Archive for category memories
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.
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…
I will confess right off the start that I grew up in a different time and place. Some of you may find the following experiences somewhat offensive, even violent. For those who cringe when they read this, let me say-
Get over it.
While growing up in rural West Tennessee, we had traditions and celebrations that may seem odd. One of our favorite annual celebrations was the traditional birthday spanking, or ‘whippin’ as it was affectionately known. These birthday spankings were part of our family ritual. While we pretended to hate them, the truth is, we enjoyed the wrestling match and the tickles and the laughter that went with it. Never painful, never mean-spirited, the licks always included one smack for each year of our lives, plus “one to grow on”. I don’t know from where that saying came, but I think I should research it, find the origin and context of the phrase. Or maybe not.
My dad always delivered my birthday “whippin'” when he got home from work. He’d grab me, and to the floor we’d go; rolling around on the carpet, me squirming like a toesack full of snakes, Daddy’s big hands laying licks on my posterior amid our laughter and my flailing limbs. He would reach way above his head, swing those huge hands in a fury, and just before making contact, would slow down so that the actual contact was nothing more than a loud love pat. He would count aloud, often purposefully forgetting what comes after 8, or like a broken record, repeating the same age over and over again.
Things changed when I turned 15.
As usual, Dad caught me and took me down to the floor. We were having so much fun! My mom was across the room, pulling first for me, then Daddy, then me. Short of piling in herself, she did everything she could to keep us both worked up. I squirmed as much as I could, trying to wrench myself free from Daddy’s hands, but not really wanting to get out of his grasp. I rolled over; I curled in the fetal position; for several minutes I kicked and flailed, laughing my head off. But I did not notice that Daddy was no longer laughing.
I had succeeded in rolling over onto my back for the third or fourth time, when Daddy suddenly gave up and said, “Well, you whip me then!”. With that said, he stood up, dropped my legs to the floor, and walked out of the room.
The room was suddenly quiet. I didn’t really understand what Daddy meant, and didn’t understand why he would give in like that and leave the room. I looked at mom, who seemed to understand what was happening.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked my mom.
“No, you didn’t.”, she replied.
“Then why did Daddy give up? Why did he leave?” I was still not convinced that I was not in trouble.
Wisdom flowed from my mom. “Your dad quit because he couldn’t whip you. You have grown up to the point that he can no longer handle you by wrestling on the floor, no longer muscle you around. So, you whipped him”
My heart sank. Because I enjoyed the closeness and the frenzy of goofing around with my dad, I hadn’t considered that there would come a day when he couldn’t whip my hind end. I had never ever considered what would happen if I won the wrestling match.
When I turned 15, I didn’t get my birthday licks, but I did get my “one to grow on”. I learned that when it comes to their children, even tall, skinny, tough dads can have a hard time when suddenly struck by the reality that their kids are, in fact, kids no longer.
I try to remember that lesson as I watch my own kids grow up. It is our job to teach and train them so that when that horrible day comes- the day I can no longer give them their birthday licks- they are ready to take life by the shoulders, wrestle it to the floor, and whip it at will. The book of Proverbs calls it “training up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
I think that’s a good one to grow on….
What are some hard lessons you’ve learned either from your parents or from your kids?
Thanks to the generosity of friends, my girls and I had the opportunity to attend The Aluminum Show at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center over the weekend. It was fabulous! If you get a chance, the stunning visuals, the dynamic dance, and the driving music make for an entertaining evening. Here’s Madilyn inside an aluminum duct, being helped by one of the actresses. And you can watch the promo video here.
Life is Good!
What show (or shows) have you recently seen that entertained you?
The Eastern Oklahoma wind was howling so that I could only suggest a direction for that old broken-back minnow, a lure that I have used for so long I forget where it came from. I would muscle it into the wind, parallel to the willows hanging over the undercut in the bank, and hope the wind would blow it underneath the limbs, and yet not on the rooted bank itself. The roots, extensions from dozens of trees that line the bank, would capture the lure and I would never get it back. Following a few vain attempts, the wind and I made and arrangement, and I dropped the bait just under the lowest root of the biggest willow. Success!
But there was not time to enjoy the cast as the water literally exploded around the bait. Time slowed. The wind stopped; I could count every scale along the jaw line of that large mouth surrounding my lure. The utter surprise of the strike jolted me to act, and in my best Kevin Van Dam imitation, I yanked back on the rod to set the hook on the largest fish I had seen in years. Except for the monsters in the tank over at Bass Pro Shop.
The rod bent deeply, straining against the weight of the strike. I yanked again and began to reel furiously. Suddenly, the rod straightened, and, as if in slow motion, I could see the giant fish turn his big head toward me, wink at me with his fishy eye, open his cavernous mouth, and spit out my lure like my then-baby son used to launch his pureed sweet potatoes. With crystal-clear vision, I could see the broken-back minnow, my favorite lure of all time, growing in size as it came zinging back, right toward my head. With the speed of a large antique turtle, I ducked as quickly as I could, avoiding catching the bait with my forehead, but succeeding in catching both treble hooks in my hair.
Because I was fishing as a guest of a church member, I refrained from forming with my mouth the words that were flying through my cranium, bouncing off every corner in the vacant space. I carefully laid down my rod, and gently untangled the laser-sharpened double-barbed hooks from my hair.
My hair. Wait- where was my cap? My lucky fishing cap?
My cap flew farther than my lure…
It seems to have blown over the water and into the roots of the dozens of trees that line the undercut. Because it was my lucky hat, I wanted it back. So, I spent the next hour fighting the wind to try and hook my lucky hat and reel it back to the safety of my sun-burning head.
I guess that’s why they call it ‘fishing’, and not ‘catching’.
This Sunday begins a new season for us at The Springs. For two months, our church will highlight stories of some of its members. Stories of failure, success, struggle, victory. Real stories of real families. The beauty is that none of the stories have seen their final chapters. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we can re-write the outline of our lives and write brand-new conclusions to our own stories. Every chapter starts fresh, with new content… new direction… new hope.
Join us at The Springs as we celebrate our stories…. and yours.
What’s your story?