Friday, May 25, 2012


I just recently passed the 10th anniversary of my father's death. He died on May 19, 2002 and was buried May 23. In many ways it doesn't seem like that much time could have passed, but it has.

I still miss Daddy, especially when certain milestones are reached. Certain activities can trigger memories or make me think of how he would have felt if he were here. Eler Beth spent four days at Mom's this past week, and the night we dropped her off there two of my sisters and I had a little impromptu song session. It was so much fun, something we haven't done in a long time, and something we used to do a lot. At one point, after we'd done a song in which we did a pretty good tight harmony, my mother turned to me and said, "Jeff would have loved this!" And I said, "Yes, and he'd be getting out his tape recorder and saying, 'Do that one one more time!'"

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write to commemorate this anniversary, or if I wanted to write anything at all, and then it hit me today: I wrote something about my Dad back in 2005, the year I started this blog (journal, as it was known then, on AOL), and I'd like to share it again with anyone who'd care to read it. It's on my Dusty Pages Archives blog, but I'll just copy it here to make it simple. It was written as an essay, a Weekend Assignment that I think John Scalzi, AOL Journals Editor at the time, used to give us on AOL. Here it is, from:

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Letting Go of Prejudices

Weekend Assignment #64: Tell about a moment with your dad that serves as an example of one of his best qualities.

I have been wrestling with this assignment. I knew what I wanted to write, but not how to go about doing it. Today I know....

I am white and my husband is black. When I met, became friends with, fell in love with and knew I would marry my future husband I knew that my father would have a hard time with it. I had never dated anyone of another race, never even been interested in anyone of another race, although I had had friends of color. When I met Thomas what attracted me to him was him, and it had nothing to do with color or features. I knew in my heart -- no, in my soul -- that if my dad gave Thomas a chance he would see what I saw. And I knew them both well enough to know that they had so much in common that they would become friends. But how to convince my Dad of that? I knew I couldn't. He would have to find that out for himself.

The moment I would describe in answer to the above question was a Sunday night, several months before my wedding, when I sat on the floor at my father's feet and he and I talked together about me, about Thomas, about my beliefs and my father's beliefs, about love and friendship and so many other things.

I told my dad that when he decided to give Thomas a chance he would have a son-in-law who would show him the respect in word and in action that my father deserved to have from him. He would have a friend with whom he could fish and hunt and talk about things that had a place in my father's heart and about which his other sons-in-law could not converse with him. I knew this. In return my father told me about how he was raised, the culture and environment that had taught him that it was wrong and immoral to marry outside of your race. He told me about how his mother had been raised to be scared of black people and why. And he told me that if he was left alone to come to terms with it on his own that in his own time he would probably come to feel the way I predicted he would. But he didn't want anyone to push him.

I watched my father progress from listening to other people's good opinions about Thomas..., to deciding to give him a chance..., to becoming best friends with him! They talked and laughed together. My husband listened respectfully while my dad gave him advice on something or showed him how to do something (usually something Thomas already knew, but he listened anyway). They went fishing together, shared hunting stories, worked on family vehicles, did home repairs. Thomas listened to stories about being in the Navy during World War II, about growing up in Kentucky during the Great Depression. I listened with pride as my father called Thomas his "other son", his "favorite son-in-law", his "friend". When our son was born two years after we were married, the 10th of my parents' grandchildren, I saw my father with the grandson of his old age, and saw how much they loved one another. When our daughter was born six years later I saw the granddaughter of his heart. I heard with my own ears my father say to my husband, "I love you, Thomas. You're like a son to me." And he thanked me and my husband for giving him those two grandchildren. And two weeks before he died, when he knew the end was near but could still somewhat enjoy the time he had left, he took Thomas into his confidence and told him things that he probably wouldn't have been comfortable telling me, my mother or my sisters or brother. Thomas has said that my father was more of a father to him than his own father, and that he loved him more.

