A Sister’s Birthday

This is my sister Diane Colby Zaun D’Leon. Today is her birthday and she would be 58 years old. However, in 1985 she passed from colon cancer at the age of 26. While I miss her physical presence on a regular basis and think of her often, I continue to celebrate her birthday because it is a day that always makes me remember the joys of having her as a sister.

The three girls in my family were all born in July and we used to have group birthday parties with the family. We had two cousins who also had July birthdays so they often joined the group party. For many years my mother and aunt would take us all to the Highland Lodge in Greensboro for a special birthday lunch and we always looked forward to that.

Who would think that after 32 years one would still miss someone so, but I do miss Diane. She had the kind of loving and gentle spirit that is easy to get attached to and so easily missed. I am gifted with many opportunities to think about her and cherish every one.

Each year at the high school we graduated from, I make a presentation to a graduating senior in her honor and I think about the similarities I see between Diane and the recipients of that award. They are always other gentle and caring souls who I know will make a difference in the lives of others, just as Diane did. This year’s award was especially meaningful to me because it would have been Diane’s 40th reunion. During alumni festivities I knew that her classmates would be remembering her fondly. Looking over the photos from that weekend I see many faces of her friends from those years and can recall them together on the track at school, or trotting horses around the yard.

Daily I drive past our childhood home and see her hanging clothes on the line out back, or somersaulting across the front yard. And when I occasionally drive by the home where our grandmother used to live I am reminded of the many hours of fun we had there. Each fall we raked up leaves and jumped in them for ; we had family reunions there in the summertime, spending hours in the playhouse; we learned to sew and bake from Gramma Colby; and we shared years worth of traditions.

When I play board games with my granddaughter I am reminded of hours spent on the living room floor at home or at card tables at Grammie’s playing Checkers, or Chinese Checkers, or King’s Corner. Colby Diane and I laugh and tease one another just as Diane Colby and I used to do.

Occasionally I run into classmates and friends of Diane’s and I will forever see them as they were in their teenage years, worry free and enjoying life.

Today I am thankful for the 26 years I knew my sister. She was a strong enough spirit that over the past 32 years I feel her with me daily and I am thankful for that as well. She was a gift to many she encountered in her short life and I know that many of those people remember her with great fondness from time to time. And isn’t that a strong testament to a person’s spirit? To be remembered with great fondness is indicative of a life well lived. It’s not so much about the years in your life, but about the life in the years you have. Diane’s 26 years were full and well lived.

Happy Birthday Sister!

The Blessings of our Children

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my youngest son as he prepares to celebrate his 32nd birthday. At a recent gathering I chatted with a young father about his toddler and what he has in store over the next few years. This young man spoke tenderly of his excitement at the creativity and inquisitiveness that he knew his young son was about to embark upon, and his musings took me by the hand and down a path of reflections of my Asa as a young child.

Over his 32 years he has given me an abundance of precious moments, but as a toddler he had me laughing with not only humor but amazement, and crying with joy and wonder. In my walk down that reflective path I recalled the period of time when I was in graduate school and writing papers often. We had an electric typewriter, which three-year-old Asa was infatuated with. In between my paper writing, Asa would want to do his own writing, so I would make a big show of putting a blank paper into the typewriter and let him ‘write’. He would tap tap tap on the keys for several minutes, and then whip the page out enthusiastically while shouting “Read it to me, read it to me!” So, I would look carefully at his page of typographical gibberish and make up a story, pretending to read it as if they were words he had actually typed on the page. He sat spellbound, listening to what he believed he had created himself. Pleased with himself, he would want to write again, and again, and again. Each time, over several days, he fell for my innocent deceptions. And then one day. . .the tables turned. Again, he sat tap tap tapping on the keys, creating a new masterpiece. On this day he excitedly pulled the page from the typewriter asking me to “Read it, read it!” Again, I began to ‘read’ his story as I made up my own silly bit of fiction to entertain him. This time, however, he chubby little face looked so disappointed. I couldn’t imagine why this story, not much varied from so many others I’d made up recently should not please him. When I asked him what was the matter he blubbered, “That’s not what I wrote!” Oh, no, I thought. Now what will I do? “Oh my goodness, I guess Mommy forgot how to read, so you will have to read it to me,” I squealed. “I can’t wait to hear your story.” He hesitated, not sure he could trust me, while I held my breath, hoping he’d fall for this new deception. After a few seconds he took the paper, smiled confidently and began to read his story.

