“No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us, and new beauty waiting to be born.” ---Dale E.
We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy, prosperous, and surrounded with love. 2006 has been replete with challenges and new
adventures for us. (But, we’ll try to summarize it all, so, hopefully, we can limit this letter to one or two sides!)
Beginnings: We spent last holiday season in Manzanillo (Santiago Bay), Mexico, with our dear friend Inna. We took a swim in the warm
ocean water of the Costa Alegre the morning after Christmas. It was glorious! New Year’s followed with a celebration at Vista del Lago,
Chapala, including beautiful fireworks watched from the upper balcony of our rental house, dinner, Moet & Chandon champagne, and,
of course, the traditional Spanish and Latin American custom of 12 grapes/12 wishes on the strokes of midnight. We all managed to eat
the grapes and make the wishes within the twelve strokes of midnight. Inna still talks about the bizarre image of all of us stuffing our
mouths with grapes -- a real “Kodak moment” -- sorry no picture. We said “hasta pronto” to our friend Inna as we delivered her to the
airport, and packed up for our move to our new house. At the same time we were moving, Tom’s Mom was hospitalized in Beaumont for a
successful operation to clear a blockage in a leg artery. We were set to close on our house, move out, and move in – all on January
11th. Miraculously it all happened on schedule, in spite of the fact that I had gotten very sick with the flu on that very day. Tom and the
movers moved everything, including me – from the bed in the rental to the bed in our new house (perfect way to get out of doing any
work, huh?) At midnight, I walked out into the laundry room of our new house to find out it had been turned into a sauna --the on-demand
water boiler had failed and was flooding our laundry room with hot scalding water. Tom had to think fast and figure out how to turn off a
sophisticated water pressure system, then the water valve itself. That disaster averted, in the days that followed, we proceeded to figure
out the basics of life in Mexico – phone, electricity, propane, irrigation water, trash days, hiring a gardener and getting to know our
neighbors and our surroundings.
Saying Goodbye: As you would know from reading last year’s letter, we lost my brother Ben and my mother in 2005. We felt blessed to
still have two of our parents left: Tom’s Mom and my Dad. We flew to Austin in mid February when Dad had been hospitalized again with
complications related to his ulcerative colitis. About a week after we arrived, his colon perforated. They operated and he fought bravely
for three weeks. His heart and lungs were strong, but in the end, on March 14th, his liver failed. He took his last breath surrounded by
loving family: my husband Tom and me, my sister Carolyn, Carolyn’s daughters Maria, Kathleen, and Lisa, and two of his great grand-
daughters Jennifer and Sydney. I feel very fortunate that I was able to be there each time to say goodbye to my sweet brother, mother
and father. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. In a period of thirteen months, I had lost my
brother, my mother and my father, and the world had changed forever. My wonderful loving husband was there by my side, walking with
me through every step I had to take in this process. He had done a lot for my parents, and I am so very grateful. He was and is my
strength. I cannot express my gratitude enough to my sister Carolyn and all her family for all they did in the year that Mom and Dad were
in Austin. Carolyn and Dotson generously offered stays in their home to us, (in Feb.-March for a full month!) while Dad was sick. We also
want to thank all those who were so kind to us during that time, those who expressed their sincere condolences. This has meant more
than you could ever know. We left March 18th to go home, check on the house, pay some bills and to prepare for Dad’s memorial which
was on April 22nd. On April 14th,we left Lake Chapala again to drive to Austin to finish the memorial plans with Carolyn. Everything went
off as planned on April 22nd. It was attended by friends and Carolyn’s family from Austin, devoted caregivers that had come to know Dad
during his time in Austin, Walske cousins who came all the way from the Wisconsin area, our friend Inna who came from Phoenix, and
Tom and me. The service was led by Richard Lee, niece Kathleen’s father-in-law, and included a summary of Dad’s war history by Tom
(including a letter from Sen. John McCain about Dad), my speech, a call for attendees to speak, and a very impressive full military honors
ceremony in which the flag was presented to Carolyn’s son, Joe, followed by a 21- gun salute. The service was followed by a brunch at
Carolyn and Dotson’s house. It was a beautiful, tender day, full of love and friends and family, reminiscences and memories, laughter and
tears. Carolyn and I had the opportunity to spend time to just talk and reconnect with some of our Walske cousins. It was a very special
time. Ben and Mom and Dad would have approved. Life is so very short. We also said goodbye to a local friend here in the Chapala
area. Renowned international artist Georg Rauch passed away in November. We will miss his smart wit, the impish twinkle in his eye,
and the artistic genius that he brought to this area and to the world. Just before he passed away, he and wife Phyllis had published his
book, The Jew with the Iron Cross. It’s a great autobiographical read, and is also a wonderful story about a mother –son relationship
intermixed with war and survival experiences during World War II. It’s available through Amazon.com.
