Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, August 10, 2012


C.S. Lewis wrote: "grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape."

On the road near Ashburton, Dartmoor in Devon, England, 1982.
As I wrote about in my last post, since my dad's sudden passing away from cancer on July 1st, our family has slowly begun to find our way through the winding valley of grief together.

We take the bends in the road one at a time. This new landscape of separation, dotted with familiar objects that would bring a flood of happy memories along with pangs of loneliness, often feels disorienting:  seeing photos everywhere of Dad vibrant and alive; his handwritten "to do" list on his desk; his customary place next to my mom now empty on the bench where they sat together on the back deck; and his glasses that he'd worn so recently, lying still and unused on the bedside table.

After dad's funeral, as my siblings left one by one, I stayed with my mom, and brother in Indiana for several weeks. We began to allow ourselves to accept this new reality of daily life void of Dad's physical presence, while appreciating the new relationship and eternal presence our family was building with him spiritually.

Separately, though together, Mom and I endured many moments that could have been numbingly empty; but thankfully we experienced the mutual comfort that comes from the tender and honest companionship of another who has been left behind, as well as the blessed grace that is God's gift.

One afternoon, in search of something to read, I pulled out a vaguely familiar volume, bookended with others between a couple of heavy gilded lions on a table that I'd walked past several times a day. The spine bore the title, The Good Natured Bear.

I opened the cover to experience a little jolt of recognition, accompanied by the (lately) ever present feeling of bright sadness, as I read my own handwriting:

To my sweet Daddy Bear -- a present from our Ashburton bookstore.  
Love, Wendy Bear. Christmas '82 

My mom took this photo of me in Dartmoor,
while we were on a family trip to England
when I was 18 years old.
Tears began to flow as I recalled the day I had bought the book.  It was while we were on a family vacation in England during the summer of 1982.  For part of our visit, we stayed in a 17th Century house in the quaint town of Ashburton, which is located on the southern slopes of Dartmoor in the South Devon countryside.

This day, it was raining.  Ever the romantic, Dad, after making us kids some popcorn, had invited Mom to go walking and exploring in the rain. They left, turning down the narrow alleyway which led out to the shops, and around a corner, where they stumbled upon a cozy used bookshop.  They quickly came back and got us kids, and we all spent a fun afternoon browsing through the antique treasures on the bookshelves.

My gift to Dad from the bookstore in Ashburton

The title of the book I bought that day for my dad, and my inscription on the inside cover had a special significance.  For one thing, Dad was truly a "Good Natured Bear".  He was a big man - tall (6'4") - and his very deep voice was full of jovial humor, with a balance of authority and kindness.

Siblings with Dad in the cute town of Ashburton: Me, Ginger, Greg, Terri
and Heidi (our little brother Peter Jon, suffering a bout of chicken pox,
 had to stay hone in California - I think he got a new bicycle out of the deal!)
Not only that, we were "The Bears"!  Dad had adopted the affectionate "Bear Family" moniker after hearing the jazzy Three Bears song, composed by Bobby Troup in the 1950's after the well known children's story. [trivia note: Troup, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon like my father, also wrote Get Your Kicks on Route 66, another of Dad's favorite jazz tunes].

The Three Bears song was made popular by the Page Cavanaugh Trio, Ray Ellington Quartet, and Leon McAuliffe.

With both our parents being wonderful musicians, my brothers and sisters and I were blessed to grow up with lots of music in our home.  Our family was often requested to sing our own fun version (a musical amalgamtion of the two Youtube videos I've embedded) of The Three Bears, for friends.

Mom, a classically trained pianist, wouldn't miss a beat as she'd pound out the tune and sing the "Mama Bear" part, while Dad - in his booming bass voice - was the "Daddy Bear", and we kids were collectively "the little girl with blond hair" (aka Goldilocks) and the "Little Wee Bear".

I love this picture of my dad in the early '70's with his guitar!
Today marks 40 Days since my dad's passing. I'm dedicating this post to my precious Mom, 5 siblings, "GeeGee's" 20 grandchildren, and his soon-to-be-born first great grandson.  We'll never forget our wonderful Daddy Bear!  Memory Eternal!

"Bye, bye, bye," said the Daddy Bear
"Goodbye, bye, bye," said the Mama Bear
"Hey Babba Ree Bear," said the Little Wee Bear...
So ends the story of the Three Little Bears!

Four of us six siblings - Ginger, Greg, Heidi and me - with our
Dad and Mom, being silly in Devon, England, 1982.
[photo taken by my sister, Terri]


  1. Such beautiful words, sweet Wendy-

  2. Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing this intimate part of your family's life with us. Kevin & Colleen