Accumulating losses…

I started my blog 8 months ago. Several months before that I had been invited to join an open group (thanks Ray) titled, “If you grew up in Rock Valley.” As in Iowa. Which I had. When I signed up, the group consisted of 30 various aged people. (Now there’s over 500) Writing little stories about our childhoods. Snippets of school shenanigans. Many are hysterically funny. Growing up in that quaint little northwest Iowa town. After someone posted, most of us would write comments. That’s always the fun part. Comments continued sometimes for days. Often a hundred or more. What a hoot! Some of the posts were a bit ahead or behind me, but there weren’t many posts where I didn’t comment. Always love to add my 2 cents worth to the total.


Rock Valley’s elementary school when I was a kid. It was new then, now it’s gone…


And I posted quite often. While most folks would write 2 or 3 sentences, I would write 20. Took me more than 3 sentences just to say hi, let alone get to the subject matter. During the span of a couple days, 2 gals from the group asked if I was doing any writing? (Shouldn’t they have been able to tell by the 20 sentences?) One said, “you should write a book about Rock Valley. You’ve got a great memory. I’d buy it.” Bless you woman. The other one said, “what takes someone else 20 words to describe, takes you 100. But that’s not a bad thing. At the very least, I hope you’re writing a blog.” (I did not know what a blog was). She suggested I read a couple.


The famous playground slide. Still used by kids in Rock Valley School…


So I thought about this blog business. I have an app on my iPad called Notes. That’s where I first wrote my posts for the Rock Valley group. Had to read it several times, change words, re-write and proofread it. (I know what you’re thinking. How is it possible after all that checking and proofreading she still continues to make so many mistakes?) I wonder too. I cringe when I see my mistakes. Just be happy knowing it makes me nuts. And I did some writing in my Notes. Mostly stories about my early childhood I wanted to get down before those memories leave me. No, my memory is pretty good. I have a severe hearing loss, so I’m kind of a loner. Writing has proven to be satisfying and fulfilling. I keep reminding myself that the blog is for me. I try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but this is my story. Ok, so the posts about my four lousy minister bosses weren’t very kind. But then neither were they.

I got a techie son named Joshua. He owns a business in Detroit. He always has the latest gadgets. I don’t think he stood in line for hours to get the new iPhone 21, but he aquires them pretty darn quick. He said he’d help me set up my blog. The trouble with that little scenario, he’s very busy and I don’t see him that often. I’m very slow to catch onto things. Especially things he assumes I should know. Which I don’t. My friend Marlys (The “I hope you’re writing a blog” gal) said she would help me. She lives 45 minutes away. By the way, we were young childhood friends, but she moved from Rock Valley when I was about 10. We reconnected some 50 years later on the “If you grew up in Rock Valley” group. How cool is that? Thanks God. So I traipsed to her house for lunch with my new iPad hoping she could get me started. There were tons of words and stories swirling around my head. Trying to get out. Hmm, I may be deaf, but I hear those groans loud and clear. (Josh has helped me immensely since I started my blog. Countless hours sitting beside me, always on my good side so I can hear him. Always patient. Thanks Josh)


Joshua, CEO. Still patient with his mom on her blogging issues…


Holy moly there was a lot involved (even before I could start writing). The blog had to have a name and domain. What? I live in my house Doofus. When I was a kid, my nickname was “Neese,” short for Denise. “Duh” (That was my other nickname) I thought the blog name should maybe have Neese in it. (As opposed to “Duh”) Something like “Nifty-Fifty-Neese-Notes.” I was born in 1950. Ok so it wasn’t very clever. But the pull from my home town of Rock Valley, and acknowledging it was flirting with me. Until a couple months ago, Rock Valley had one stop light. One stop light in the entire town for over 50 years. Just couldn’t let that one go. Thus my blog became “Storyteller from a One-Stoplight-Town.” It was a great choice. I don’t know how good the stories have been but I really love the “One-Stoplight-Town part. When I think about it, I only lived in Rock Valley for 18 years. More than 2/3’s of my life (so far) have been living elsewhere. But the ties that bind and much of what makes me-me happened in Rock Valley. That’s where it all started.


The only stoplight in Rock Valley. The widest streets too


A couple days after my lunch with Marlys, I posted the first story on my blog. It was about my big brother Larry, who was killed riding his bike in 1958. He was 12. My entire life has reflected losing my brother when I was 7. I’m sure had he not been killed my family’s whole life story would have been very different. So I learned at an early age about life-changing loss.


Third grade pic of Larry. My favorite. He died in 6th grade, 1958


You see now how I write. Six paragraphs in and I’m finally getting to the subject of this blog. Yikes. Too wordy. Got to do better than that in the future.

When I read the paper lately, often several of the obituaries are folks who are younger than me. Wow that’s scary. My Rock Valley class of ’69 has been hit hard with loss. John’s class of ’66 has only lost one. A couple years out of high school, one of my classmates Laura passed away. Later we lost Tom, Randy, and Pam. Gone. Could be more. I’m hopelessly out of the loop, and we haven’t had a reunion since our 40th in 2009.

Accumulating losses. That seems frightening enough. Being a mom and grandma, my biggest fear has always been about my children’s and grandchildren’s health and well being. 2015 is not yet 5 weeks old. Two of my Rock Valley classmates have lost children in 2015. None of us parents have yet to reach the age of 65. We’re too young to be losing each other, let alone our kids. Nothing on this earth can be as devastating as losing a child. Nothing. I can’t imagine the anguish they’re going through. Whole-heart-breaking-loss. I can’t stop thinking about them and the kids they’ve lost.

As a parish visitor for many years, the deaths of those I regularly visited piled up. Visiting the elderly you know it’s going to happen. When I added up how many I lost, it averaged about one a month. I grew to love these folks over the years. Their deaths were hard on me. But most were not a surprise. Or unexpected. Some were not old, a couple younger than me. That put a different perspective on my fragile life circle. But most of the folks were elderly, and had lived a full life. They were ready, even eager to meet their Maker. We don’t feel the same about losing children (like Larry only 12) or young people. We want and need them to live long healthy, happy lives. As parents we certainly want to pass away many years before our children.

I lost a dear friend, Rosemary 4 years ago to breast cancer. She had just turned 46. She was a true fighter and never gave up trying to beat that horrible disease. A few months before she passed away I was at her house for the day. She was failing, but hadn’t stopped fighting or treatments. I made her lunch. We were talking and I was about to pick up her dishes and clean the kitchen. I glanced at her and saw big elephant tears rolling down her cheeks. (She wasn’t easily moved to tears) I grabbed her hand and said, “honey what’s wrong?” Lip quivering, she quietly cried, “I’m so scared Denise. I don’t want to die.”

I read something in a booklet about the stages of dying. And I witnessed it countless times, especially with my Mom and Dad as they were nearing the end of their life on earth. The day to day stuff just started fading away. Each had more important tasks on their agenda. With my Mom, she slowly stopped asking about the most important things in her life. Her grandkids. It seemed odd at first when she stopped inquiring about their lives a couple months before she passed away. But those things were no longer on her top ten list. Same with Dad. His sense of worth concerning his preaching and teaching in the prison system held the top priority when he moved to Michigan. Soon after his 91st birthday, that changed. The focus of his life (or death) shifted. The importance in his daily routine of preparing for his bible study, or sermon now seemed trivial and overwhelming to him. It was just time for him to stop. His mind was filled with more important details I was not privy to. But they had lived long lives. The utter devastation of losing children causes us to question why God needs them so soon? When we’re not near done loving and watching them grow. That leaves a very bitter taste…





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