All posts by Dianea Kohl

BEING STUBBORN throughout my life

 

It is my 75th birthday today, happy to be a stubborn child, my born-again mother having dubbed me: Francis the Talking Mule, a frequent criticism, back then feeling humiliated.

Now, I triumph, after four marriages, I am spiritually married to a man who voted for Trump; I must be stubborn. For love. He admits to coming from a “culture of lying,” maybe why he could accept over 10,000 fact-checked lies while lauding economic tariffs for China. After the January sixth assault on the Capitol, he says he would not vote for Trump again. Whew!

So WHY did I fall in love with a Trumpster-carpenter, who has never been in psychotherapy when I have been for many years as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Because I want to pay my dad’s love forward?

Or continue to advocate for a HEALTHY REALTIONSHIP SKILLS course at our local high school after 30 years? Still not implemented. I have a stubborn spirit is all I can say! Conceived by rape in Bremerhoffen, Germany, while my mother served as a nurse in the US Army during WWII, given my non-biological dad who signed my birth certificate (loving me exceptionally well as he did his two biological children), given a doctor who refused to abort me at 5 months gestation, and given a dad who would not give me up for adoption as my mother considered.

I am greatfull beyond words, music, dance. Loving my very first skydive, not letting fear stop me from flying free. To celebrate being me. I felt some fear the day before, but surprisingly, as I stepped into the two-seater plane, I feel peaceful the 20-minute ride to 10,000 feet and jumping into the cold sunny air. I ask to fly through a cloud like a bird with no cares.

The best part of my 75th birthday is 12 family members below catching my happiness feeling loved: “Hi Everybody!”  I shout gleefully as I lap dance Conor, my cute 26-year-old tandem guide as we land on Mother Earth, softly.

Without me asking, my husband video tapes, and photographs this most memorable event, creates a tailgate from his truck laden with treats and drinks, saying, “You’re something else.”

Some days later, he is not finished, planning our first zipline adventure in a Pocono Forest, presenting obstacles scarier than the skydive, my physical strength tested, my bare hands holding onto the cable. No gloves. No callouses.

“Will you ever grow up?” I hear. As well as moans and groans of pleasure while making love, which we give with each other’s hands and passionate kisses, weekends when we are together as we are in a commuter marriage currently.

On the actual day of my birthday, the 30th of August, I visit South Hill cemetery to give thanks to my dad for being the bestest loving dad, next to whom my ashes will be buried one day.

When the mail lady arrives, I open my door, walk to receive my mail, saying it’s my birthday today. 75. It can’t be she says: “You’re beautiful!” It’s the first time we’ve met; I learn her name is Joy. She learns I am a therapist, and readily says, “people expect me to be joyful, so I put on a façade. Sometimes I need to cry.”

I tell her that I give my books away for free if she would like one. “Yes, I would, how can you be giving me something on your birthday?” I run to find a copy of TEARS ARE TRUE LOVE…waiting to be known. Although I look forward to birthday dinner with my oldest daughter, Erin, I am stubbornly happy, smiling like the Rose of Sharon blossom, or maybe like a smooth silky Moon flower in my garden, at this moment as I walk away from the mail lady!

 

 

 

 

HAIR CUTS to the chase

 

I am a woman who does not like tattoos or dyeing my hair. I like being ‘oh naturelle’ I tell everyone. It wasn’t until my forties that I had truly shed my religious addiction to modesty, able to swim nude at Potter’s Falls in Ithaca, NY. It’s been a struggle to free myself from the chains of conformity; one way is to cut my own hair, even after an occasional New Years’ eve professional cut not to my liking.

My hair is mid-back-long and straight, still a light brown due to my mother’s genes, maybe allowing 12 gray hairs to appear by age 80, when she died. For the past twenty years or more, I have cut my hair into steps like stairs, each approximately 1 and ½ inches high. Many compliments have come my way, some from hairdressers.

Now in my seventies, I look at my eldest daughter’s ability to have her hair cut and colored differently when I see her every month or so. Her body displays flowers and vine tattoos, leaving spaces open to her naturally lovely skin. I want to remember her pure naturally soft skin felt in my arms when she was born.

I am looking to cut my hair differently for my 75th birthday, when I will be parachuting out of a plane, happy to have my extended family of origin watching. Witnessing my unique self, while my tears say, “It is so hard to be yourself!”

TRASHING love?

                                                              TRASH

My friend Carol and I are hiking Glen Cove creek, happy to happen on an undiscovered waterfall to add to the many we have creek-walked around Ithaca.

