Krystal’s–Just Icing on the Cake

English: One of Krystal restaurants (in Calhou...

English: One of Krystal restaurants (in Calhoun) by Cculber007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up we had many adventures.  Especially during the summer.  My favorite memories of those times are loading up in either our Chevy II or my Aunt’s, and off we would go.  We loved going to the weekly movies at the Planetarium.  They would project old Disney movies like “Cannonball Express” or “Candleshoe” or “Apple Dumpling Gang” up on the horizon part of the dome above us.  The cool darkness was a welcome contrast to the blazing bright heat outside.  As we exited through the side door, talking about our favorite parts of the movie, we would blink against the sun shining down on us.

As the movies were shown mid-morning, by the time the movie was over, we were all hungry.  It was lunchtime.  I remember on several occasions either Mama or my Aunt driving across town to the Krystal over near the Mall.  One of them, maybe both, would have clipped  a coupon out.  Krystal burgers 25 cents each.  Later the special was 35 cents each. As we’d pull into the drive thru lane, they would do a headcount and figure out how many each of us could eat.  With at least seven children (and eight later on) eating between the two families and two adults, the order could get quite sizable.  Seems like I can remember us ordering well over thirty.

But we’re talking Krystal burgers, so yeah, they all got eaten.  And appreciated.  If you’ve never had one, you don’t know what you are missing.

Good food.  But really, really good times.

Today I had the rare treat of spending time just me and my little guy Cooter.  We spent a little while at a Christmas Market where he assured me he would absolutely take care of the wooden fire engine or tow truck, and that he really is old enough for a cap pistol. Ahem.  Christmas is coming soon, buddy.  In the end, he was happy with the simple lariat he found, convinced he is the next Indiana Jones.

As we were leaving, he mentioned being hungry.  Today was one of those strange days that clocks didn’t matter.  We hadn’t eaten lunch at the traditional hour, so I told him we’d run through and pick something up.  He was in good spirits, that cutie pie in the booster seat behind me.  His joy came through in his attitude as he played with his rope.

“Mama, we can eat from anywhere you choose.  Just anywhere you choose is just fine with me. Anywhere at all.”

Well.  That was strange.  Cooter is a fan of the beige food groups–pizza, chicken, cheese quesadillas, etc.  When I encourage him to eat his vegetables, he reminds me, “But Mama, I’m a fruitatarian.”  Oh my.

I am my Daddy’s daughter, so I couldn’t resist teasing him.  “Sure thing.  I was thinking of going to the Vegetable Place.”

A glance in the rearview mirror showed his face had fallen.  Bless him.  I felt bad.

“Mama,” he said in a small voice.  “I don’t like vegetables.”

I assured him I was just kidding.  Then he perked back up.  And asked for Zaxby’s.  Ugh.  I do love Zaxby’s at times, but we can have it anytime, as it is safe for my food allergy child.  While I wasn’t looking to have a nut sandwich for lunch, I was hoping for something that wasn’t from one of the few places we are able to go safely.  As I turned into Zaxby’s I saw it.  The red circle.  The K.  Krystal.  My heart, my stomach, my mind–whatever–hollered YES.  I was going to have to make another drive around to get in the drive-thru at Zaxby’s, so I told Cooter that I had a treat for him.  As I pulled back out on the road and went two drives down to Krystal, he began to cry.

“No Mama no.  I want Zaxby’s.”

“Trust me buddy, this is going to be really good.”

We don’t eat much red meat in our house anymore, so I didn’t want to chance the burger.  I ordered him a Krystal Chik, their mini chicken sandwich, and a Krystal pup.

He sat quietly in the backseat.  When the food was ready I passed it back to him.  And then…..

“Oh Mama! This is really, really good. How long have they been around?  When did you have your first one? I can’t believe this is so good.”  He went on and on between bites.  “It’s even better than Chick-Fil-A.”  What?!  Are you kidding me?

Oh y’all.  He carried on  like that for the rest of his meal.

“Mama, those tears from before were untrusting tears.  But I trust you now.”

Well all righty then.

