Archive for category life is good
Recently, while visiting a friend in the local hospital, I came upon a young couple with a tiny newborn baby in the hallway, having just seen their pediatrician. The baby was unhappy. I knew because I could hear him wailing from the far end of the hallway. As I approached, I could see the tears, the red cheeks, the scrunched face of the baby, and flashed back to when my own kids were newborns. Then I saw the tears, the red cheeks, the scrunched face of the newborn’s mother. She appeared to be frustrated out of her mind, and I could hear her say between sobs, “Just please stop crying! I just wish he would stop crying!”
A woman, whom I supposed to be the mother of the new mother, was rubbing her back, comforting her by saying, “honey, he’s fine- crying is what babies do. He’s hungry, or wet, but he’s fine. He’s just doing the only thing he knows to do, and that’s to cry.”
As I continued past the young family on my way to the 11th floor elevator, I could only think about those days when my own children were newborns, crying, wailing, making me feel like the worst parent on the planet. But at this point in my life, when several my friends my age are grandparents, those memories bring mixed emotions. We are too old to have more children of our own. And, in the not too distant future, my own kids will begin to have kids of their own, and I will become the understanding grandparent who reminds my kids that “crying is what babies do.” And I am reminded of those close to me who do not have children of their own.
While the repetitive cries of a newborn baby can be an irritating and exhausting sound, those cries can also bring a beautiful reassurance. The reassurance that the cycle of life continues; the hope of a son or daughter to continue the legacy you have established; or maybe, just the joy that comes when the scrunchy-faced cries at long last fade into smiles in silent, blissful sleep.
So, let ’em cry. When they grow up and don’t need you anymore, you’ll cherish the times they did.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I started out on the couch in our partially renovated living room. I had just poured myself a small nightcap and grabbed a couple of leftover Pecan Sandies. The name fits, by the way, when they’ve been in the cabinet since the first Bush was president. Anyway, I had just settled with my milk and cookies and turned on OETA when I dozed off. I woke later, around 3:30 ish, when I heard the dog barking his head off because he could smell the milk that now spilled down my shirt and my leg to the freshly cleaned carpet below. I kindly and gently shouted at him to shut up and started after a wet towel, but thought better of it, and let Bud the dog out of his kennel so he could clean it up himself. He wouldn’t touch the Sandie.
When Bud had his fill of the milk-flavored carpet, he crawled contentedly back in his kennel for the rest of the night. I assume the constant licking of his teeth and dragging his tongue on the floor meant he was contented. Anyway, I crawled down the hall to the bed, and was just about to plop in when I remembered my wet clothes. So, in the dark of night, I silently opened the drawer and grabbed another set of clothes, which consisted of a pair of “shorts”, another pair of shorts, and a clean white T. I had my back to the door as I changed clothes, and turned to find that my door was open into the hallway. The same hallway where my daughter’s door was also open. I was glad that I could hear the sweet sound of her sleeping deeply rather than the shrieks of a terrified 12-year-old.
I climbed into my bed, and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. Now when I sleep, I am a light sleeper. I notice every little sound, every creak, every change in my surroundings; I awaken easily and am deeply disturbed it happens. So I was surprised to find that I had walked outside to a barn in Tennessee where I deer hunted when I was a kid. I was there with a group of strangers, and we were building a fire in which to dry our wet clothes. Suddenly, from the sky above us, airplanes began falling from the sky. Planes of all sizes- from tiny, mosquito-sized planes to huge airships that carry thousands of passengers. They all used some kind of super landing gear, because none crashed. They just kind of bounced up and down until they were able to open their doors and let their shaken passengers slide down the emergency chutes. Reminded me of an Oldsmobile that my cousin in California used to drive and bounce around downtown until the Po-Pos ran him off.
