During each of my visits to Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, I was met with a depth of intelligence, curiosity, humor, and vivaciousness that renewed my own energy and penchant for living fully in the moment. These writers, who come from all walks of life, allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to open up to an unfamiliar experience with admirable aplomb, recounting family histories and unearthing joyful memories of the past—stories that may have otherwise gone untold if not for the safe space created by this writing group. Bonds formed between writers from completely different worlds, whether in the room or on the page. The Westlake writers were able to find comfort and solace in each others’ words, knowing they were all undergoing the same experience. They discovered the power of language to move one to tears or laughter and found that creative writing can actually be fun! The following pieces exemplify the wit, vigor, and positivity I encountered weekly in this talented group of writers, a delight that can be felt again and again whenever I read their words.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
I am a husband, father, and grandfather.
I like family, friends, laughing, good food,
privacy, my computer, and freedom to think.
I have a wonderful and supporting wife, loving
extended family members, and financial security.
I think—how lucky I am!
I think more of philosophical and theological issues
as I get older and progress with Alzheimer’s.
I feel so very, very fortunate—for my parents,
education, and living in the USA.
I love having the time to work on my photo albums,
being alone, and being with family.
I wonder about the universe and my place in it.
My sailboat slips through the water like memories,
as the smooth hull slips through water and time.
The lonely sound of the paddle dipping into water
gives way as the sails are raised and the lake air
fills the sails with a snap, and then more silence
as we move through the water and we lose ourselves
in our thoughts and dreams.
How to Fall in Love with the Night Sky
To begin, first sit in a comfortable lawn chair and wait for a clear, dark night. Add a decent pair of binoculars and just scan the sky for bright stars, planets, and other intriguing objects. Don’t rush. It takes time and patience to really see the beauty and wonders of the dark sky. Mix this with a goodly amount of time getting to know your instrument, be it binoculars or a telescope. For a beginner, it’s best to thoroughly understand the instrument you use, i.e. binoculars are okay to begin, but work toward larger instruments to find the wonder of planets, nebulas, stars, and other objects. Take your time to discover the dimmer objects that pass by others observers who lack the patience. Try it. You may find a wonderful hobby.
I remember my grandmother’s house in Dallas
And the furniture it contained.
Also the uncles it contained.
I have a table from her house and still get
Memories from it.
Memories still remind me of spending the day with her
And catching the streetcar to the Dallas YMCA
And swimming all day.
Later she moved into a small house my father built.
Choose the book.
Join a book club.
Read a synopsis or book cover.
Immerse yourself in the story.
Savor the ending.
Recommend to others.
My Red Kayak
I bought my red kayak and was very proud of it.
What fun I had on the red kayak in the water:
the way the glistening kayak lifted high
over the waves of the river. The sound of the waves
was music to my ears and solace to my soul.
There were exciting times as well as relaxing times
in the beautiful and glistening red kayak.
It floated without effort.
My kayak allowed me to be one with the river
and I felt a part of nature. I could be totally relaxed
and continue floating for hours, just enjoying
the intense green plants on the river bank.
There were many water birds—egrets, swans—
gracefully swimming along. The beautifully
puffy white clouds added to the enjoyment.
This is my idea of bliss.
Always I have been an observer and lover of nature. I collect acorns every fall in our yard. I save special oak leaves and wildflowers in the spring.
My greatest joy is observing birds at our bird feeders. We have two large feeders, which the birds visit every day. My binoculars are “on the ready” to sight more birds. I keep a bird identification book handy.
Birds are awesome—some of God’s most beautiful work. Thank you, God, for sending these beautiful birds to us. Birds add color to our yard and are such a pleasure to observe.
By the Ocean
I loved the ocean and was only ten minutes away from it in Hampton, New Hampshire, where I lived and grew up from age four. Now I’m eighty-three years old. I loved to swim in the ocean, although mainly it was from March through maybe October that I could swim. I loved living with my parents there. Both of my parents were memorialized when they passed away—Dad at age seventy-eight and Mom at age eighty-six—and that is in North Hampton, right on the ocean!
A jar of peanut butter and jelly or jam always reminds me about my father’s business. He started the Bama Company in Alabama and then brought it to Houston, Texas. The Bama Company was bought by Welch’s but still exists in grocery stores under the name Bama, and nowadays sits on the bottom shelf! My dad went on many trips to Mexico and other states to buy the fruit to make his products. My brother got to go on those trips, but not me, since I was very young. I did go to the building where all the jam was made and often would take all of my friends—a fun excursion. Of course, I also took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school each day.
