Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Time Passages

By: L.A. Kohl
May 24, 2006
(published in the May 31, 2006 edition of "the Bullseye")

The rumbling outside could be heard off and on throughout the day today. But when the actual rain finally started sometime mid-afternoon; it had “inviting” written all over it. By the time it let up, all nine of us had managed to find an excuse to go out in it for varying amounts of time. Nate and I were a little more practical, and were only a bit soggy. The kids, however, from the eighteen year old down to the three year old, were drenched.

It suddenly took me back to the summer before fourth grade, to a small house on Lakeview Street in Centralia. I suppose my brother and I liked to play in the rain at other times in our lives – but for some reason I only remember actually doing it during that one year stint that we lived in Centralia.

Undoubtedly it was hot and stuffy in the house – no air conditioning – so whenever it would begin raining, we would begin begging to go out and play in it. Mom would peer out the door, to make sure it was just a gentle summer rain and not a major thunderstorm, and if she gave the go ahead, out the back door we would bolt.

Isn’t it strange how certain things and events can transport you through time like that – even if it was decades ago and even if it was a seemingly insignificant occurrence?

I remember standing at my Grandma and Grandpa Hall’s grave a few years ago, on Memorial Day weekend – and having all these little snippets of memories bombard my mind…purple irises and pink sweet peas, gathering eggs in a hen house, fishing on a pond bank with Grandpa, snapping beans and shelling peas with Grandma, enjoying her mulberry/rhubarb pie, and bread with milk gravy. Nothing significant and life changing, but all the little memories brought tears to my eyes all the same. Just the realization that all those things were now in the distant past, no longer to be experienced, made me feel melancholy.

I’ve been experiencing the same types of feelings and thoughts the past few days, as we celebrated our oldest daughter’s graduation from high school. I spent the last few months creating a life scrapbook for her – and if pictures don’t transport you through time, I don’t know what will. One that gets her father and me the most is her “pets” page. There, side by side, is a picture of a smiling little three year old trying to pick up a tiny new puppy; and next to it, a beautiful, young eighteen year old, smiling and kneeling beside our family’s current canine friend. I know several years occurred in between those two pictures, but in our mind’s eye they appear almost as simultaneous as they do on a scrapbook page. The little girl may be all grown up and ready to make a new life of her own, but our hearts still see her as that cute little girl that needs her mommy and daddy.

Life, and time, are funny things. One moment you’re young and full of ideas and ambitions – and the next minute you seem to have grown old, in experiences at least, if not in spirit.

Your children are now the ones with the ambitions, and you’re the ones just trying to keep up with them, doing what you can to help them reach those goals, and wondering where all those years went?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Soldier's Letter for Mother's Day

By: L.A. Kohl
May 6, 2006
(published in the May 10, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I gained permission to use the following letter, written for Mother’s Day last year by Sgt. Jerod Hall. He was a 26 year old soldier in my extended family, serving in the United States Army. I say “was”, because he was found dead in his barracks at Ft. Campbell, KY last month, after having recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. They still do not know the cause of his death, although they did determine there was no foul play or violence involved.

Without sounding too “morbid” during such a wonderful time of year – I thought perhaps this simple letter could be an inspiration to someone out there. Perhaps you think you’re not the “expressive” type. Perhaps you think your mother already knows that you love her, so why should you make a big, mushy deal about it?

Jerod’s case is a very good example why – simply because you never know when today may be your last opportunity to tell someone how much you love them. You don’t have to use big, expressive words, or come up with some cute, rhyming verse. Speak or write simply from your heart and a loved one will consider it a masterpiece. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Jerod’s mother will consider this letter a priceless treasure for the rest of her life.

See if perhaps it inspires you to do something this Mother’s Day to express your love and appreciation for a very special woman in your life.

After hours of pain endured while bringing me into this world, you loved me.
During my toddler years when you wished there was such a thing as a "child leash", you loved me.
While I was growing up and hit you with a non-stop barrage of questions about the way things are, you loved me.
When I was a teenager and pushed and bent all of the rules as far as they could go, you loved me.
When I was unable to finish college because I could not afford it and had to move back home, you loved me.
When I decided to work in the mines, even though they are dangerous, you worried, but you loved me.
When I decided to move away and devote my life to my country, you worried even more, but you loved me.
As I prepare to go back to a part of the world that is full of danger and strife to help give those a chance at a life that I sometimes take for granted, you still love me.
You taught me good values and gave me a strong foundation to build my life on. You never judged me and only showed me love and respect. For all of these reasons and more, I know that I have the greatest Mom in the world. Even if I do not show it all the time, I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for being MY Mom.
Jerod Austin

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Varying Views of Late

By L.A. Kohl
April 27, 2006
(published in the May 3, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
The view around here has been pretty varied over the past couple of months. Of course, the obvious one that has dominated the landscape is the coming of spring. It not only engulfs our physical view – but at times it can overwhelm the senses.

One evening I realized I was hearing the distant rumble of an oncoming storm. I stepped out onto the porch to get a better view (I love to watch a storm roll in…in moderation, of course) and was overpowered with the most wonderful smell. How to define it? It was like the scent of earth, rain, fresh air and newly growing things all rolled up into one powerful sensation. At that moment in time, I simply could not breathe deep enough.

There have been other recent views that were not so enthralling; such as the sight of a jet preparing to take my husband halfway around the world to India. That’s always a rather tough view for the kids and I to handle. However, a couple of weeks later when we get to watch that plane come gliding down the landing strip – knowing that within a few moments he’ll be walking thru the gate and back into our lives…well, that view is hard to beat!

And this year, he brought us all a little something that he’s never before brought home from India. It all started when we sat down to grilled steak and baked potatoes the night of his homecoming. After being “beefless” for two weeks in India – he thought a nice steak would taste great. However, he could only manage a few bites. That night, stomach problems hit him with a vengeance. We all assumed it was “Delhi belly” hanging on a little longer than normal (stomach problems while in India are pretty much par for the course.)   But after a couple of days, when he was finally starting to feel better, our three year old boy got the same thing.

So it hadn’t been Delhi belly after all – but rather some type of Indian flu bug. By the end of the week all nine of us unwillingly partook of it. (Note to Nate: that was one souvenir we don’t ever care to have brought home to us again!)

I’ve saved the most consuming view for last…the view that has been on the horizon for years, but hazy and in the distant future. Somehow within the past few weeks, it has started bearing down upon us, coming sharply into focus.

That would be the view of our oldest “leaving the nest."

In March, there was the senior trip to Florida…in April, the Junior/Senior prom…in May, she’ll walk across a stage and get her diploma…in June and July, she’ll literally fly off to Guatemala to work at an orphanage…and in August – she’ll “figuratively” fly off to college and into adulthood. I know all parents throughout history have said it, but bear with me as I repeat it, “My, how time flies!”

Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was learning her “three R’s," learning to ride a bike, and then learning to drive a car? Now she’s learned those things so well that her college advisor is encouraging her to be a tutor her very first semester of college, and I hear her instructing her father in good driving techniques.
It brings a great sense of joy to us to see the fine young woman that she’s becoming. But it’s a view that is bitter/sweet. Amidst all the fun and excitement of watching a child become an adult, I find myself sighing at the drop of a hat, and finding the view getting rather blurry.