We find many cans and bottles left by others; I must pick them up despite it not being my assigned Adopt-a-Highway area. Carol fills her arms as well. I ask: Why do you think people leave their trash along the roads or creeks?

Carol: “Because they are lazy.”

My spiritual husband joins me on most waterfall hikes around New York state, as we feel nurtured by nature, especially by the flow of waterfalls, gently or roaring. When I ask WHY some blacks do not join the work force and collect welfare, he says, “because they are lazy.” I become impatient while seeking understanding that they have been oppressed ever since employed by slaves. Still, they are treated disrespectfully, covered by the trash of inequalities and inequities, as Black Lives Matter protests across the world now recognize police brutality: George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Michael Brown, and many more.

As a seventy-four-year-old female raised in a lower middle-class family, I enjoy the white privilege, especially adopted by a father who loves me enough that I feel special. I try to pay the love forward, as a Marriage and Family Therapist; dad being one of the few men who volunteered for Suicide Prevention in the 1970s. My father who hiked his three children into nature on Sundays, once carving a wooden paddle-wheel (tears) turned by a small grassy stream in our back fields.

Maybe that memory connects with my ability to place each of my legs on either side of the grassy roadside ditches (ditch yoga😊) from which I gather bags full of cans and bottles thrown from vehicles, easy to recycle, a total of 80 plus dollars in 2020. I wish it was as easy to recycle the easy answers, like “lazy,” blinded by the light of whiteness – when the answer might be simple: WHY should people care about Mother Earth? If they do not have someone to care about them? To love them.

Addendum: Between 2013 and 2020, black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people (Newsweek 2021)

Caught in the ACT out

Erin, my eldest daughter, would write me love notes, hug and kiss me until she became a teenager. When she, Megan, my second daughter, and I drove across America in 1986, to camp and hike in as many national parks as possible for one month…I ask her what it is about me you don’t like Erin?

“Your general attitude.” She couldn’t or wouldn’t be more specific.

I missed her loving affections, and being a green Marriage and Family Therapist, I was bound and determined to have my loving demonstrative daughter back. I wanted to understand and heal our relationship.

It wasn’t until we were in therapy together, learning that having a boyfriend move in when she was 15, is when I saw and felt her hurt…so deeply when she said, “I won’t give you the satisfaction of forgiving you.”

Throughout Erin’s 20s, 30s, and 40s, we continued open and honest conversations like asking her “What can I do better to improve our relationship?”

In 2020, she says you can listen better and not think your way is right. I catch Erin saying, “It’s all about mom,” periodically throughout the years.  In May 2021, while Dave, my spiritual husband, myself, and Erin were hiking, Erin states that she will wear a mask although the mask mandate has been lifted for those who are vaccinated, for the welfare of the community. I say that I won’t wear a mask to reduce the fear in our community. Erin’s retort: “It’s all about mom.”

 

ONLY ONE BROTHER

 

It is 2000 when Eric and I hike to the floor of the Grand Canyon with a guided group of 12. We each carry back packs in the day and sleep together in a tent for two for a week. I feel we became closer, which was electrified when Eric says on the last day to all of the group: “It wasn’t so bad with my sister, after all.”

Presently, we’ve packed up our friendship since 2016, when I’m open as Father Sky, and Eric hides out in the canyon of fear of intimacy. How can I say this?

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist who helps clients design open hearts of vulnerability, while Eric designs buildings, very successfully.

Sadly, he uninvites me to his home after I write of my nephew’s incarceration in my yearly New Years letter to family and good friends. On Thanksgiving when 20 or more family members gather together, Eric is friendly, tolerating my hugs and I love you. A yearly exception.

Yearly, I sing Happy Birthday to Eric’s voicemail; in 2021 I also text: Happy Birthday Bro! coming from South Carolina visiting Dave’s (my husband) brother…see the dolphins and Magnolia Plantation here (photos). We could stop by tomorrow if you are open to it…sending you love!

To my surprise, Eric texts: Thanks for the birthday greetings. Tomorrow is complicated because of plans that we have made. Have a safe trip.

I respond: Have a fun birthday…care to share your plans? Eric: We are going on a helicopter ride above Baltimore. Me: Have fun! Reserve August 14th weekend to see me parachute fly for my 75th birthday. The whole gang will be here. I send a video of Blue Suck waterfall😊 which Dave and I had hiked to that day.

(A Suck is a whirlpool, a fitting metaphor for us as brother and sister?)

 

 

 

Losing my sister

 

After 73 years together, I find it difficult to write half-sister. I believe it is the first time. We are born one year and four days apart, sharing a bedroom until I am 16, she 15, when we move to our new house. Not really a home, feeling alone, more than I consciously knew back then.

