A Love Story . . .

Rescued Christmas Trees – Courtesy of Anne

LOVE! I love everything about it and then some. I am a very emotional person and I cry at tear-jerker movies, or basically anything that has the least possibility of an emotional response. So when I went to Lowe’s Hardware in Redlands, CA, and saw two forlorn Christmas trees lying in the parking lot alone, I went straight to the plant section and asked the manager about the two Christmas trees lying there. He told me they were left over from the sale and would soon become mulch. Under normal circumstances, I would appreciate knowing that a tree was going to help give life to another potential plant, but this was just too much. “How much would it cost to buy them?” I asked. “Nothing,” he replied. I told him I would take them, and went right out and began tugging and pulling the one tree and managed to get it to my 22-year old Honda Civic Hatchback, but the other one was not going to be so easy; it was just too heavy. I went back to the manager and asked if he could help me get the other one, and soon as he was able, he came out with a helper and got it next to the other one in the back of the little car.

After thanking him profusely, I drove home as quick as I could and set up two buckets that I filled partly with water. In went the first one, and it quickly looked better. These two trees would get to serve the purpose for which they gave their lives, or so I believed. But the second tree, thirsty as it was to get into that water, could not help me to get it out of the car.

There was only one person who might help me, and I instinctively headed toward Richard’s mobile home. He had been the maintenance man for many years. He was a good person and he had done a lot of wonderful work for me on my home, never giving me a quote for his work. He painted it so nicely, and then using recycled materials, took the way-too-small front stoop, and changed it into a wonderful front porch with a nice side set of steps instead of having them heading into the street. He made me a wonderful bench that he painted a sunshiny yellow out of the part of the stairs he cut off to make them fit properly on the side. Of course I had paid him and had taken him out to a good hot dinner to go with, but I felt more than appreciative. This was a genuine good man.

I knocked on his door, and though it was cold outside, he came right over with me, and without making fun of me or giving me excuses, he got right to the job and I helped him drag the tree to the water, where it practically jumped in happily. Once the trees were settled, we headed off to get some money and a hot meal for him, and once again we enjoyed just sitting together quietly eating our meal at the counter. He was so modest, sitting there in his torn jeans with the bottoms ragged, an old t-shirt, and some well-used shoes. He thanked me very much and I could see his eyes light up when I told him I would like to mend his jeans for him. This would be the beginning of a love that has lasted and will continue through the day when one of us dies. And on that day, I will celebrate life for such a wonderful gift.

Richard had a pretty tough life,with he and his brothers and sisters going into a foster home after his stepmother died. I think his father died shortly afterward. Between age seven through eleven, he was in nine different foster homes; somehow he and an older sister managed to keep what was left of their family together. Their last foster parent was a mother who already had some older daughters;and she took care of them all without a husband. She got cancer while they were with her, and she used to have the boys go out and gather Creosote, which she boiled and drank, and made the boys drink some too, believing it would prevent cancer. She would die later despite her attempts to heal herself. Before that happened, Richard left for the Army when he was 17, and got in shortly after as he reached 18. It was near the end of the Vietnam War, and though he did not serve there, he spent time in a number of countries, including Granada during the Cold War, and he also spent a total of nine years between the Army, and supporting services of Army Reserves and National Guard.

Later, he worked in construction, and he eventually got together with a divorced woman who already had several older children. One day when their little boy was just a toddler, she left with her own children, leaving the toddler behind with a stranger. When Richard got home from work, he looked until he found his little boy. Most men might have left the child to welfare or to a foster home, but Richard took his little boy and raised him alone for a long time, taking him to his work with him; luckily he worked at the time in an indoor swapmeet, so he was able to do that.

Eventually Richard found another lady with children; she was in a wheelchair from multiple physical challenges. He and she were married for 20 years before she passed on. Richard took excellent care of her and her children along with his son, and they even started a ministry for juvenile delinquents that they ran for years with only the money they could put into it.

After she passed on, eventually he connected with an old friend of hers that she had willed Richard to, along with her grown children. She too had developed severe physical challenges including seizures, and was in a wheelchair; after eight more years, she passed on, leaving Richard alone once more. His son is now an adult with a young daughter, and a failed relationship. He moved to Texas and is working steadily as a mechanic. Like his dad, he too is taking good care of his daughter.

I have been through a lot of failed relationships in my life. Some people are never meant to be together for one reason or the other, and they aren’t always the reasons we tend to think.

