The Rollercoaster’s Lesson

Ups and downs. Tension and release. We rise, we fall…only to rise again.

How do we process the curve balls? When it was time to say “goodbye” to Wyatt Walter on Sunday, he burst into tears. What do I say when the blue eyes of one of my favorite things on this planet fill with tears that are my doing? We won’t see each other for one year, I can’t change it. What do I do to make it better? He wears a cross that says “WYATT LALA,” but I know it’s not enough for him. He needs hugs. (So do I.)


How do we process the high-as-a-kite moments? I received keys today. They unlock a future – a life – a chance for a career, love, happiness. How do I take it in stride when there are a million Nadia Comāneci-butterflies doing somersaults in my stomach? I’m feeling excited about my future in a way that feels almost selfish. So many of my friends and family members are struggling and I am feeling only excited about what comes next. Shall I instead say “cautiously optimistic”?

That’s step two for me. How do I ride the rollercoaster, this time, without feeling broadsided by the downs? In this current apartment and this current life (both of which I will be shedding tomorrow), I have learned how to deal with despair. It was the hardest lesson.

I lost both of my “God”fathers here. I lost Granddaddy. I lost L and fled to Luzern for 2 weeks. I lost him again. I lost him a third time. I lost Hope. I lost it again. I lost it again (7 times, in total). I met the Csendes family. I said goodbye to them. I welcomed them. I said goodbye to them again. Ups and downs. Over and over again.

I learned a hard, but valuable, lesson – my Faith is stronger than my Hope. Faith is in the air. If I am breathing? (and, according to the paramedics, I wasn’t at one point in this apartment)…Faith is refilling me with what I need to take another breath, another step, another journey.

There will be a day when the blue-eyed, 8-year-old is visiting his Aunt LaLa (technically, he calls me “Wala” because it combines both of our names) in Switzerland. There will be a day when what seems “full of wonder” is a bit clouded by the harsh and not-so-picturesque reality of law school. I’ll find a way to take the Rollercoaster’s exciting journey the way this guy does…That’sLifebythePro

The Importance of Fathers

The steadfast love and care of one’s parents throughout life is a luxurious consolation.

I have learned from many people over the years to add the disclaimer “luxurious” because I have known many who were not fortunate enough to see one parent don salt and pepper strands of hair.

Two such people are very near and dear to my heart: my grandfathers.

Before both men entered adolescence, they found themselves in households without their fathers (lost to illness). I never heard either of them speak of their fathers. Never heard one of the mundane references I so casually throw around to my nephews about “my father.” I saw one picture of Granddaddy’s father and I’ve never seen a photo of Pop’s father. I remember, as a child, I thought childishly (Pop would tell me to correct that to “unknowingly”) that both grandfathers were probably too sad to talk about their fathers.

As an adult, I see things differently. I think both men were not only sad, but profoundly so. The only way to eradicate that sadness was to be fathers. To be strong, consistent fathers.

In 1919 and 1921, respectively, Rowe Jackson Ayres and Horace “Hap” Vaughan were born into truly exceptional circumstances and times. By no means, were the Vaughans of Virginia nor the Ayres’ of Hutchins so-called “elite,” and both households struggled through the Great Depression and the looming fear and ultimate reality of WWII without their paternal leader. More lovers than fighters, it has always been difficult for me to imagine the terror they felt when the news of Pearl Harbor reached them. I would imagine, it would be a nice consolation to discuss that with one’s father. They did not have the luxury.

The years between 1929 and 1945/or so without a father, it’s really something. Without the guidance of a father to say, “Son, glad you’re back from the War in one piece, I’ll call Jimmy to help get you a job” or “Son, I’m proud of you for being at Pearl Harbor” or “Son, stop drinking so much Coca Cola, you’re getting fat and you’ll shame the family.” (That was an inside joke with my Musical Grandfather.) They had brothers and strong mothers (they had to be strong), uncles, friends that were like family. All that. But, no “father”s.

Oddly enough, one would think this might lead to a lifetime of alcoholism or inconsistent career paths or failed marriages or something truly debaucherous. All of which, they could happily blame on their “dead fathers” and “horrible lot in life.”

Nope. Both men spent their lives in constant, life-long devotion to their children, wives, and the companies they served. Even at their ends, both men did not want to die because they did not want to leave their children.

They were also steadfast servants to their country. The Greatest Generation did not need to talk about being great, they just were.

I see, however, the effect their fatherless childhoods and adulthoods had on them. Ultimately, it produced two of the finest fathers this world has ever known. A small part of me has to ask – was part of that the lack of a father’s presence? The knowledge of how profound and pivotal that lack was? Both Pop and Granddaddy knew, “I will be there every step of the way for my son/daughters” as a result?