I told him the story of sneaking a Krystal Chik into Mama at the hospital.  He laughed at that, and then we had a long talk about hospital food and what it’s like.  As his hunger subsided and he was all but glowing from this meal he loved so much, he started chanting.

“Krystal’s is great, Krystal’s is good, Let us thank Him for our Krystals…..” When I recognized the cadence as an altered version of our blessing, I stopped him.

“Whoa buddy, let’s don’t do that.”  I wasn’t sure, but it felt like it might border on sacrilege.

“But Mama,” he said, insistently, “we HAVE to pray for them; we want them to stay open.”

I smiled.  I am glad he enjoyed his day and our time together.  I know the meal he had today wasn’t the best for him.  So I will pump him full of fruits and much better things tomorrow.  The thing is, I hope one day he will look back on today and remember the Krystals and everything and be filled with the warmth that only a good memory can bring.  And one day he will realize, as I have come to, that while the Krystal burgers, chiks, pups, whatever are delicious and worth remembering, it’s who we were with and how they made us feel that were really at the root of the joy of the day.

And when you throw in Krystals with good times and the folks you love, well, that’s just icing on an already better than anything in the world cake.

no hearts in my text messages

I’ve always been an Anglophile, as far back as I can remember.  It all culminated with a trip to England over spring break my junior year in college.  Most people came back to school with tans.  I came back with a new affinity for hot tea with milk and a tiny bit of an accent.

I loved that accent.

A few years later I auditioned for “The Importance Of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.  I garnered my courage and auditioned with a British accent, or my best attempt at one.  I got the part–I can’t remember which of the young ladies I was cast as, but I was thrilled.  I took home the dialect tape and the script and started working on my part.  I was in my element.

Unfortunately after the first read-through I succumbed to outside pressures and discouragement, and I dropped out.  It was a hard thing to do, but at the time I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

I hadn’t thought about that in ages, until tonight when I was reading and saw this quote from Oscar Wilde.  It caught my eye because it’s from him, and after our bonding all those years ago, I wanted to see what he had to say.

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Wow.  Well played, Mr. Wilde.  Well played.  You have impeccable timing.

The thing about forgiveness and Mr. Wilde’s approach here is that it’s not always that easy.  People aren’t always friends or enemies.  Sometimes they are somewhere in between, a person you love who betrays your trust, or someone you don’t care for who surprises you with great kindness.  It’s all those shades of gray that make the paths of life so difficult to maneuver.

I don’t know a lot about forgiveness.  I just know it’s a case of learning as I go.  I am trying to let go and not let the pains from the past poison who I am today.  It is not always easy.  The temptation to wallow in the anger and frustration and “been done wrong” thoughts comes to the forefront now and again, and I have to work through it and start over.  Just not as far back on the trail as I was before, thank goodness.

I may not know what forgiveness is exactly, but I do know what it is not, at least for me.  Oprah Winfrey says, “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’”

Ahem.  No disrespect intended, Ms. Winfrey, but I don’t think so.

There are some folks whom I have to make a conscious choice every day to forgive.  Some days I’m closer than others, and every now and then I’m actually there–but I will NEVER tell them thank you for the pain and hurt and hits my soul took from the choices they made.  I just don’t think “Thank you” exactly expresses the right sentiment.

And *sigh* neither do the words that could so easily roll off my tongue.

Like I said, it’s a conscious choice I have to make each day.  Sometimes moment by moment.

So I try to find a balance.  Somewhere between gratitude for what happened and shooting looks that could kill or making plans for revenge.  Which I think might look a lot less like what Ms. Winfrey describes and more like what C. Joybell C., an American poet and novelist, describes:

“People have to forgive. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!”  

–C. Joybell C.

I am thankful for this life’s journey and for a good day at home doing laundry, cleaning bedrooms, teaching the littles, and visiting with folks I love.  I give thanks for my crock pot and for the miracle that dried beans and sides can make a meal.  I am lucky to have friends who have my back but also tell me when I need to straighten it.  But I have enough trouble some days putting one foot in front of the other.  I don’t need any rocks tied to my feet.  I know I have wings, and one day I will soar.  I’m working on it.  If forgiveness will let me fly high above and break free from the chains of sadness and heartbreak, then I’m all for it.