All I know is that when Richard and I met, all the things that bring people together in a lasting relationship have been there from the beginning. We are able to be who we are with each other and we actually LOVE spending our time together. We were both seniors when we met, and we are both simple people who care about little things in life. We never have to be anyone but who we actually are. We sit happily together at our desks as we work through our days. I am generally writing books, articles, or taking care of other business, while he shares the news of the world and our local weather, or plays Mahjong or other relaxing things. We throw each other kisses, or laugh over funny things our pets do. I will always remember in my heart those little Christmas trees, and how it was when they got loving care. They lasted a lot longer outside than we could have imagined, and the little bare fruit trees next to them honestly leaned inward as if to support them and keep them standing up. I put a few ornaments on them; at least they got to live their lives for what was intended. We have not had more Christmas trees since, but those I think neither of us will ever forget that.

I graduated from my second degree (this one Criminal Justice) in 2016, the same year I got breast cancer and had surgery to take care of it. Richard was there with me as we had been in a relationship for more than a year. He was with me through all the decisions I had to make and the changes I went through. I did my research carefully, and I am still cancer free with no radiation or chemo. I will likely not use my degree except as a volunteer, I am already trained and have graduated from CASA.org (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for foster children. I do not have an assignment currently.

In 2017, the tables turned and Richard had to have a critical surgery on his cervix, followed by two more involving his trachea and his nose to help him breathe. I have been there ever since as his caregiver and his advocate through all the decisions we have had to make. He had another surgery this year in May following the failure of the first surgery; it looks as though he could have another failure causing something called Radiculopathy (damage to a nerve in the neck). But here we are together and we love each other more than ever.

Anne and Richard Last Year

For the Children . . .

Vasek Polak Children’s Center in Long Beach, CA.

This is the children’s time of year. I don’t even think it is as much about getting Christmas presents as it is about a feeling of magic that happens at this special time. Lights everywhere, and people in colorful clothes seeming to be flying as they go to get last minute ingredients for one of the special meals served everywhere for all kinds of celebrations.

Adults seem preoccupied with all the preparations for gift exchanges, getting good bargains, addressing cards for friends and acquaintances, and just generally preoccupied.

This is a time when parents and others need to slow down and be extra aware of where their children are, what they are doing, and who they are with every moment. Here in Southern California, we have had a number of children kidnapped by criminal types who just wait for this time of year. Equally bad is leaving your children to see Santa and then not staying with them. And what about the moms who leave babies and young children in the cars while they “just run inside to take care of something for a minute.” Usually it happens in the summer, leaving the children to roast to death. What would you do if you came back from your shopping and found your child gone or dying in your car?

Children love magic, and they are magic. Let’s all help keep it that way. Every child is special regardless of what he or she does have or does not. It is what makes my Christmas for sure, and I hope it makes yours too.

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl by Anne Copeland

I loved for my Grandmother to read to me, even when I was a teenager.  I remember sitting next to her rocking chair and kneading her soft skin and telling her lovingly that it felt so good, like a turkey.  For some, that may have been a dreadful thing to tell a Grandmother, but mine understood that it was soothing for me.  She would always sit and tell me over and over the fairy tales I always requested.  Strangely, both of these stories seemed so dismal on the surface, but I always interpreted them differently. 

This is my conscious interpretation of the story.  It is true that it was likely in Victorian times in England.  It was Christmas eve, and it was very cold as citizens found their way around the area seeking last-minute gifts and special foods to celebrate.

The little match girl, a poor child who would represent reality in those times for a lot of children, was out in the street, poorly dressed for the cold.  She held up her matches, for she knew she dare not return home without selling them.  Her family did not have the good foods that others had to eat.  She perhaps had not eaten all day or even several days.  No one noticed the matches she held up in the cold.

Desperate to do something in this dismal time, she lit one of the matches.  As the long match glowed in the dark, it warmed her a tiny bit, and in that moment, she saw a vision of possibility.  She saw herself in a warm home with food and presents, and a beautiful Christmas tree lit with many colors.  The other children with her were all aglow with happiness that permeated the cold, dark sky.

The match did not last. With a sort of strange bit of hope, she lit another match.  Once again, her heart was filled with joy and happiness, if just for that moment. You know, it only takes a moment for a miracle.  If we can experience the joy of being alive in our minds and our souls, just for that moment, we experience the true miracle of life.

As the matches continued to be lit, finally culminating in the lighting of the remainder of the matches all at once, she was able to transcend that reality of her life.

We are sometimes faced with ugly realities in our lives, and we don’t  have to accept them as our forever reality.  We can see the best even in the worst of times, and know that life will change as it always does.  We are all sacred in this world, as is every plant, every animal, every grain of sand.  We are not alone.  We are part of the larger universe, and we would not be here if we were not meant to be.  If we are here but a moment, we can make it the most beautiful miracle of a moment ever.