Travel: Our trips this year included travel in Mexico and the U.S. We went to Manzanillo. We had a lot of trips to Texas and Arizona. We
returned to Texas in June when Tom’s Mom was hospitalized again. (She’s now doing much better. We just saw her during our November-
December trip, and we all walked out together to see Tom’s brother Ernie’s brand new deluxe horse barn.) We were also able to see
Tom’s daughter Heather in San Antonio to celebrate her birthday (26 years). (She is now working at a facility/school for adult mentally
challenged.) We had gone up to Phoenix at the start of June for a doctor’s appointment, a short visit to see friends and Tom’s daughter
Kate to celebrate her birthday (20 yrs.) (She is still working in Human Resources for an insurance company, in a section of the company
which responds to email questions about payroll.) After we returned to the Chapala area in July, we were happy to just stay around home
for a while. We drove the “Great Circle Route” (Chapala to Texas to Arizona to Chapala) for the first time after Thanksgiving, through half
of December. We came up to attend the wedding of Inna’s daughter Vera. We combined the wedding trip and managed to get in some
visits on our “Great Circle Route Trip”. We delivered presents, saw family and friends, celebrated granddaughter Kayla’s birthday (3 yrs.)
and then, on December 9th, we attended Vera and Michael’s wedding, all in about three week’s time. On the way down from Phoenix we
were able to stop by to visit our family friend, my Mom’s good friend of many years, Shirley Dosh. I was so happy to see her and to
introduce Tom and Shirley to each other. She was her beautiful, animated self. We had a great visit.
Creativity: Tom and I had as one of our retirement goals this year, to pursue our creative sides. We have both been writing books. I
have completed a book of fables and am presently creating the illustrations for the stories. (We’ll see if I can really do it – Tom has
convinced me that I can!) Tom is working hard on a very special project: before my Dad died, I had promised Dad that I would be the
family historian, but Tom also made a very special promise to him -- that he would write his World War II story. Dad was in 8 campaigns in
the Pacific and received a Bronze Star for valor. Tom has been busy researching, interviewing and writing, and plans a completion date
for the first draft of his book in spring of 2007. One of my creativity goals this year has been to develop our “tomandkathleen” website.
It’s just in the infant stages, so if you visit it, remember, it’s still under construction. The address is: www.tomandkathleen.com
Culture & Knowledge: We’ve gone to the Guadalajara symphony this year (one of our goals). The selections for the concert were in
celebration of Spain, featuring the Spanish pianist, Joaquin Achúcarro (whom we met, along with the conductor!) and we even attended
the Indian Ratha Yatra festival of giant chariots, upon invitation of our friend Georgina. We helped to push the carriages/floats down the
streets of central Guadalajara (believed to be quite auspicious). This is a Hindu celebration where devotees hold colorful parades in
many cities that usually culminate in a festival of India in a city park. The festival includes entertainment, free vegetarian food booths (I
believe they fed 15,000 people in Guadalajara this year!), and a variety of exhibits. Ratha-yatra signifies the Lord's love for His devotees.
He personally comes to visit his devotees and the public who welcome him in the streets. We’ve also attended arts festivals of native
artists. Tom and I have been on a sharp learning curve. I’ve been learning how to cook vegetarian in Mexico, locating sources for
healthy, organic food. (I became a strict vegetarian in 1977, but I was not a vegetarian in ’69 and ’70 when I lived in Guadalajara and
Mexico City.) When I don’t cook, we have our favorite restaurant, Secret Garden, in Ajijic. Tom has been learning Spanish and we both
have been learning how to survive and thrive together in a new culture. (Tom is adjusting very well to a new language and different
culture, and, as usual, everyone loves him!)
Relatives and Friends, New and Old, Silver and Gold: We’ve been very fortunate to make so many new friends this year, and to still have
all the loyal, steadfast friends from before. True friendship is priceless, and we feel honored and blessed. To all those who live just
around the corner, or in another country, please know that for us, you all live in the same place -- our hearts.
How many seasons pass before one feels at home in a new place? One season? One year of seasons? I’m not sure, but one thing I do
know: Mexico feels like home to both of us now. We returned home from our last US trip grateful to those who welcomed us so warmly
into their homes, happy with our treasures that we had bought as well as delighted with the generous presents we had received from
friends and family, but also exhausted from the trip and with a great longing for home. We drove that final stretch between Mazatlan and
Chapala, anxious to return home and sleep in our own little bed. When our maid Monica came to clean she told us how we were missed,
and how the house had felt empty and lonely while we were gone. When we arrived, we found the yard, the grass, the trees, the flowers,
the herbs, everything thriving, well cared for by our gardener José. Friends and neighbors greeted us, happy that we had returned
home safe and sound. …Home…. Somewhere this year in all the flurry of moving from the rental to our new house, somewhere in all the
new friends we’ve made this year, the family and longtime friends who have been so good to us, somewhere in all the cultural
celebrations and rights of passage, as well as the passage of the seasons, our house in Mexico has truly become home to us. It’s much
more than the presence of our possessions, more than just sleeping in our own bed, more than the familiar morning sounds of donkeys
braying and the roosters crowing in the village below, more than the palate of bright yellows, oranges, pinks and purples that the
morning sun sweeps across the sky and reflects on the lake. Actually, it’s not even something located exactly here. It’s about all the
richness you bring into our lives, that fills our hearts as we make our new home here in Mexico.
“We need not power or splendor, Wide hall or lofty dome; The good, the true, the tender, These form the wealth of home.” -- Sarah J.
So, dear family and friends, we hope that 2007 finds you well, loved, happy, prosperous and enjoying life to the fullest.
Kathleen and Tom Gallier
|I wish you health.
I wish you wealth
That passes not with time.
I wish you long years.
May your heart be as patient as the earth
Your love as warm as the harvest gold.
May your days be full, as the city is full
Your nights as joyful as dancers.
May your arms be as welcoming as home.
May your faith be as enduring as God’s love
Your spirit as valiant as your heritage.
May your hand be as sure as a friend
Your dreams as hopeful as a child.
May your soul be as brave as your people
And may you be blessed.
|Saludos de México y Los Mejores Deseos Para 2007
Greetings from Mexico and Best Wishes for 2007