Monday, May 30, 2011

Channeling Our Mothers

Who among us has not heard her mother’s words coming from her own mouth? It can be startling, especially when the daughter has promised herself she would never act or speak like her mother. My own children frequently say to me, “OK, Ramona,” which I can sometimes blow off with a chuckle and grin. Sometimes.

When I pass away – and even before then – I hope my daughters will be able to channel me with:

  • “I love you.”

  • “You are SO smart!”

  • “You are beautiful.”

  • “I don’t agree with your choice (career, shampoo, spouse/boyfriend, moving, parenting - whatever) but it is your choice and I approve of YOU no matter what.”

  • “I’m sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?”

  • “Thank you.”

  • “Be kind to your sister.”

  • “Have fun!”

  • “I am so proud of you.”

In one way or another, I learned these from my own mother.

Rest in peace, Mom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Letter from Staff Sgt. Allen Dillow, Vietnam, February 9, 1966

Going through my mother's letters this weekend, I came across a letter written to her from Staff Sargeant Allen Dillow, her nephew and our cousin. I always joked about having a crush on him when we were kids, so handsome was he in his uniform.

He writes to her from Vietnam in February 1966,

Dear Aunt Ramona and Girls,

I would like to express my sincere thanks for your thoughtfulness at Christmas time, a card, note, or just about anything is appreciated over here. We service men are not robots taught to kill. We still have a heart, and like to be thought of at such times. We are over here half way around the world, in a hostile land, not only a foreign land, away from our loved ones. Where every day things seem as such to you, they would be like a gift from heaven to us. Hot water, cold glass of milk, cold can of beer, seeing friendly eyes, someone that you could reach out and touch, or maybe even kiss, that are only gleams in our eyes that we have to wait a year for. But being what it is, and being the kind of men we are "supposed" to be, we must never complain, even though at nights you still hear sniffles from these men, not excluding me.

I don't hear much from home but I do hope things have worked out for the best. Daddy is the greatest as far as I am concerned. He has his faults, but we all do, none of us are perfect. If we were we would not be on this earth.

Do tell grandmother I said hello and hope this finds her in good health.

Tell Ray
(our brother who was in the Ohio National Guard) that if it is at all possible not to get messed up with this over here. May he stay home as long as possible, and for God's sake don't volunteer, don't get star struck by some John Wayne type movie, it isn't fought that way.

Do take care, and thank you again for your kind and warm thoughts.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ramona Dillow Nute, 1914-2011, Remembrance

The mortal life of our mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother came to an end yesterday afternoon but not without a gathering of the clan for company. She was almost 97 years old and, at her insistence, remained in her own home until her last days. She was still playing bridge with her buddies every week, watching CNN, and disdaining the Meals on Wheels brought to the house. She would have been driving the car in her garage were it not for the watchfulness of the family. Indeed, in her 90's she managed to sneak over to the DMV and convince the lady to re-issue her driver's license.

She was descended from Scotch-Irish Virginian frontiersmen and women, French Huguenots, that rash of Germans who settled Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky, Revolutionary War fighters, a teenage associate of George Washington, a Crockett from the Davy Crockett family, and civil war soldiers who fought at Bull Run and marched with Sherman through Georgia.

In her father's footsteps, she taught for 39 years beginning in one room school houses in Appalachian Kentucky. She traveled the US, Europe, and Middle East, starting with hitchhiking with her girl buddies in the 1930's.

She had four children, six grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

In the last week of her life, she fell in her home and was not found for at least several hours. Although without serious injury, as often happens with the elderly, the trauma set off a chain of irreversible physical events. The family was called to gather as she was moved into Hospice of Charleston, and we kept vigil in her final hours which ran into three days. Two of her nurse grandgirls provided the care usually given by strangers. They turned her, bathed her, and painted her fingernails and toenails. A recording by her rock singer great granddaughter was played for her. We all talked to her even as she became less and less conscious. The doctor advised us to keep down the level of conversation as she could likely still hear us and didn't want to leave the party.

Finally, as it came time for me to return home, I told her I was leaving and it was time for her to leave. She died an hour and a half later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kicking Butt on El Cajon Mountain

It was a cool and foggy morning when Kathleen and I set off to bag the summit of El Cajon Mountain at El Capitan this weekend. East County being located in the Peninsular mountain foothills between Lakeside and Ramona, this is not usually a trek taken this late in the season when temperatures can be in the 90's. We had to cover 10 miles of rugged terrain before the heat set in. I was hoping to get a photo of El Cajon that would count toward my project of finding and hiking all the ranchos of San Diego.

We had a beautiful hike in, through corridors of California lilacs,

up and around and about the stone mountains,

past the remnants of the Cedar Fire that raged through here in 2003, burning 90% of the habitat.

"The Jeep" landmark, nice sculptural art for the area, looks to have been left there in the 1940's.

We chatted up the usual topics - the flora, what to do for a rattlesnake bite, where was the helicopter landing for all the injured hiker rescues you read about from this area - the last thing we wanted was again to be on News at 6 - until we reached the summit. We needed a little chatter. El Cajon Mountain with its steeps, boulders, chaparral, and distance is reviewed as the most kick-butt hike in the county.

Proof of arrival:

Unfortunately, I wasn't going to get a view of Rancho El Cajon through the fog.

On the way down, the fog cleared enough that I could get a shot of El Monte, but El Cajon city was so far off I wondered whether the El Cap had been part of the Rancho.

The afternoon brought the sun and blistering heat, but until the last couple miles I was still taking flower photos,

and finally, on the way out, a shot back at the behemoth that is El Capitan and the summit of El Cajon Mountain just up the ridge.

Rancho El Cajon was a huge ranch in the mid 1800's, including El Cajon city, Santee, Lakeside, Le Mesa and Flinn Springs. Did it include El Capitan? I think so. I could see Rancho del los Cochas just below in the valley, and I know a lot of Rancho El Cajon surrounded the little pig ranch. I think I feel a trip to the El Cajon Historical Society coming up.