It was at our home, my mother yells, “He’s not your father!” a shock that reverberates to this day as most traumatic. It wasn’t until I become a Marriage and Family Therapist that I am able to retrieve the memory of what I did after hearing those heart-shattering words.

I had run down the stairs, outdoors, sat on the swing dad had made for his three children, alone. I must have cried, I still do.

Mainly, because my trust was broken, the TRUTH being hidden…and WHY I become loudly passionate like a trumpeting elephant about telling the TRUTH – insisting it be top priority, to know you, to know me. To love you, to love me.

As a ten-year-old I began questioning the truth of the bible I was raised to believe is the word of god, literally. How can a loving god send you to the lake of fire -hell- if you don’t accept Jesus as your savior? I fought with my spirit to own, trust myself.

I fought with my sister, Constance, by chasing her around our bedroom, hands held high as if a vulture aiming to grab her.

At our 2018 Thanksgiving family get-together at my brother’s house in Washington DC, the morning after a fun delicious sharing of food and memories, Constance yells something like: “You scared me; chasing me with your claws in the air, me crying. You never said you’re sorry. I didn’t deserve that!”

I stand in the kitchen dumbfounded, listening to her rageful pain, quiet. Understanding how I had acted out my ten-year-old helplessness and fear. (We had talked about our pain more than once as adults and I had apologized.)

As adults we had become closer despite me leaving our family’s religious beliefs behind in 1984, which she still clings to. After she moves to Florida from Vestal, NY in 2010, leaving me in Ithaca, NY, where we were raised, I happily fly to Tampa, Florida each March, being the only family member to accompany her visit to her son in prison. (Constance has five children).

Because I am more open to share our lives with family and friends, Constance has chosen to disinvite our spring visits since 2018. Our friendly weekly texts have dwindled to monthly, me continuing to be the initiator, reflecting our historical dynamic.

Sadly, she chooses the fear of her religion as her security; I choose the loving spirit of my ten-year-old, happily.

 

 

Bread without a B or Love

 

I notice that removing the B from the word Bread, is my second favorite daily practice, to read before rising from my bed after a good night’s sleep. Many times, it is to read The SUN – this month’s poem In the Middle is fitting for me as a golden girl in love with Dave for six months, having met while swimming laps in Skaneateles Lake, after eating my favorite slice of hot pizza – garlic – bread.

The garlic bread I prepare for my first-born daughter, Erin’s’ 50th birthday dinner is insignificant compared to the “lasagna with love” I create from scratch. The bread is made by Wegmans. The lasagna is mixed on my stove, layered into a heart-shaped pan I recently bought at an estate sale. I am surprised how happy and pleased I feel to be cooking a full meal, as it has been some years now.

It is a well-worn saying that one cannot live by bread alone. Yet I drive daily to Wegmans for my favorite morning eats, a fresh hot bagel, not needing any condiments. Not even spread with butter which I love. Sometimes, I arrive too late or too early for the 27 grain, sesame, poppy, blueberry, or cinnamon-raisin bagel to be hot out of the oven; the bakers have seen me for years, and most are happy to warm up my choice of the day.

Wearing Covid-19 masks makes it difficult to eat while in the store; still, I sneak my mask down for a warm bite. And replace. Bite. And replace. Bite. And replace.

 

 

SUMMER JOB WITH DAD

 

 

       It is the summer before my senior year when I will obtain my BSN (bachelors and RN in nursing), then being licensed as an LPN (licensed practical nurse.) My parents are living apart, and I am truly happy about it. As I am that they chose to marry, falling in love, “forever yours” as my mother wrote on a card to my dad, as they floated back to America after serving in WWII. If not for my mother’s adventurous spirit and my dad’s loving and courageous soul, my parents would never have met, dad being mom’s patient on the ship Huddleston.

As many relationships do, it fell apart with mom demeaning dad, despite her being a born-again Christian. All of dad’s family remained in his birth village, Dreis, Germany, so I took on the role of defender. Mom and I fought regularly whenever she criticized him or humiliated him in front of company.

Dad was a very present father, making us three kids a huge swing set, building us a club house, giving us baths, playing badminton with me after supper together, reading us bedtime stories – I could go on and on. Mom took good care of us physically, he did emotionally, nurturing us with Sunday hikes into nature where he carved a whistle out of a willow branch. (It presently sits on my blanket box in my living room). Every weekend I hike to waterfalls because of my dad’s love of nature and me.

Every week during college (and early in my marriage) I could count on a handwritten letter from my dad to be in my mailbox. My box of approximately 143 letters is my most precious possession!