I began to run at a rapid pace, fleeing the barn and the descending planes. Off in the distance, I could hear Bud barking, as if he were saying, “Come on, Daddy, run! I gotta go! I gotta go! I gotta go!” I jumped over a fallen log and landed mid-stride right square on the edge of my bed, balanced between safety and falling a terrifying two feet to the floor. As gracefully as a turtle in molasses, I turned to keep from falling, hoping that if anyone saw me, they would think I meant to do that.
Breathing hard and wiping the sleep from my eyes, I turned to see my sweet wife putting on her makeup. She was using a dry, #2 brush, like those used to cut in trim work around crown molding in fancy houses. Her paint came from a very expensive and very tiny tube. When she saw that I was up, she smiled and asked, “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” I lied. “Did you?”
“I did until about 3:30, when I dreamed about bald, pasty white polar bear wearing shorts. Then I heard Bud barking so I got up and let him go outside. When he had finished, and after I put him up, I couldn’t go back to sleep. Now, evidently, Bud has had an accident while I wasn’t looking because the carpet in front of the couch is wet. It took me 20 minutes to clean that up.”
Grinning sheepishly, I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and reminded her that eating before she goes to sleep can lead to some unwanted results…
*This story is only partially true; some of this really happened, and the rest is, well, partially not true. I’m not telling which…..
I’m not really sure who ‘they’ are, but from where I sit, they are right. Today, August 9, 2011, Jane and I celebrate 25 years of marriage! In so many ways, it seems just just a short time ago when we stood at the altar at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, KY, to exchange our vows, for two lives to become one. At the same time, our lives have been so active, so full of joy, so difficult, so fun, so challenging, that it seems hard to believe that we have crammed so much living into 25 short years.
Yet, when I look at this picture made on our wedding day, time seems to stand still. Jane Benson, you still take my breath away. I am so blessed, as a matter of fact, that I believe some thank-you’s are in order:
To God– Thank You! Thank You! THANK YOU!
To George and Frances Benson, thank you for teaching Jane about Jesus and helping her grow in the love and admonition of the Lord. You two made a beautiful little girl!
To Jane– while I would make some decisions differently (Hare Jordan, the Thunderbird, and the Perazzi shotgun come to mind), the decision to spend my life with you is a decision I’d make 1000 times over.
Finally, to all the other guys who wanted to go out with Jane and try and win her heart, just let me say…
you lose…I Win!
I love you, Jane. Happy Anniversary!
In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I though I’d embellish yet another rendition of hilarity that made up the life that my Dad led with his beautiful wife, my step-mom, Mrs. Jean.
Daddy grew up on a farm in West Tennessee. He dropped out of school to work on the farm- at least that’s what he told me. I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that he really disliked school. Really. Disliked. School. Anyway, even into his final years, Daddy felt it necessary to raise a garden. Farming and gardening was in his blood. He loved working the soil, watching the amazing transformation of seeds sewn in naked, brown, rich earth to hilly, grassy patch, to finally, a grassy patch that had some beans growing in it. Well- beans, tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelon and cantaloupes… you get the idea. Rows and rows of wholesome fruits and vegetables, grown by hand; soil worked in the early morning before the sun was its hottest; rows watered and fertilized to offer the greatest harvest possible. And by the time you counted the seed and fertilizer and water costs, the time involved, you could actually purchase the food at the market or grocery store for less. But, nooooo, Daddy wanted a garden. It was in his blood, you know.
Toward the end of one corn-growing season, Daddy noticed that the raccoons or ‘possoms or some other nocturnal animal was getting in his corn. He would find cobs, gnawed bare, in piles on the ground, or sometimes even still on the stalk, half-eaten and still dripping with corn juice (Yes, there is juice in corn). Daddy was convinced the animals were coming across the highway to his garden, doing the damage, then escaping back across to the fields and woods beyond.