Just as long as I don’t have to send any hearts in those text messages, I have hope I can get there.

freeze warnings

It’s finally acting like fall here in Georgia.  Tuesday evening it was 57 degrees at 6:00 p.m., pitch dark, and I was ready to hole up with a fire and a mug of apple cider.  Yes, 57.  I’m a Georgia girl, I don’t do cold real well. Don’t judge.

It has gotten colder than that.  We had a freeze warning last week.  I looked on my weather app, and there was the telltale exclamation point.  Click on that and it goes to the screen that basically says the temperature is going into the 20’s and instructs folks to bring in plants, take care of pets, and to check their water pipes.

Cold weather has long been something we watched for.  When a cold front was headed in, Mama would plan to run laundry late at night to keep water running through the pipes.  I believe there were even times that she kept a faucet dripping very slowly, but I might be misremembering that.  Daddy wrapped the outside faucets and kept a light on in his building out back.  In more recent years, he put a lightbulb in the wellhouse. When the temperature was expected to go below a certain point, he would turn it on, and it would keep the well from freezing up.  During Mama’s HospitalStay back in January and February, her sweet Neighbors went over and turned it on.  They knew the system, and we never had to worry.

I knew of one Grand Lady who ran a bathtub of water before storms, and I think she did that when it was going to get cold too.  I guess it was to use for incidentals in case the power went out or the pipes did freeze.

I remember looking at the newspaper in the mornings when I was growing up.  On the same page up at the top every morning, they had the picture weather forecast.  Sometimes we would turn the news on at the very end just to catch the forecast.  I’ve also been known to shush my children in times of questionable weather when a meteorologist would come on the radio.   I loved that Grand Lady had a weather radio and would call me if it went off with a warning of the weather to come.

My favorite way to check the weather has evolved from all of those.  The weather app on my phone.  It’s not always accurate in forecasting as far out as ten days, but I like knowing what the temperature is and what to expect tomorrow.  I check it at least once a day.

Just the other night I was thinking about the freeze warnings that get issued when the temperature is going to drop.  And then I realized what app I’d really like to have.  A freeze warning for life.  An app that forecasts when trouble is coming or hard times or sadness.  A warning to buckle down, get prepared, turn on the light, and bring in all of my tender “shoots and blossoms,” to protect my feelings and heart and soul from the severity of what is ahead.  The one that would let me know to wear a coat and scarf and gloves to ward off  the dangers on their way.  It seems lately that more and more often these harsh times come with little or no warning, and I am left with a part of myself that has died off, frozen beyond being able to rebound back to life.  Or I have watched it happen to someone I love.  How I would love the “Freeze warning for life” app!  I would be a good trustee of it, using it only for good.  I know it wouldn’t be able to stop the bad weather from coming, but it would be able to warn us, so we could be better prepared and batten down the hatches and protect our hearts.

Today a friend asked my daughter about her not being able to eat something from the place where we were because of her food allergy.  I heard our Princess say in her matter of fact way, shrugging her shoulders,”Life is tragic.”

Out. of. the. mouths. of. babes.

Yes, my dear child, it is.  And you don’t even know the half of it yet.  But I have others, whom I also love very dearly who know near about as well as I do, LIFE IS HARD.  Frost can come on suddenly and unexpectedly.  Sometimes it can make you want to find the closest cave, tuck your head under a pile of blankets and never come out.  Those cold snaps of life can nearly break you in two.  I know. I’ve been through a few.

When the cold weather hits, I seek comfort.  Candles and lamps to fight off the dark, a fire and blankets and my long johns to ward against the cold.  Apple cider or a good cup of coffee and a Lucia Pepparkakor cookie can bring comfort and warmth and peace.  Sitting close with those I love can bring peace and comfort and warmth as well.  It’s the same thing when something unexpected or tragic happens in my life.  I seek comfort.  I look to those I love the most for a hand to hold, for their wisdom, and for love.  I find my favorite blanket and cuddle up close.  And wait for the cold to pass.