Christmas Morning at the Kilbanes’
The Christmas tree is lit in the living room. The mantles on the fireplaces are twinkling with their lights and stockings filled by Santa. Both fireplaces are lit. The coffee is brewing and the milk warming for hot chocolate. I take the Irish bread out of the oven to cool, then slice. The bacon and sausage crackle and Mike takes the eggs out. He takes the sleigh bells off the hook and shakes them, and the house begins to wake up. The three sleeping children come down to open their gifts in the living room. They are excited to see their gifts and anxious to tear open the boxes they have received. The boys with their trucks, Karen with her dolls, and, as they grew older, their many tapes and CDs, and new clothes that were worn over their PJs.
The home was beautiful, a mix of antique and modern. The dining room table was beautiful, oval in shape with weaving movements around the edge.
In the winter, we had a fireplace. Memories of the fireplace: shadows that leapt and roared, a collection of fireplace tools, and a beautiful glow in the room. This was our home in the cold winter, waiting for warmth in the coming sun. The fireplace was a place where warmth would come, and music in the background that flowed beautifully all around. Chess was the game we played.
I still remember the comfort of the home, the mix of modern and antique. There was a view of the bay, and we could hear the lapping of the waves breaking. Palm trees were in abundance.
I see: beauty, cooking, happy faces, a beautiful table.
I hear: good, cheerful conversation, the wind, children, kitchen sounds,
laughter and music, a roaring fire, a dinner prayer.
I taste: a well-cooked meal, apple pie and wine, a delicious dessert.
I touch: my wife’s hand, the oven, my shaved beard.
I smell: fireplace scents, roasting a favorite meal, my wife’s perfume, the smell of rain.
What can I rely upon?
There are reasons to get down,
especially in this day and age.
But when I need to be lifted,
all I need to do is think
of all the blessings that I have
to be thankful for, and
familial love is the most important.
I have the most wonderful family around,
scattered as they are around the country and the world.
By the way, the family even includes an ex-wife,
who remains very much a loving part of the family.
Friends are fine and dandy, but without family
I would be nothing but candy and not as sweet.
On a special evening at 18 Chandon Lane, Beverly and I nestle down to enjoy listening to an album. The dim light outside still illuminates the backyard to such an extent that all the gray rocks are wonderfully highlighted against the newly laid sod that sparkles with all the rain that has recently fallen. The weather has cooperated and gotten cooler just when we needed it to. How could this be so perfect? Hot chocolate, flowers, incense.
We have just moved in, gotten organized, and hopefully halfway rested. The house feels perfect, at least for now.
The Game of Chess
I remember an onyx chess set I purchased in Florence, Italy, forty-six years ago. The hand-carved set is not only a game of intellectual skills, but a piece of beautiful art, a treasure that I lugged around Europe, from Italy to Spain to France to Belgium to Holland, ending with a transatlantic flight to the US.
Over the many years, this work of art provided many days of challenging, intellectual brinkmanship between friends. In more recent years, it has provided opportunities to bond more closely with one of my daughters and, within the last month, the opportunity to teach my seven-year-old grandson to learn a life skill and game—a game that I hope will enrich his future and give him a loving memory of his Popi.
How to Make a Beautiful Landscape
Develop a plan with all necessary materials.
Cultivate your soil, enriching it with compost.
Select the best ground cover, including grass and alternatives.
Research flowers to paint a colorful environment.
Study and acquire the right trees, for now and the future.
Plant your trees with adequate drainage and fertilizer.
Place and plant your flowers and shrubs to provide a picture.
Install an efficient automatic sprinkler system.
Have your sod and ground cover delivered.
Lay your ground cover, your sod.
Water your landscape and enjoy a new environment.
Setting a Vision
Have a plan to accomplish a vision or objective. Explain the plan to the audience or employee with the goal set to attain completion of the plan. This requires confidence in the leadership, with the goal to accomplish the objective by communicating the vision. This requires communicating the objective’s intent and following through to explain the objective to those who will need to complete the task to achieve the required result. Inquire of those who will follow through to implement the plan to achieve required results.
The Best Pug
I am the friend of a Punkin. We met a few years ago. He was about the size of a tennis ball hiding behind a hedge. I like the way he showed himself, with innocence and trust as he stole my heart. I picked him up and rubbed his fur against my cheek, thinking about how I was going to keep him.
My neighbor said she couldn’t take him because she had three pugs already. So it was my choice keep him, which I did, and he fit into my family with another pup that taught him all she knew. Through her, he learned how to remove insulation with his teeth and wiring removal on tractors and autos.
The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.