Because they were.

Even my childhood felt like a childhood with a father and 2 bonus fathers because they were there for me, the granddaughter, every step of the way.

I think this “hands on” fathering had a serious effect on my brother and I hope that continues through to the Ayres Little Men. If it had to begin from little RJ and little Hap losing their own fathers, well, I would prefer it had not been so. I wish I could change that for them. But, then again, there is literally not one thing I would have changed about my grandfathers.

Granddaddy WWIIHorace Vaughan during WWII

PopRowe Jackson Ayres, Sr.

My mother has just told me a rather interesting story (via Skype) about my maternal grandfather and my father. Apparently, one day at our family home at 21 Robledo Dr., the kitchen sink was clogged. Granddaddy came over (my father was not the engineer that the grandfathers were) to fix it. Instead of merely fixing it, Granddaddy showed my father how to fix it. For me? Perfect example of how Granddaddy was already adept at being a father figure. I love this story.

Settling – it’s what’s for dinner

There was this day late in August of 2013.

I was 12 hours out of the hospital with a serious back and neck injury. I had an important appointment with the 80th lawyer. (Who probably asked to see me because she needed extra spending money. For sure, it wasn’t because she had anything concrete to offer in the way of pertinent legal advice.) And, the man I loved made a big offer (PETAL 1):

“I’m going to pick you up and take you to the appointment.”



Twenty minutes after I needed to be picked up (a brace around my back and a medicinal brace around my neck), I heard the sound of a Vespa (PETAL 2). I remember thinking, “no way” and reality bitch-slapping me, “yes, way” when a little blue speed demon came around the corner.

Twenty minutes after having a helmet shoved on my head to “protect me” (PETAL 3), I was sitting in the lawyer’s office talking about her brilliant ideas – I either betray the man I love or publicly humiliate myself (PETAL 4). I knew I would chose the later, but…really? I think I popped a pain pill.

Forty-five minutes after that disaster, I was crying too hard to have the man I loved see me. His SMSs “I need to get to my meeting, are you done yet?” etc. went unanswered until I got myself under control. Bearing in mind: 12 hours out of the hospital, intense physical pain, exhausted, etc.

There was no helpful suggestion from the lawyer. No help from the man I loved. No help from God. No one heard me. I walked out of the door, having sent an SMS “I’m ready now” and saw something on the building in front of me:

  Post Tenebras, Lux.

But, there was no light after that darkness. That darkness was followed by more darkness.

I think it goes to a simple point and that’s in this poem I’m attaching below called “Just a Petal.” We are born with this tiny seed. It’s given to us by “whatever” made us. It’s the pure version of us, you know? The one that doesn’t know how to spell, smell, or identify what a “gun” is.

We forget about this. Time goes on and we pile a lot of stuff on that core (it’s “Kern” in German) part of us.

I think it’s important NOT to forget and I think it’s important to place a finger on that “Kern” and identify it. Remember who you are.

Otherwise, riding a Vespa with a back & neck injury or paying 500CHF to be told nothing by a person who doesn’t care about your future might seem “good enough.” When, those things are actually…just petals.

Just a Petal

Once upon a time feels a long way away.

Did it happen for real, did I actually say?

“Granddaddy, I dream of a day when I’ll settle

for a man carrying, not a rose, just a petal.

 He’ll be ‘not that bad,’ he might ‘like’ me a lot

The petal’s not much, but it’s all that he’s got.

He doesn’t hit me or cheat, not so much anyway.”

Once upon a time? Feels a long way away.

“No,” Granddaddy’d scold, “it’s not right what you say.

There’s much more you deserve, settling’s not the way.

Just hear it from my side, and see what I see.

‘Cause here’s what I see, what your future should be.

 For you, I dream of a man who will be a real man.

Needn’t head for the hills, running fast as he can

if trouble draws near, hanging above like a cloud.

By your side, he will be, and he’ll always be proud-

 he is yours, you are his, there is no end in sight.

There’s someone to hold, if you’re scared late at night.

My dream is better than yours is, I see it so clear.

Where did your dreams all go wrong? How’d you find yourself here?”

True, when did I start to settle…for only a petal?

Who says the minimum’s okay? Fidelity gets a medal?

We might see each other if he manages ‘some time?’

Do I feel butterflies, as I hover over my bottom line?

 Is this my Prince Charming? Someone moving like a fish

quickly in and out of my life, no intention to commit?

“I don’t remember what it feels like,” I say, though he knows,

“to be special enough to deserve the whole rose.”

 “Go back to your dreams, Granddotta – Remember who you are.

You deserve more than a petal –You’re your Granddaddy’s star.”

Laura Anne Ayres, 2014