Having had enough of losing corn to the local wildlife, Daddy devised a sure-fire plan to scare off the marauders, and save the corn crop he could have purchased for less at Kroger. Daddy’s plan was brilliant and simple: in the evening, he would put a two-way radio inside an ice cream bucket, and leave it in the garden next to the corn rows, power turned on. During the evening and night, following each hourly trip to the, um, library, Daddy would transmit from the radio’s twin some kind of banshee scream followed by something like, “You’d better get out of my corn, you dadgum, good-for-nothing, theivin’ peckerwoods, or I’m gonna come down there and gitcha!” This would happen several times a night, because, uh, Daddy read a lot. There was one tiny flaw in the plan-though I’m sure that through eons of evolution, by now all the animals in the forest have learned to understand english, would obey the threat, and maybe apologize on the way out. The flaw was that the ‘coons had been stealing from that garden for a long time, and would not be deterred by an old man’s voice coming from an empty ice cream bucket, no matter what the voice said.
Confident and committed, Daddy put his plan in motion- one ice cream bucket, empty of its intended contents, and replaced with a Motorla Two-Way radio, lid open ever-so-slightly. Bucket placed near the rows of corn. Power, on….
During the night, on several occasions, Daddy yelled into the radio his prepared threats. Several times, Mrs. Jean cringed. The last time, however, she laughed….
The next morning, my Dad went hurriedly down to the garden to check his crop. Confident his plan worked and he would find his corn intact, he went straight to the stalks for the examination. He didn’t consider, however, that my clever and sneaky step-mother had been paying attention to the operation of that little radio transmitter. He didn’t consider that she enjoyed a joke as much as he did. And just as he reached the corn rows to check the stalks, my sweet Mrs. Jean let out a banshee yell of her own into that little radio and then shouted, “You’d better get out of my corn, you dadgum, good-for-nothing, theivin’ peckerwood, or I’m gonna come down there and gitcha!”
For several moments, time stood still for Daddy. Frightened and confused, he looked around to see who was yelling at him. That’s when he saw the ice cream bucket, lid cracked, and heard Mrs. Jean laughing like a little school girl.
A grin and a knowing cackle escaped the corner of his weathered mouth. He had been had by his own better half! Played by his own team! What’s worse, his brilliant plan failed- the raccoons had gotten his corn again, despite the radio rants during the night. Foiled again!
In my mind’s eye, I can see Mrs. Jean, eyes sparkling and smile gently bending the corners of her mouth, watching dad drive down the road and pull in next to the garden. I can see her, waiting for just the right moment… waiting… and suddenly giving Daddy quite a shock! I can also see my dad, that look of clueless surprise he often pulled out- just for fun of it, when he first heard the radio crackle to life; then, the knowing smile and high-pitched laugh that came so often and so easily to him.
No value can be placed on having those kinds of relationships. I cherish the thoughts of my Dad and Mom, and precious Mrs. Jean and how they have helped shape my own life. I want to live my life so that someday my wife and kids, my friends and family will remember my easy smile, my silly laugh, and deep compassion for them, and for others.
Happy Father’s Day. Now, go out and make a memory.
P.S. You’ll never believe where the raccoons were really living…. but that’s another story for another time….
What are your favorite memories of my dad? What are your favorite memories of your dad?
I played some sports in high school. Well, exactly, I played a sport in high school. Actually, we only offered two team sports, and since I was slow and had no skills for baseball, I played basketball. Sort of. I was not very good, but I was tall with long arms. I was so bad, in fact, that I only had my photo in the paper for basketball reasons on two occasions; in the first photo, a much shorter (read: squirrely) guy on the opposing team out-jumped me for a rebound, and the other, I missed a shot from about 6 inches. All in black-and-white newsprint, published for all the world to see.
But I digress. One of the benefits of playing organized sports in high school?
Our team had cheerleaders!
All the cute girls with long, flappy hair and perfect teeth and perky personalities got to be cheerleaders. Sometimes, they rode the basketball bus with us players, but mostly, they were driven to and from games in private cars. They were special. And they were loud! Forcefully out-yelling a gymnasium full of screaming fans is no small feat; but they did it and did it well. As a team member, I was so glad to have someone on the sidelines cheering for my team. For one thing, they were all easy on the eyes; that always helps. And when they cheered, they seemed to help us players summon an extra measure of stamina, of skill, of commitment to the team. They cheered us on to go further, to do more, to work harder than we could do on our own.
