Learning from the Past, Changing for the Future

10-pics 5October 19, 1988 began like any other day.  I was a Freshman in college, and I had a full day of classes.  The morning went as usual, lunch was spent with friends, and then I moved on to my 1:00pm American Lit class.  During the class, I was suddenly overcome with the most intense feeling of grief.  It was all I could do not to cry, a feeling which many students studying Ahab’s quest for the mighty white whale may have felt, but one which I couldn’t logically explain at the time.  For the rest of class, I had a hard time concentrating.  All of my thoughts were consumed by the knowledge that my grandfather was starting chemo that day and the belief that something had gone terribly wrong.  After class, I reported to my job at the campus library and began shelving books.  Not too long after arriving at work, I looked up to see my roommate and one of my best friends from high school heading toward me, their expressions giving away their mission.  

“Your Dad called,” was all I needed to hear.  

“I know,” I told my roommate.  “I knew the moment it happened.  My grandfather is gone.”  I remember collapsing in her arms but remember little else about the following few days.  One thing that I will never forget is hearing the number 400 over and over again.  That’s how many people joined in the procession that took us from the funeral home to the church.  Police were at every intersection.  Traffic lights flashed rather than turned, and cars pulled off the road to pay their respects to a man who was known and loved far and wide by every person he ever met.

When my grandfather called a girl, a young lady, or a woman, “sweetheart,” there was no hidden meaning, no sexual undertone, nothing sexist or bigoted.  There was only admiration and respect.  And the females loved him because he made them all feel special.  It wasn’t a lewd thing.  It was an appreciation for them and for what they represented–wives, mothers, waitresses, nurses, teachers, business women.  He opened doors and tipped his hat.  He was a true gentleman, and everyone who knew him respected him for that.

It has long been rumored that our family has Indian blood in it, and one look at Granddad during the summer months always convinced me of the rumor’s truth.  His rich copper-colored skin soaked up the sun, and his incredibly thick, white hair, once jet black, made his baseball cap sit high upon his head.  I’m not sure I ever saw him happier than when he was outside working his fields or steering his boat.  Except when he was with his family.  There was nothing more important to my grandfather than his family.  The love he poured onto all of us was apparent to all.  He was a provider, a loving husband, father, and grandfather.  He was a loyal friend, someone who never turned his back on anyone no matter their color, religion, or status in life.  He was a man of high moral character and integrity who went to church, volunteered in his parish and community, and counted his friends by the hundreds.  

He was also a hard worker.  Granddad was a civilian employee at Patuxent River Naval Base, but he was also a farmer and a boatbuilder.  When he retired from the base, he added waterman to his list of occupations.  He planted gardens, both for food and for beauty.  He built boats, furniture, houses, and anything else that struck his fancy, and he built them to last (I still own and use furniture that he built with his own hands).  At some point in his life, he took up photography and meticulously put together album after album of family memories.  In his sixties, he took up winemaking.  At seventy, he not only quit smoking but quit growing tobacco.  His decision to stop smoking and stop promoting the habit gave him a new lease on life, but it was a short lease.  Unbeknownst to him, cancer had already made its home in his lungs.

I’ve taken you on this trip down memory lane not only because Granddad is on my mind today but because he is what we are missing in this world.  We should all be striving every day to be like Buck Morgan and to raise our children to be like him–to respect everyone; to treat everyone as if they matter; to love our friends, family, and God with all our hearts, and to show that love at all times; to open doors and tip hats; to work hard without asking for more; to live within our means; to go to church and understand that it’s the least we can do as children of God; to smile at everyone; to make each moment count; and to never be afraid to try new things, make new friends, achieve a new goal, or search for a higher purpose. 