On occasion, Asa the toddler would have a spell of naughtiness – or perhaps I would have a spell of impatience – and I would send him to his room. He would get as far as the stairs and begin to dawdle, watching my every move. I would catch his eye and say, “You had better get going,” in that threatening way that only mothers can do. He would move up a step or two, every so slowly, still watching my every move. “I’m going to count to 3 and you had better be up in your room by the time I get to three,” I would threaten. Then he would take another excruciatingly slow step upward or just turn away as if he couldn’t hear me. That’s when I would begin the count. . .one. . .two. . .
And honestly, it was so comical to watch him that by now I couldn’t really even remember why I’d felt the need for him to go to his room, but a parent couldn’t back down could she? I couldn’t let him think I didn’t mean it, could I? “. . .and a quarter,” I would say, adding in “I’m almost there, you better get moving mister.” Trying to sound stern, like I meant it though at this point I really only wanted to avoid laughing out loud and blowing my whole stern mother act. “Two and a half. . .” And though I’m sure he knew nothing of fractions at his tender age, whenever I’d get to two and three quarters he would race up the stairs into his room.

Between the ages of four and five years Asa had a vivid imagination which included many imaginary friends. On one occasion when we were stopping at McDonalds I prepared to close the truck door behind me when he said, “Wait, wait, my friends aren’t all out yet!” At this point I was use to his references to ‘friends’ that I knew only existed in his mind, so I apologized and waited patiently as he ‘watched’ his friends get out of the truck and chatted with each one amicably. It seemed to be taking quite a bit of time, so finally I asked, “How many friends did you bring with us today?” His matter-of-fact reply was, “26.” Wow, I thought, beginning to wonder how it might go if he insisted on getting Happy Meals for all 26. He must has sensed my concern because he quickly added, “Don’t worry Mom, they already ate.”

These are only a few of the moments that make the years of child rearing the best years of my life. For me there were countless memories of raising boys that make me laugh, and cry, and feel so much pride that I’m sure my heart will burst from my chest. I think of these precious memories often, but especially now, as I wait to hear the news of a new grandchild, likely to be born on the same day his or her dad was born. Though it’s been 32 years since he was born, my heart is no less full of love and excitement at remembering. And this year my heart overflows with love and hope for this new blessing who is sure to bring Asa his own precious moments of parenting that will be with him forever.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays Asa and baby Smedley, and much joy as you embark on this new adventure together!

Remembering Diane

My younger sister, Diane Colby Zaun, passed in 1985 after a short battle with colon cancer. She was 26 years old. Each year, on her birthday I try to write about her. I don’t write so much to remember her – because I do that nearly every day of my life – but more to remind myself that life is sometimes cut short and to remember that is important. This opportunity each year to reflect on her life helps me in many ways.

This year I have been thinking a lot about who she was – what kind of person she was. I have relatively few specific memories of Diane when we were growing up (that is astounding to me. How can one live in the same household with another for 15 years and feel like they have only a few memories of those 15 years?)

She was pigeon toed and Mom used to put her shoes on the wrong feet because a doctor told her that would force the feet to turn outward. I don’t know if it worked. My recall is that Diane was ALWAYS pigeon toed, but maybe that memory is only based on the earliest years – the years when she was most pigeon toed.

I remember that she loved animals and when my parents bought cows and one of them had a calf, Diane exclaimed, as she saw the newborn still in its amniotic sac, “I didn’t know they came in baggies!” She was probably 10 or 11 at the time.

My step-dad called her “DumDum”, but I have no idea why.

I remember playing cards with her and Gramma Colby and Diane always held onto the corners of the card table with both hands, as if it would fly away if she didn’t hang on to it. And she never cared about winning or losing, she was just in it for the fun.

Diane liked to cook and was always making brownies and cookies. She made healthy versions of many of the treats – using carob instead of chocolate, and wheat flour before wheat flour was a thing and gluten was NOT a thing – they were always delicious.