Today, I believe we need cheerleaders more than ever. As a matter of fact, I believe everyone needs a cheerleader. Someone to encourage us, to motivate us, to rally us to achieve a specific victory or goal or accomplishment. Someone to keep us accountable to others as well as ourselves. And, I believe we all need to be a cheerleader for someone else.
Barnabas was a cheerleader of sorts. A cheerleader to Paul, Barnabas’ name means “Son of Encouragement”. Barnabas’ gift was to encourage others to stay away from sin, to complete the task, to achieve the goal.
Everyone needs a cheerleader; everyone needs to be a cheerleader for someone else.
Even when we miss an easy shot…. When we fail an easy test…. When we struggle down the stretch…. When we are tired and stressed….
Be a cheerleader!
Who has been a cheerleader for you? Who can you cheer for?
Following what amounts to be years of thinking, talking, and otherwise speculating, we did it. We finally broke down and became pet owners. Again.
Please understand- we are not against pets. We love pets! Especially others’ pets. We love going to our friends’ homes, playing with their pets, then leaving them there. But ever since this incident with Sam, we never thought we’d have another pet….
You know, we actually had a dog once. In another town we lived in, we were offered- and took- a tiny and beautiful Red Labrador Retriever. We named him Sam. He was actually reddish-brown, and when we got him at about 9 weeks, his paws were already in adult sizes. Those feet were huge! We soon discovered that Sam’s appetite matched those enormous feet. Sam would not stop eating. He ate not only his very expensive food, but he also ate towels that fell from the clothesline. He ate vinyl siding. He ate the phone lines and cable lines attached to to the side of the house. And as he ate, he grew. At nine months, he could stand on his back legs, put his front legs on Jane’s shoulders and look over her head! Not to say that Jane is short… she is all of 5’2, but that dog was huge! Sam was constantly knocking our kids down, dragging them across the yard, and was generally not much fun to our family. We knew he needed a place to run, to wander, to grow. We knew we couldn’t offer him all that he needed to make him happy. Sam was not happy, and we were not happy paying all the repair bills. So, Sam had to go.
We found a local man who would take Sam and promised to care for him, to give him the good life he deserved. So we loaded up the Bronco with all of Sam’s things- his house, his vet records, leash, food, favorite toys, and we headed across town toward Sam’s new life. Sam’s new owner was not at home, but we were given instructions to leave Sam in the kennel in the back and he would be by in a day or two to pick him up.
So, slowly, we unloaded our beautiful dog friend and all his earthly possessions and put them in a 6×20 chain link dog run. The floor was dirt, and muddy; it was unkempt, and evidence of its previous inhabitants lay in piles in the corners. There was no grass. There were no toys. There was no food or water. But, Sam needed a new home, right?
It was a sad trip back across town toward our home. All four of us were crying. We felt so badly for Sam, but we really felt badly for us, for we suddenly realized how we loved Sam, the enormous-footed,house-eating Lab. But being the practical people we were, we knew what we had to do…
…turn the car around, go back to his new owner, and bring Sam home. And along with all his earthly possessions, we joyfully loaded Sam back into the Bronco and headed home!
It was only a few days later, though, following a return visit by the phone company to install yet another connector box, that we realized Sam really did need another home. Sam needed a place where he could run, swim, to play like the puppy he was, far from the dangers of vinyl siding poisoning or getting a piece of coax stuck in his snout.
We found a pet lover who owned quite a large farm. The owners met Sam and immediately fell in love with him. So Sam now lives happily ever after on a farm in North East Mississippi.
Which brings us back to Bud. Bud is a cocky Cocker Spaniel, born on Valentine’s Day 2011. He has captivated the four of us, and we have fallen for this beautiful pup.
But he has huge feet…