The summer of 1968, I was happy to live with dad, to have him drive me to my summer nursing job, at Tompkins County Hospital (now Cayuga Medical Center) and to pick me up! with his welcoming smile and eyes of love.

 

 

 

 

 

IN the WOODS

 

Woods and waterfalls are like twins for me and Dave to hold hands with as we wander through creek beds. My best friend Gaylee used to guide my way to new waterfalls by way of her book, 200 Waterfalls in Western and Central New York. She died of cancer in 2019, leaving me with only the book to show me the way.

On a hot July day 2020, I find myself near Skaneateles Lake, and decide to take the plunge. In a life-guarded roped-off area I am swimming laps when a man’s head approaches me with “Hello, what a beautiful day for a swim!” and joins me with parallel strokes of arms and conversation.

That was five months ago, and I am still shocked by how we met, adding to a slow beginning of cozy conversation on the beach; then waiting three weeks for his text to arrive. Our first waterfall trek through woods was to Eternal Flame Falls: an obvious premonition.

On September 21st, we hiked 2.2 miles round trip through oaks, sycamores, and maples into creek beds to find 120-foot-high Warsaw Falls where we eat a picnic lunch of garden-fresh tomato and onion sandwiches, a Wings of Life salad, and Sun chips. Our dessert is kissing passionately as the water falls gracefully, reminding me of telling Dave, “I am falling in love with you,” at the foot of Barnes Creek Falls September 4th. (It wasn’t until October at Platts Cove Falls found in the Catskills, that I would feel safe enough to arouse Dave into a ‘woody’😊 because he especially likes kissing outdoors in nature.)

It was on our return from Warsaw Falls that we found my locked Jeep, with no keys to be found. Luckily, I had left the windows down far enough that Dave could manually unlock. I felt dismayed not only because I may have lost the keys in the woods by falling out of my backpack – but because my name, Dianea, was specially carved into the wood grain of the key ring by a craftsman. (I had six other similar key rings crafted with family members or friends’ names along with mine over a decade ago.) The extra set of car keys were in my glove compartment, so my grieving was souly sentimental.

Three months later, December 19th, (spiritually married as of Halloween), we are creating “our” apartment in Depew, buying mostly from estate sales. At one stop, I am craving grapes which I knew I had brought from Ithaca; I search the Jeep’s back floor, under the passenger seat, and then under the driver’s seat. My eyes do not believe what they see. My wooden-carved lost key ring!  Like a kid, I am extremely excited when I yell out “Look Dave what I found!”

Although I am only with Dave on weekends:

I lose my keys when with Dave.

I find my keys when with Dave.

The Universe has confirmed when our LOVE is meant to be.

 

 

 

GETTING STARTED…in LOVE

Still startled. Still surprised. Still somewhat shocked. How can someone meet for the first time while swimming? It is a hot July day as I hunt for waterfalls near Skaneateles Lake. It is a passion for me to hike to those undiscovered in Central and Western New York for the past ten years, as I live in an abundant valley of waterfalls; why Ithaca is Gorges is a bumper sticker.

My best friend, Gaylee’s book has been our faithful guide to many exceptional waterfalls until her death May 3, 2019, so now I am solo. I find Skaneateles Lake inviting me to swim laps, where lifeguards ensure our safety. But not from a man who walks out to where I swim back and forth, he saying, “Hello,” with the usual comments about the beauty of clear water cooling us down. Really? He swims back and forth trying to keep up our friendly conversation, while only seeing one another’s heads.

I do not remember a spark of attraction until we walk into shore, me gazing at his broad tan shoulders, muscular arms, and long legs of ideal masculine form. We sit on the grass close enough to foster communication and my knowing attraction. I learn he is on vacation with his wife, their marriage rocky. That morning he had found a waterfall nearby saying, “I could show you.” My disappointed voice replies, “I would if you were not married. I am attracted to you which is rare for me.”

He says he wants to come to Ithaca to check out waterfalls. I smile as I say: “I would be glad to be your guide.” I write down my contact information on my older business card sporting waterfalls.

On August 17th, I have written on my calendar, Eternal Flame Falls, near Buffalo, NY. knowing Dave lives in the vicinity. I guess I was hoping unconsciously and consciously that the Design Of the Universe (DOU) will intervene – when I receive a text from Dave August 16th, that he is coming to Ithaca the next day. Would I be his guide? Silly question😊

My heart is not in my throat but ringing in my ears and widening my eyes. The next day we meet in the Eternal Flames parking lot, find each other’s sparkling eyes, as he pulls me in for our first lovely kiss. After three months together, he is separated from his wife, and we are spiritually married.