She was a horse person. Crazy for horses, like so many girls are, but I was not. We had any differences and so were not great friends until we moved away from one another. I went away to college, and then she did, then I moved to Florida and when I came back she joined the Peace Corps. Life went in separate directions but eventually we came back together to become friends.

The memories I hold dearest are the emotional ones. I know that Diane was a sweet, innocent person. I know that she cared deeply for all of life and she cherished her relationships with many many people and animals. I know that she was a passionate believer in right and treated everyone equally and with care and concern.

I think about her often because we are still connected in many ways. When I see Hollyberry goods in the grocery store I am reminded of the many many horseback rides Diane took with Holly. And when I see Facebook posts from her very dear friend Kathy I think of the two of them as teenagers, always together and laughing. And every time I see my granddaughter, who is named after Diane, and is also a horse person, I see my sister. They have the same kind and decent nature, the same gentle smile and giving soul, and the same deep caring for all of life. When Colby Diane travels to Nicaragua to work with orphans I see Diane Colby traveling to the Dominican to improve the health of the people there.

The lessons I have learned from Diane and from her passing have been many over the years. I have come to know that we don’t stop learning from a person when they are physically gone. Every time I am reminded of my sister I know that is because I need to be reminded of one who knew how to be kinder, and gentler, and more soft spoken than I have ever been.

And I know, though it has been 31 years since she walked beside me on this earth, that she still walks beside me and she will continue live on in the hearts of many for a very long time.

Diane 1985

Happy Birthday sister!

Shedding a Tear

Today I’m remembering my younger sister, Diane, on her birthday.

She passed in 1985 at the age of 26, at a time when we were just learning what a true blessing sisters are.

I think about her often and miss her sweet nature and goofiness that always made me laugh.


If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden.
~Claudia Adrienne Grandi

My Cup Runneth Over. . .

This has been a full weekend for me, and as I was thinking about how fortunate I am this song popped into my head-

I remember hearing this over and over again as a child. I’m sure my mom must have had the record and perhaps it was a radio favorite. It was 1967 and I was eleven years old. We lived on Church Street and my life was good, which is why I probably remember the song so well. I think the lyrics resonated with me at that time. I was loving life and could feel that sense of overflowing love for everything.

The memory got me thinking about other music from my past and how I associate with it. There are times when I hear a song and relate it to either a specific moment in time or a relative period of time in my life. Music jogs my memory. Today I’ll share a few oldies with you and hope it takes you on a sweet trip down memory lane, as well.

Another love song. At fourteen I wanted to be in love and have someone feel about me like this guy felt about Rosemary.

I relate this song to the end of the Vietnam era – which never affected me in a direct way, but I had a sense that the older students worried about the draft and tried to imagine the horrors of being sent away to fight and kill. I knew I could never do it. I was fourteen, living in northern Vermont – I never thought the war could affect me, but the lyrics meant something to me in a larger way.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend, do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end, there won’t be any trumpets blowin’ come the judgement day, on the bloody morning after one tin soldier rides away.

This is another one played over and over and over again in 1971 making me think about humanity, and history, and injustices in the world. I was fifteen years old and full of righteousness. Hearing this one again reminded me of Cher’s Half Breed:

More about injustice, but as I watch the video today I have to think there was something that didn’t mesh – the words and the image she’s portraying – doesn’t really look like ‘anyone has been against her since the day she was born’. But that was the Sonny and Cher show – one of the many song and dance shows popular in the day. Here’s another of my favorites from Cher:

At the school dances most of the girls would be front and center, dancing in a group, while the boys stood around the perimeter. Who cared? When a slow song came around, the boys would too.

Best slow dance song of the day? Hey Jude:

Being an 8th grader and going to “basement parties” – called that because they were always held in someone’s basement. I guess that’s the only safe place parents could house a dozen or more young teens. This is where you and your friends made those boy/girl connections that usually lasted only a week or two because you mostly communicated through friends rather than directly with one another. The real purpose of ‘going out’ was to have someone to hold hands with or make out with at these parties.

I could go on forever. The 70s – particularly 1970-74, my high school years, had some amazing music. I’ve included a video of some of the top hits of 1974 below. Enjoy, and may your cup runneth over with beautiful memories!