival.  (She was a bit late, he was a bit worried).

My arm intertwined with Lauren’s, sharing her walk down the aisle with her dad.  Knowing how much she will always want me to share these special moments with her.

Hearing the sincere emotion in Tyrel’s voice while he read his personal vows, and actually feeling him control his tears, while witnessing his love of my daughter.  Knowing she will be cherished, appreciated and he will do everything in his power to keep them both happy.
 
The beautifully and brightly decorated cake!  Baked with love by Tyrel’s mom and presented so gorgeously. And, of course the cutting of, where the happy couple got out of control and spontaneously gave us all a giggle.

Breakfast the morning of the big day at Keys Restaurant with Dave, Diana, Vernon and Dad, enjoying freshly baked whole wheat bread served with homemade jams.  

Surprised by my sense of calm while I read the poem ‘To Love’ during the wedding ceremony.  Proud that they asked me to do so.

My very well behaved grandsons!  Dylan and Devin looked super sweet in the bright colored polo shirts and khaki’s.  The had a great time at the reception too.

Each and every guest getting out of their chairs to dance with Lauren and Tyrel during their unique 1st dance – ‘Home is Everywhere We Are’.

Dancing with my dad to Johnny Cash, to help get the party started.

Watching the amazing video that Heather put together to surprise Lauren and Tyrel, and seeing their happy, emotional reaction.  

Walking the city scape and exploring Minneapolis. Seeing first hand where Lauren and Tyrel live and knowing they are in a great place together.  
Image

>Black River Boys

Black River Boys (2006)

D.J. Heatherly Hall

Prepare, pack, plan, provide

Sun, hugs, mud, bugs

Filthy fingers. Happy feelings

Finding tree stars and tree nuts

Four-wheeling to a fishing spot

Our little bit of paradise

Where the River runs shallow and secluded.

Floating in clear coolness with eyes full of brightness

Dylan’s curiosity along with Devin’s sweet smiles.

Brings contentment to the family.

 

Small voice questioning all around us

What are those lines?

As Dylan points to the ripples in the water

Bordering us silently, moving as we slowly glide.

What is that sound?

Listening to concealed birds screech over head.

What are those things?

Looking intently at the polished pebbles under foot.

Tiny fishes scatter in all directions

Yet, the plastic red one is continually caught

Proudly on the end of Dylan’s reel.

 

Canoeist’s float towards us

Small talk begins. They comment

about our boys in the River.

Devin coyly smiles at them

Dylan shyly looks away, grinning.

Canoeist’s drift lazily past us

And Dylan quietly says to me,“I did not talk”.

 

Heather and Bobby take a walk, take a break

Alone together to float downstream.

Dylan tells me, “I can’t see.”

“See what?” I ask.

“My best friends” he says in his small voice.

He misses his mom and dad.

They are his world.

Minutes later he sees them floating towards us

he points at them excitedly with his whole self smiling.

 

Back at our camp site quick showers

Washing away sunscreen and sweat

Primed for evenings’ bug spray and smoke

Blued-eyed dimpled Devin bounces happily in his walker

As we work our magic on the grill.

 

Snuggled in their tent, our boys doze off before dark.

Time for adults. Starry nights and wine lead to talk

About life, the future, and The Universe.

 

Rise and shine to a dewy day.

Dylan chases his early morning shadows.

While running from hand monsters.

“It’s getting me, it’s getting me.”

Giggling all the while.

 

Early a.m. energy and excitement.

Stooping, exploring, digging, collecting

Acorns, rocks, leaves, memories.

Arms wide with joy, high stepping and spinning.

“Whats happening to me?” Dylan laughs.

His feet, in constant motion.

 

Coffee savored over warmth of the fire.

Simple moments make the grandest of occasions.

Dylan’s sweet comments and Devin’s carefree smiles.

Our Black River Boys.

 

 

My Mothers Daughter

My mom was the constant protector of my body, mind and spirit. She was my friend, always ready to listen and offer her opinion to advise me, but only if I asked for it.  I miss those conversations we had about all things, large and small, always filled with giggles and her sweet attendance  to my words and thoughts. Her exceptional home cooking fueled my tiny bones so successfully that I remember suffering ‘growing pains’. I recall her concern over my distress when my legs ached. She would simply say in her concerned matter-of-fact voice that it was merely growing pains. She would put me to bed, telling me that I would feel better after a good nights rest. Sure enough, the next morning I was ready to grow some more under her care. My most memorable meal will always be her roast beef, potatoes and carrots. My gosh, she made it the best, embedding fresh garlic into the roast, browning it on an old cast iron skillet before baking in the oven. Ahhh, the beauty of those carrots, potatoes and celery surrounding that savory roast beef. When she took off the tin foil tent to so that the potatoes would get a golden patina it was like watching and artist working culinary magic. I miss the aroma of those Sunday afternoons while moms roast beef dinner was baking.

In the final week of her life, she and I had a conversation. She had been reflecting on the significance of her life. While I sat with her in the hospital, she raised the discussion about how challenging it is to be a woman, especially these days. We talked about how a woman works twice as hard as a man, with the ongoing domestic tasks on top of having a career. She asked me that age-old question that all mothers have pondered. She asked if I, as a child, had ever missed her when she was away at work. I instinctively knew what she was asking me without her putting it into words. She felt the perpetual guilt that all women have when torn between wanting to stay home to nurture their family but necessity sends them off to work. It took just a brief moment for me to answer her, and I hope relieve her. I told her sincerely that I never missed her one iota, because when she was home she was 100% available to me. I had never thought about this before, but as a child, I never felt that she was distracted with work, because she was always emotionally available when she was at home. I do remember that she did go off to work, but while she was gone my dad stepped up, thus I never had the chance to miss her. I told her that I felt loved my entire life. I hope I alleviated any thoughts of guilt or remorse she had about working outside the home.

My mom carried with her a deep-seated patience, and even though I struggle with that virtue, it is because of her acceptance of others in a nonjudgmental fashion that I am open, caring and able to forgive. I have the capacity to forgive myself my many faults. Her quick beautiful smile and her ability to laugh at herself is also a trait of hers that I hold, and I hope will be passed to my daughters. How can I possibly count the multitude of aspects of being my mothers’ daughter, which make me the woman I am today? I have learned so many morals from her countless lessons from observing my mom’s behavior and interactions with others through the years. Most importantly, I will carry her spirit and feel her love inside my heart, mind, and soul every day.