Monday, May 30, 2011

What's So Special About Seventy?

My husband has been asking me lately what I want to do for my birthday in September. It should be something special, he tells me, since this will be my 70th. His argument has merit, and so I have been giving this some thought. The problem is, I am feeling uninspired.

The fact that he asked, "What do you want to do for your birthday as opposed to, "What do you want for your birthday?" proves how well he understands me (i.e., better than anyone else ever has or will). I certainly don't want or need gifts. He and I stopped exchanging gifts years ago when we realized the most fun in giving a present is the element of surprise, and we can't surprise each other because we can't keep a secret from each other.

Rather than things, what I value most from others is their time. One of my greatest pleasures is having a son or daughter or grandchild spend time with me and at least seem to genuinely enjoy it as much as I do. It's common knowledge that children want attention, acceptance and approval from their parents. A lesser known truth is that parents want the same from their kids. It's called validation. It gives meaning to our lives.

Traveling is one of my least favorite things to do. I enjoy other places, it's just that I wish I could teleport to and from them, and not have to pack or unpack. Alaska is my favorite place, Hawaii comes in second, but I've been there/done that enough times that I wouldn't call going again to turn 70 in either place special. Over the years Frank and I typically plan vacations that take us away from the hustle and bustle of business and book promotion, and I have fond memories of hiking a remote trail with no one else in sight, and walking a beach that was, for the time, ours alone. On the other hand, last year we travelled with family for a week, eight of us sharing a luxury condo on Waikiki -- and had an awesome time.

The difference being family.

Aha! A distinct clue. Nothing I enjoy more than family, so why not keep it simple, I'm now thinking. Everyone has such busy lives that take them in so many different directions, just gathering the clan in one place at one time qualifies as special! I may be onto something here. A sunny September day, a sparkling swimming pool, good food, cold champagne, a cake with lots of frosting, maybe Jennifer Lind, John Denver, and SCOTTY singing over outdoor speakers, kids, grandkids, great grandkids all happy I'm still healthy and mobile and for the most part independent.. wow... it almost makes 70 sound downright inviting!

Okay, so having put together in my mind my Walt Disney version of a birthday that seems as though it should be different from all the others (though I'm not sure why -- 70 is just another number, after all), keeping it really simple, I wouldn't mind waking up that morning, putting on my jeans and boots, and heading out to the ranch for a nice quiet ride on Brandi. Then coming home to a cold beer and a long soak in a lavender-scented tub, a few phone calls, and some cards to stand on the mantle over the pellet stove. Hokey though it may seem, I love my family whether they are near or far, together or apart. And they find wonderful ways almost every day of the year to let me feel loved.

I'd have to be crazy to want or need anything more than what I already have.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Piece of Pakistan in my Family History

My parents were divorced when I was very young. My father remarried, had a son, and pursued his military career with vigor, retiring eventually as a Colonel and Chief of Instruction for Army Intelligence. He was never able to talk about his work, and after his death when I attempted to obtain his military records I learned they had been stored in a building in Kentucky that, at some point in the past, caught fire, everything inside destroyed. Okaaay... One of the many places he lived was Pakistan. Following the death of Bin Laden, my brother sent me the following information, which I thought readers might also find interesting.

Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was killed, is about a 30 minute drive from Murree, on a narrow, winding, mountain road, and is named for a British general. It is in rolling foothill country that's a bit cooler and greener than the hot, dusty flat land down at the capital of Islamabad, which is why so many Pakistani army folks have homes there.

In 1958-59 Dad, Mom and I lived in Murree HIlls (not the village itself). Murree is higher in elevation than Abbottabad and in the steeper mountains very close to the disputed (still today) border with India. We then moved to Rawalpindi for a year, the capital at that time, as construction on the new capital city of Islamabad (adjacent to Rawalpindi) was begun.

The Murree Christian School's stone church is where I attended 2nd and 3rd grades. They had divided part of the church interior into separate classrooms, and it still looks in photos very much as it did 52 years ao. When we lived in Rawalpindi I would stay in the school's boys dormitory in Murree Hills during the week and take the hour-plus drive home on weekends. A search on the internet identified the 1959-60 dormitory as the Sandes Soldiers Home, a former convalescent facility for soldiers of the British Indian Army (Pakistan was part of India back then). It's now being used as a dorm for 6th grade and up. [In a photo, it is a 2-story building with a steep pitched roof and white porch railings.] The old stone church is named "Garrison Church" and was an Anglican church used by British soldiers stationed in Murree back when.

There was an armed attack on the school by 4 masked Islamist gunmen in August 2002, in which 6 Pakistani security guards were killed. None of the kids or teachers were hurt. I hope they didn't later become a target again. Just thought you might like to have some family history of where Dad was stationed at one point[relative to recent highly publicized event].

I tried relentlessly (and unsuccessfully) to talk my father into writing his memoirs, which included 5 amphibious landings during WWII as a young infantryman, and later, many colorful countries as his residence. When I was in my twenties he visited the states, escorting an Iranian General who was here for medical treatment. They came to my home for dinner, which is material for a story I'll tell another time --guaranteed to amuse.