Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘remembering

Nine Years

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Nine years ago this month we were attempting to close on the purchase of our new home in Beldenville, Wisconsin. After twenty-five years in our Eden Prairie home, it was quite a leap to pack up all our possessions and head for the countryside without having locked in the legal papers to make anything official.

We hadn’t signed off on the sale of our EP home or the purchase of our new horse property in Pierce County but the moving van was en route.

Each year since has been remarkable, but the power of those days of transition was possibly greater than everything that’s happened since.

Scroll over to the “Previous Somethings” and select the month of October in 2012. Roll down to the posts for Steps 1, 2, & 3 to read what it was like to have our dream complicated by real difficulties.

Obviously, everything worked out for us in terms of ultimately taking ownership and making Wintervale the place we’ve called home for the last nine years.

It is a real blessing to now be entering our tenth year here.

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Outliving Dad

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The reason I easily remember the last time I saw my father alive is that it was my wedding day on September 19, 1981. Forty years ago, October 2nd was a Friday. Just out of college with a degree in education, Cyndie had unexpectedly nabbed a job with the Edina Police Department and I had yet to find employment. That Friday, on our first week home after our honeymoon, she was on a ride-along with a patrol officer.

I was home alone for the first time since we’d been married and the guys at the station found it humorous at first when I needed to contact her in the middle of the shift.

“Is it an emergency?”

“Well, sort of.” I was in a state of shock over having received the news in a phone call from my younger brother. “My dad died.”

Cyndie came home early from that ride-along shift.

Myocardial Infarction. My dad was 62.

On October 2nd, 2021, I am 62, a fact that seems to mean more to my doctor than me when it comes to my ultimate longevity. But I can’t deny a certain level of awareness about reaching this milestone.

I’ve spent the last forty years navigating being married, working a technical career, and raising children without my dad available for advice or guidance. Now I will embark on the rest of my life journey without having had his example of being an old Hays man.

After Cyndie and I returned from honeymooning up in the woods on the North Shore of Lake Superior, with a stop in Hayward for a couple of nights on the way home, we were taking our very first steps navigating life together in an unfamiliar rented duplex on Cedar Avenue near Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

A few days into our first week, it occurred to me that I should pay a visit to my parents before my dad took off for his weekend jaunt “to the lake.” The little fishing cottage on the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs was his version of heaven, I think, or simply a place he could go to be away from, well, the rest of what he found depressing at home.

It was Thursday afternoon and Mom said, “You just missed him.” He got a jump ahead of weekend traffic leaving on a Thursday. I would never see my dad again.

The story I was told is that it appeared as if he had pulled the bedcovers back, sat down on the edge of the bed, and fell back, dead.

This was six months after an initial heart attack that he described to me from his hospital bed as being “a pain I would never wish upon my worst enemy.”

That description helped inspire me beyond merely not wanting to be a depressed alcoholic like him, but not wanting to develop that classic beer belly and clog my arteries with an unhealthy diet. My doctor thinks that still might not be enough. He worries about my genes.

Other than having my older brother, Elliott for a sibling reference, I am now in uncharted territory.

I hope you are taking good care of your ticker, E.

Mine is just a little uneasy today over all the remembering. I expect its got plenty of mileage left, though. I work to keep my heart filled with plenty of love, both coming in and going out.

Thanks, Ralph, for everything you have taught me, in life and in your sudden death forty years ago today.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2021 at 6:58 am

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.

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If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am

Exercising Memory

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My memories are fading, but as I revisit many of them, the details I review slowly grow more memorable and probably less accurate with each iteration.

I remember what my life was like before my eyesight declined to the point of needing glasses to see with functional clarity. Those memories often arise in response to needing to clean my glasses in the present day.

I remember how free life was before the coronavirus pandemic.

I remember when there were no personal computers.

I remember getting my first mobile phone when my workplace at the time made them available to all employees for personal use.

I remember how awkward it always felt to walk alone in front of the entire length of the high school bleachers on the way to get a bag of popcorn from the concession counter.

I remember how much I liked the popcorn purchased at those basketball games in the high school.

I remember using our basement for a kitchen in our Eden Prairie house while we were having the upstairs remodeled.

I remember putting a vinyl Crosby, Stills, & Nash record on the old hi-fi phonograph with the sliding glass woodgrain top panels when it was in the closet of my boyhood bedroom and then laying on my bed to listen until I fell asleep.

I remember when the impacts of the greenhouse effect on our planet were hardly noticeable and mainly the subject of scientific predictions.

I remember when we first set foot on the property we eventually purchased in Beldenville, Wisconsin. I will always remember walking one of the trails near the house and coming upon the gnarly oak tree that remains the most prominent.

I remember when the sky turned a deeper blue during the two times when air traffic was greatly reduced: After the September 11 attacks and when the pandemic lockdowns stopped almost all travel around the globe.

I remember the morning I called our health clinic to ask to be seen in my first step of treating my depression.

I remember how moved I felt after learning about the extent of hidden added sugars in processed foods that occurred with increasing frequency throughout my lifetime.

I remember tying one of my deceased mother’s handkerchiefs to a branch as a prayer flag in the Himalayan mountains around the highest elevation I achieved during the trek I did in 2009.

I remember my son inspiring me to start a blog to chronicle the trek I would be doing.

I remember learning I was an asthma sufferer during my physical that was required by the adventure travel company before the trip began.