The moment that I shared with my dad that described one of his best qualities happened on that Sunday night in 1986. It was the moment he told me to give him time, that he'd come around. It was a moment that stretched throughout my marriage until his death in 2002 at the age of 80. I don't know if the quality has a name. Perhaps you would call it depth of character. His was deeper than even he knew. He had the depth of character to realize that perhaps the way he'd been taught and raised wasn't the way he really felt about things; the depth of character to get to know a man on the inside, to know that secret person of the heart. And in return for displaying that depth of character he gained a best friend in Thomas and two adoring, loving, smart grandchildren that helped to fill his last years on Earth with happiness and completeness.

My father has been gone for three years now, {at time of writing} but he is still with us. My husband and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary tomorrow, June 20. You can bet that my father will be in our thoughts as we wish each other a happy anniversary.

Me with my Dad, Jeff Dowell, around 1972.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Truth From Tasting

Martha at Never Seconds has posted that some people from their local Council and a reporter from the local paper came to her school today. They looked things over at lunch and did an interview with her and her father.

If you have iTunes or a BBC iPlayer, you can hear her interview
. Her interview starts at about 26 seconds. She sounds very smart and sweet. The interviewer does a good job, and gives equal time to the local Council member.

She also shared a picture of a lunch that a student in Spain sent her. I really like this girl's writing. I see journalism in her future.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Never Seconds

I haven't done this for a long time -- given a shout-out to a new blogger. I got the link to this blog from The Laughing Housewife. This is Martha, a.k.a. Veg, blogging about her school lunches on her blog, NeverSeconds. Veg lives in Scotland and got permission from her father and her school to take pictures of and blog about her school lunches.

I am shocked at how small the portions are for this fifth grader. She only started blogging in April and has only done a handful of posts so far, but I think she'll continue. She has had over 325,000 visits to her blog since she started and has been interviewed on the radio. has also featured her, and apparently newspapers and news web sites all over the world have heard of her blog and written about it. One of her goals was to hear from Jamie Oliver, and she did. He tweeted her Dad, calling the blog "shocking but inspirational." She commented on one of her posts that at least now her dad understands why she's so hungry when she gets home.

Check out her blog and be sure to leave her a comment. I have been reading through the other comments on her posts, five or six at a time, just skimming down and grabbing one here or there, and some of the comments are as interesting as her blog. She has gotten comments from many different countries, and a lot of the commenters share their own school lunch stories, or those of their children.

Please check out her blog and then read the article on


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Three Elers Of My Family and Other Family News

First of all, I should mention that I lost an aunt last month. She was married to my father's brother, Burton, and she was also my mother's first cousin. She was 89 when she passed away. She had battled Parkinson's disease for many years, but only in the past few had she been unable to live on her own. Recently she developed some heart problems, and that is what finally took her.

Here she is as a youn
g woman with her husband, my Uncle Burton.

She was probably in her 70s in the picture above.

Now my Mom and m
y Aunt Rita (widow of my father's brother Coleman) are the last two Dowell Widows still living; I think I'd rather think of them as the last two Dowell Brides still living. Here is Aunt Rita with Uncle Coleman as a young couple.

My mother, Eler, (left) and her only sister Elnora (known as Noni) when they were young knock-outs. (Aunt Noni was also married to one of my father's brothers, James, and she died back in the mid nineties.)

My maternal grand-mother, Iva Myrtle Roberts, nee Hook. I'm not sure when this was taken. She died in 1964, so I never knew her. She is holding a bouquet of roses from her own big rose bush.

My paternal grand-mother, Lucy Myrtle Dowell, nee Williams. I was four years old when she d
ied and I have some special memories of her. I'm not sure how old she was when this was taken.

And here are the three Elers: In the first picture is my great-grandmother Eler Elijah Hook, the lady sitting (my maternal grandmother is the little girl standing in the center). The second picture is my mother, Eler Frances Roberts Dowell; she and my father are holding their first five great-grandchildren, 1996. (My mother was named after both of her grandmothers, just as Eler Beth is named after both of hers. But I don't have a picture of my great-grandmother Frances "Frankie".)
third picture is, of course, me and my own little Eler Elizabeth, also from 1996.

And now here's my Eler Beth, grown into a pretty young lady.