August 4th

The day opened directly under a severe rain with strong winds. From my tree house bedroom windows, I could see great gashes of lightening accompanied immediately by claps of thunder  The solar generator had to fill in for about 10 minutes until the compromised electrical grid returned to service.

The drama, particularly the lightening, made a fitting start to the 56th anniversary of Sallie Parker’s death by lightening. Since 1959 when Sallie was killed, this day more than any other commemorative event —  say my birthday, birthdays of my sisters, parents and children, wedding anniversaries, Victory over Japan Day (just kidding!) — has provided me with a moment to reckon. Though I can’t explain how, August 4th 1959 was life changing for me. Over the years, I have wondered how the events of that day have reinforced my hermetic nature, made me weary of close friendships, or otherwise contributed to my personality traits.

August 4th, because it ended her life, never became an important day in Sallie’s year. My calendar for this day now includes two other recurring but secondary events for me:  the birthdays of my step grand daughter and my brother-in-law. I’m grateful to them, though I doubt they know it, for the reminder not to sink into too much navel gazing on this day. Clearly, after 56 years, I no longer melt in misery. But the wound left by this loss is indelible — more profoundly permanent than the loss of husbands or even parents who lived long lives.

The day has cleared and calmed. Red-tailed hawks are calling instructions to their children as to how to catch the wind or circle the meadow for prey. Two pairs of Monarch butterflies who inhabit the meadow are likewise circling, but closer to the tops of the grasses and silently.

As the sun sets, I’ll go to the beach to join a memorial service for my friend, Cynthia. She got 63 more years out of life than Sallie, did but it would not be a mistake to say that she died too young as well.

6 comments
  1. Kathryn Frieden said:

    I would love to hear more about Sallie Parker.

    • Hello, Barbara,

      I did not reply when you contacted me 5 years ago. But here I am now, Susan

      • We are curious if you camped at Camp Julia Crowell and knew Sallie or had you just heard about it. Plus we are interested in your meadow restoration work. We are working hard to eradicate the invasive species on the former camp property. It is now a park own by the local government and is open from dawn to dusk daily.

  2. Yes, I attended the camp in the summer of 1958 with Sallie, who was my best friend. I wanted to go back with her in 1959 but my family had moved from Cleveland to Washington DC and my parents wanted me to acclimate to the new location so they didn’t let me go. I would not be writing to you now had I gone since I would have been in that pup tent with Sallie. If you have another picture of the placard that Burt and Mary Parker erected, I’d like to have it. The one you sent me before is barely legible and part of a pdf file.
    Good luck with the invasives! It’s a SISYPHIAN task. It has taken me years, and if I were to stop with all the annual monitoring, snipping, pulling and sometimes digging, it would come raging back.

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