I remember waking up stressed from breathing the smoke that had leaked from the woodstove all night when we slept in the lodge of the Sherpa sirdar guiding our trek.

What I can’t remember is any reason I started this exercise and whether or not I had a point in mind. Having a point would have come in handy when it came to reaching a conclusion.

This reminds me of how often I find myself laboring to come up with a closing line for daily blog posts.

Sometimes, I just want to “Say goodnight, Gracie.”

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Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Incomplete

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I don’t tend to notice
how the shadow
plays across my face
but I remember
the girl I spent time with
back in 1972
I’ve asked my favorite music
to tell me what I want to know
about the messages
I always missed
there’s a sadness
mixed within the gladness
for everyone we’ve kissed
and the light of every fading sunset
offers a salty sweetness
we can taste upon our lips
fragments of stories
unravel with frayed threads
piecemeal
incomplete
and if you pictured me again
posing in the great outdoors
would I be dancing in the snow
or surrounded by leaves of green
under bright blue skies
or shades of cloudy gray
and would you happen to notice
the shadow
across the side of my face

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Written by johnwhays

July 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

Goodbye Again

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I’m back in reach of my computer again, but I am not at home yet. After saying goodbye to precious friends riding the Tour of Minnesota this week, I am up at the lake with Cyndie and our kids, and almost all of Cyndie’s family, for a few days of saying goodbye again to Cyndie’s dad. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of his death.

We are together telling stories, playing games, feasting on incredible meals, and swimming in the lake –all things Fred loved to do– to honor this incredible man, husband, father, patriarch.

As darkness descended on the day, we wrote messages for Fred on the paper petals of flower luminaries, lit candles, and floated the memorials out on the lake where he loved to swim laps.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve said our goodbyes and it won’t be the last, but on the day that marked the first anniversary of his passing, the family as a group lifted up several particularly significant salutations of parting.

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Think About

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Think about what your life was like before the pandemic.

Gosh that seems great, not dealing with the sickness, mask wearing, shutdowns.

Visualize what it will be like for us when the pandemic is history.

In the mean time, do your part to get us where we all would prefer to be.

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Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Cayenne

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Cayenne was a most elegant Arabian mare and a particularly precious member of our initial herd of four horses that christened our new Wintervale property as a horse ranch back in the fall of 2013. Yesterday, she departed this world to join Legacy’s spirit in the world beyond our knowing. 

Cayenne was foaled from Dezirea in 2005 and lived 16 years, which can roughly be translated to the equivalent of 48 human years of age. For the five years she lived with us, she seemed to split her time equally between palling around with geldings Legacy and Hunter, but Hunter was her lifelong buddy.

In the image on the right, the two of them were giving me a wonderful reception upon my return from a week of biking and camping one summer. 

That’s Cayenne on the right.

Last night, Cyndie and I reminisced about the time Cayenne scolded Hunter after he petulantly farted his displeasure toward Legacy for being driven off a preferred grazing spot. She amped up her energy and pushed Hunter twice as far as he wanted to go, making her point very clear and assuring he got the message.

Cayenne always looked well kept. When others had rolled in the mud or tangled their mane into a knot, Cayenne looked ready for show. The aroma of her hide was always sweet. I loved to bury my face in her neck and inhale her healthy horse scent.

The word that often came to mind when thinking of Cayenne was, royalty. 

One other word that came to mind was, magical. As in, magician. One morning we found her calmly grazing all by herself inside the web-fenced arena space despite the gate being closed. She somehow either jumped or high-stepped her way over that webbing without tipping a post or tangling a hoof.

Cayenne also maintained the neatest stall out of all four horses. Despite her penchant for painting the back wall with her poop, the rest of the shavings on her floor basically remained clean. I guess she reserved her mess for the water bucket in that stall. She had a habit of soaking her mouthfull of hay or feed pellets in the water as she ate. Made her bucket a murky disaster by the time we came around to refill them.

Wednesday morning the horse manager discovered Cayenne on the ground and in bad shape from an overnight episode of colic that the equine veterinarian assessed as beyond treatment.

Hunter was already grieving and they gave him an additional moment to come close to pay his respects. He brought his head down to the flank of her lifeless body and took a breath to confirm she was no longer in there. As he picked up his head, he smacked his lips in acknowledgement and turned to look out over the distance beyond.

Cayenne is gone but she will never be forgotten.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Irish Maybe

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Growing up, I had no clue about my family’s ethnic origins. I’m pretty sure my father responded with “American” when I brought up the question. Today, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, everybody is a little bit Irish, aren’t they? I’ve never really identified with the occasion, but I probably should.

Even after my many sporadic plunges into my family ancestry, I’m still not convinced about the ultimate origin of the “Hays” name. When a second cousin enlisted the help of professionals, they pointed to a pretty focused area of the counties of southern Ireland, yet the result from my DNA hint at the surrounding region excluding Ireland.

At this point, I’m more inclined to cling to what I know and claim my obvious Canadian heritage.

Cyndie occasionally shares a wonderful recollection of her earliest query about her family ethnicity. The simplified version from so many kids where it gets described as half of one nationality and half of another led her to ask her father, by way of a written note slipped under the bathroom door, “What am I half of?”

She was shocked when the answer came back, “Half-wit.”

I am half my mom and half my dad; a quarter of each of my grandparents. Sometimes I feel a little like a half-wit.

On March 17th, I’m possibly a little Irish.

Don’t tell my DNA.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2021 at 6:00 am