In the end I agree with Edith Sitwell, a British poet and critic in the first half of the twentieth century.  Whether it’s the cold of winter or the cold of life that hits, my soul cries out for that comfort and peace and warmth, and indeed these are the only things that can get me through until spring and hope can come once again…..to our earth as well as my heart.

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written in stone

Over the past two years I have spent a lot more time than I ever have before in cemeteries.  It is not that I was afraid before.  I actually find them a beautiful place for quiet, thought, and peace.  The first time I’d been out to the Little Union cemetery since my Great Grandmother died many years ago was in November 2011.  My brother-in-law Leroy and I rode out there to see the place that we’d been told we could use as a family plot.  Daddy was not doing well, and it was only a week later that we were all gathered there again to say goodbye.

The day that Leroy and I went out to the little country church cemetery was bright and sunny.  After talking over the options, he and I walked it over.  It reads like my family tree out there.  For several years Daddy took care of the grounds in the summers.  Just because.  He had wanted to go back and whitewash some of the older gravestones, but he got so sick before we could do it.  The stones out there for those who died during the War have different types of markers, a reminder of the limited resources of the time.  Some names look like they were written by hand with a stick in wet concrete. I wonder if that is actually what happened.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The family and I went out there on Sunday, as it marked the date that Daddy died in 2011.  Two years.  Our littles love going out there.  Goodness knows we were out there a lot in the summer of 2012, watering the tea olive we’d planted at the foot of Daddy’s grave on his birthday in March of that year.  We’d haul 8 gallon jugs of Blackberry Flats (the homeplace) water out there twice a week and cheer it on during the dry, hot summer.  Their little faces turning red and damp in the heat of the day, they’d run around the cemetery reading names and exploring.  They picked up turned over flowers and collected trash to dispose of later.  They knew to be respectful and not walk on the stones and to leave things better than when you got there.

And so this past Sunday, they went back to their adventuring after pausing a moment to let it soak in that there are two headstones there.  I remember the discussion with Mama about putting another line on each stone.  One word.  That’s all I wanted.  “Others” for him and “Loved” for her.  But Mama was having none of that.  Since I haven’t been out there with my hammer and chisel yet, their stones only tell names and dates, no indications of the beautiful lives they lived in between the two.

Amy from our Rising Bloggers circle asked a question this week that made me think:

Epitaphs used be to three words: “Mother. Sister. Wife” as an example. If you were writing your own Epitaph, what three words would you want to be your legacy and why?

I was sitting here thinking about that tonight.  I really couldn’t come up with three words.  Or three separate thoughts.  It’s hard to see yourself through the lenses of others, isn’t it?  What would my family think appropriate?  It delighted our Princess to see Papa or Mama on the stones and read them aloud.  One she loved said, “Mama, Daughter, Beloved.”  But what would they say about me?  Hard-headed? True.  Distracted?  Ahem.  Move on.  Always running behind?  I will come back and get y’all if you put that on there.  I own it, but I sure hope that’s not my legacy.

Death has reminded us once again in the past week that you just never know. And while there are no guarantees, I hope I have more time to work on my legacy.  Maybe the three words that will stand out haven’t bloomed in me yet.

As I was about to walk away from thinking and writing for a little while, hoping something would come to me, I heard the words, almost as though they were being whispered through a veil.  Three words.  A single thought.  To cover my whole life–bumps and bruises and stops and starts, messes, successes, mixups, things done and left undone.  All of it.  I don’t remember the first time I heard it or whether it was Mama or Daddy who said it to me first.  It was saved for the really special, choice moments in my life.  Like when my oldest and first treasure was born in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning.  Or each of my other two treasures born 9 and 11 years later.  I think Daddy said it after I shared stories at my Great Aunt’s funeral in 2010, and Mama said it after the rush and chaos had settled following Daddy’s service.  I don’t know that I deserved the words, but I do know my heart soared and I cried tears of gratitude deep inside my soul on those precious occasions when I heard them.

