Cowboys! My dad, in particular. I’m currently incorporating a picture taken of Dad and me on his horse Peanuts, circa 1951, into Art Trading Cards and collages. Perhaps it is a way of dealing with grief, but I seem to be fixated on that picture. I had it put on a coffee mug. I have a mousepad with that image on it, too. And I wear a pendant I made from it every day of my life.
I miss you, Dad. With you there, I wasn’t afraid to try much of anything. Your arms were always strong. Your advice was always wise. Even now, when I am faced with a decision, I ask myself, “What would Dad do?”
Lest you think I am wallowing in sorrow, let me say straight out that I’m NOT. I know I will see my dad again, on the other side of that river, and he’ll be riding old Peanuts, his all-time favorite horse. Yes, there are tears, but they are healing ones. You see, I am so grateful that Skip Lael was my father. He left a legacy of grit and honesty and persistence that I do my best to live up to from day to day.
My mother, Hazel Bleecker Lael, is still very much with us, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give her equal credit. She was a story-reading mother, a book-loving mother. If I or my brother or sisters was sick in the night, she heard that plaintive “Mom!” and always came. She has a beautiful smile that lights up a room, and when it comes to wit, she’s quicker on the draw than anybody I’ve ever known–closely followed by my sister, Sally. Mom made the best chocolate chip cookies in three counties. She sewed Halloween costumes and herded us to Sunday School. She filled Christmas stockings with things so carefully chosen that I remember many of them to this day. When I went to camp, I was always homesick. As I unpacked swim suits and shorts in whatever cabin I was assigned to that year, I came across little surprises she’d tucked into my suitcase–Hershey bars, notes, and often a dollar bill or two. Mom understood my need to write and bought me countless notebooks, which I filled with long-hand schlock worthy of Jo March’s early years. (Rodrigo, Rodrigo–save me, Rodrigo!)
Mom introduced me to characters who became lifelong companions of the imagination–the March sisters, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, the Girl of the Limberlost, the inimitable Scarlet O’Hara. When my brother, who grew up to be the fine man who tracked down Dad’s saddle (the same on in the picture I described earlier), teased me about kissing Michael Landon’s picture, she told him to leave me alone. (Of course he didn’t, but he was ten after all.)
Who would I be without my mom and dad?
Certainly not the person I am, for better and for worse and mostly for somewhere in between those two.
Skip and Hazel’s girl, Lindy. That’s who I am.