Tag Archives: Heart-to-Heart

Milestone 95

On many days she dwells in the memories gathered in crossing ninety-five years.  Her journey, begun in 1915, has been richer in people and experiences than in geographic destinations, but travel is travel, whether in distance or time.

A matriarch like no other, my Grandma Dugan also holds a bit of the little girl named Mary within her, making her a completely fascinating and compelling presence in my life.  She snoozed through a recent visit having overexerted herself moments before making a break for some enticing flower beds beyond the safe edges of the care center’s outdoor patio.  I love that she still finds satisfying a curiosity worth the considerable effort of propelling her wheelchair down a sidewalk.

Her smiles made me smile at her birthday party this past week.  In her usual fashion, she flitted about the room greeting her guests, exclaiming at the purple decorations and enjoying all the special attention.  When presented with the first slice of birthday cake she insisted I share it with her, bite for bite, enjoying it all the more for sharing it with me.

Milestones. They encapsulate our memories and plant them in a place we can revisit at will.  This year we have celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation and the life of my Grandma Prior after her passing at age 92.  On June 30th we were privileged to honor the passing of but another year for Grandma Dugan.  95 years and still counting…


Cliff Homes in Walnut Canyon (part one)

Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff, Arizona was a last minute choice. One of those “make it up as you go” decisions that often bump a planned adventure to somewhere even better.  Hail, snow and gusting 65 mph winds were forecast for the first day we had planned to hike into the Grand Canyon. I had called a Park Service Ranger hoping that being down in the Canyon itself might shelter us from some of the wind, but she didn’t give me the answer I wanted to hear.  In the meantime however, Zach had spotted Walnut Canyon, so we bundled up against abrupt cold temperatures (especially “abrupt” and “cold” after 90 degree Tempe weather just hours before), and drove to the east.

I complimented Zach on the backup plan repeatedly that morning.

Walking into the park office, we were unprepared for the sudden and dramatic view that appeared through the glass panel on the opposing wall. \ I was familiar with the Sinagua people. They were the same cliff hugging tribe that created the extraordinary Montezuma’s Castle I’d visited near Sedona. But here in Walnut Canyon, the Sinaguas had created a community that stretched out to suburban lengths. I tried not to rush through the informative displays on their culture and history but was eager to walk out the back doors and into the cliff side dwellings that were just steps away.

Next:  Sinagua cliff dwellings

Flagstaff Things To Do


Goodbyes in Van Wert

While never my own hometown, Van Wert, Ohio holds enough elements of my family history to make walking its streets feel a bit like a  homecoming. It’s the sort of place where mention of a family name brings recognition tied to the members of multiple generations.  It is the town where my mother grew up, and the place we returned to for reunions, weddings and funerals. Over recent years the return trips were more often for funerals. This past weekend, we said our goodbyes to Grandma.

Death no longer feels like an unusual event but rather an inevitable transition.  Her life was 93 years long and full of most of the things she had hoped for.  I will miss her, but there is no tragedy in the ending of a long and fruitful life.  I wonder if I will miss Van Wert, too.  Her burial may have been my last reason to make the two and a half hour journey through flattened farmlands to this little town in northwest Ohio.  Last Monday may have been my last time to sit in the church where my parents were married and where my maternal grandparents have now both been memorialized.

We stayed next door to the first home at which I remember visiting Grandma on Washington Street.  Our rooms at the Hughes Inn, an Arts & Crafts Mission style bungalow now operating as a bed and breakfast, allowed me to peek at will into some memories next door.  I wandered down to the stream that was off limits to me as a child and then ran past some other personal landmarks on my morning run.  Yes, it was all smaller and fitted more closely together than I remembered, but I expected that.

As I ran past the fairgrounds, the reservoir and golf course, the unusual black squirrels common to Van Wert county, and my grandparents’ “dream home” on nearby Walnut Street, I remembered talking about the details of long ago visits with Grandma during our last time together in her care center’s dining room.  She always loved listening to shared memories.  The stories of playing “dress up” with her old clothes, putting on a circus for the neighborhood children and swinging from the willow trees that lined the lane behind her favorite home…  The moments were singularly insignificant, but together they added up to her investments in me and her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I like to think that my retelling those old stories told her in a tangible way how very much she has mattered in my life.


and Now.

Van Wert Things To Do


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