Once the dust clears from this awful election, I pray that we can return to civility.  I pray that we all recognize what we’ve become and vow to stop this plague from spreading.  Let’s all try to live lives of charity, love, respect, honor, and goodness.  Let us all, within our own families, plant gardens, harvest fields, build lasting memories, and raise a generation that appreciates what it has, works hard to have a better life, and understands the things that matter.  I  believe we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our past generations.  I also believe that it’s never late to try.  My grandfather would agree.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

America, Our Ship is Sinking

DSC09204-001I write today’s blog with a heavy heart.  A great feeling of gloom and despair has settled into my soul, and I can’t seem to shake it.  And when I look around me, I see that same despair on the faces of so many people.  We’re all just barely holding on.  We all look like Rose as she let go of Jack’s hand and let him sink into the icy waters in the glow of the last lights on the sinking Titanic.  We are the survivors with little hope of being rescued.  Yet it isn’t the political plight of the country that upsets and worries me the most.  It’s all of the other things that we are losing in the process.

Every day I see another post on FaceBook where someone is lamenting about all of the people he or she was forced to ‘de-friend.’  I hear conversations in public about people who will no longer speak to or associate with other people because of their political views.  I’ve had arguments within my own family that I deeply regret.  One party cries sexual assault while another cries rape, and the people are just crying for peace.  The “p” word has been used and referred to more times in mainstream media and online in the past few days than I ever wanted to hear throughout my whole life, and now it’s something my girls have to hear every day.  I’m just sick of it.  When are we all going to grow up?  When are we going to demand better for ourselves, our country, and our children?

There is a clash of wills going on in every community, every church, every home, every family.  We have become savages who can only articulate (and I use the word very loosely) by yelling and screaming and insisting that one person is right when the reality is, everybody is wrong.  Is that what the ‘Great Experiment’ is really all about?  Brother against brother, father against son, mother against daughter?  Didn’t we fight that battle already?  Didn’t we lose 620.000 people in a battle to save our country from bigotry, segregation, hatred, and fear?  Why are we still fighting it every day in our streets, in our media, and in our homes?  What is wrong with the people of this country that we can’t make the tiniest attempt to find the good in our neighbors instead of only seeing the bad?  And on top of that, we actually make an effort to search out and dig up only the worst!

Since the writing of the Constitution, we have come ten steps forward and fifteen steps back.  There are too many who think only of themselves instead of reaching out to lend a hand to others.  There are too many who see the color of one’s skin and can’t see the makeup of the soul.  There are too many who talk about fighting for justice but support a system that is anything but, that allows people of different colors, backgrounds, or economic status to be held to a different standard.  The same people who talk about reform and rehabilitation, won’t allow education in prisons.  The same people who preach tolerance, spew hate.  The same people who claim to want all people held accountable for their actions will hide and cheat and steal to cover up their own crimes.  Am I talking about a political party, the current candidates, the Republican establishment, or the Democratic Administration? Yes, yes, yes, and yes – all of them, and all of us.  Because the problem didn’t begin with the politicians, and it doesn’t end with them either.

Let’s stop bashing each other, stop spewing hate, stop objectifying women (in ANY and ALL ways), stop seeing the color of skin, stop teaching our children that it’s okay to be a bully, to always have the last word, to never allow topics to be open for discussion, that what ‘I want’ matters more than what ‘we need.’  Stop the de-friending and start being a friend.  Let’s look for common ground, find what’s wrong and fix it, find what’s right and expand upon it.  We’re in real trouble, folks.  There’s talk about taking up arms.  I’ve seen posts saying that neither candidate, if elected, will survive their first term (literally).  There are those (in both parties) who are sending up a rally cry for revolt.  But you argue, haven’t we come so far that these things are just farfetched and unreasonable?  One look at the dirty, disgusting, disparaging, and vitriolic rhetoric on social media at any given time says that we are not.  For the sake of our families, our country, and our world, let’s put an end to this hatred.  And let’s start within our own homes and on our own streets.  Our ship is sinking.  Let’s find a way to hold on and make it through this dark night.  And let’s pray that help is on the horizon.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)