I hope one day I will live up to these words, that my life’s legacy and my efforts will not have been for naught, and that I will have earned them in every sense of the word:

She done good

I’m not ready to go yet, because I still have a lot of work to do to get to the point where anyone, especially my people, will feel like pulling out the hammer and chisel and putting this on my stone.  But it’s good to have goals, and this is mine.  To do good, and to be loved, and to love in a way that those left behind will forgive me my temper, my lack of organization, and all of my shortcomings.  I hope they will forgive the stacks and stacks of books and bits of notes and cards and whatnot that I am loath to let go of, and in their hearts, they will be able to say those three words.  She done good.

It’s something to live for, isn’t it?

For more epitaph thoughts and stories, visit Amy at her blog, “the reinvention of amy,” and read down to the links at the bottom of her post.  Thanks, Amy, for a thought-provoking question this week!

the only way to fly

Each Tuesday I gather with a group of women at Daybreak for our Sister Circle, a time of sharing and caring and listening.   I was so looking forward to today, especially since I had to miss last week due to my little guy having a tummy bug.  I always learn something or hear a bit of wonderful wisdom to take with me when I sit down with these amazing women.  These are women who may be in the midst of a battle or a survivor of addictions, homelessness, or in need for a day or a season.

Today did not disappoint.  We talked about the ways life can toss you up in the air, chew you up and spit you out.  And we talked about birds.  What we see that birds do–they fly, they sing, they nest…..and they are in community.

We could learn a lot from the birds.  That whole community thing is pretty powerful.  They need each other just as we do.  And they build nests so they can rest and regain their strength before stretching their wings and taking off again to do what needs doing.  Beautiful.

When Miss N and I were visiting at the beginning of our time, we talked about what it would look like if we could do just that–stretch our wings and fly.  And we talked about what is holding us back from doing it.

“Not being in the right place,” she said quietly, as is her nature.  “Or having the right folks to help me.”

Ah yes.  We need the right support network to step out and try sometimes, don’t we?

Miss N is an artist.  We shared paper and markers and drew or wrote about what our lives would look like if we did have what it would take to “fly.”  Miss N drew one with her paying bills on her own, another with her having friends over to her house, and then this one.  It spoke to me the most.

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If she had the resources and the support and encouragement of those around her, Miss N would “hit the street. Go places.”  She would love to travel.  Go wherever she decides to and see what she wants to see.  Thus the road plays a big part in her picture.

But what drew me in was the stoplight.  She’s at a juncture in the drawing.  And there is the stoplight looming overhead.  So many times in my life, when I’ve hit a bump or been completely knocked off the main road, it’s hard to know if I can keep going.  How will I even be able to take another step?

I guess that’s what I feel like Miss N is asking in this picture.  Will those twists and turns and one way traffic signs stop you, give you pause, or will you keep on keeping on?

And actually there’s a place for all three, isn’t there?  There is a time and place for each one of those lights to shine in our lives.  In grief it’s important to slow down and sometimes even stop completely for a time so you can regroup before rejoining the community and the flight pattern.  Other times, when evil is attempting to prevail, it’s best to just green light it and keep on walking.  It’s not even worth stopping for and getting tangled in that web of mess.

Then there are the happy moments–new babies, graduations, promotions, books being published, goals being reached–that also call for yellow light and red light moments–time to  stop or pause and savor every single moment of the precious time while you are in it.

Before we left today, we also talked about balance.  Tonight I was thinking about that.  Whether we ever get in a vehicle and head down the road or not, we all have red, green, and yellow light moments in our days.  The goal is that there are no solid green light days–that kind of “on the go” can wear a body and a spirit out.  Fast.  Nor do we hope for all yellow light days.  While those can get some books read from the stack you may have collected (sigh), those days can also be frustrating–always waiting, being put “on hold” as life decides to answer you.  The red light days can make you feel lost and like you’re spinning your wheels.  And that’s the key to it all being okay.  Balancing out the doing and the resting and the contemplating and the wrestling with life’s big issues.  And then letting it be what it is.

That’s about as far as we got.  How to work towards that balance and how to keep it once we get there, we were all a little fuzzy on that. How can we keep from letting the bumps in the road send us into permanent red light mode?  How do we keep from laying on the horn when folks are in the way of our green light go, go, go mode?  I don’t really know one hundred percent.  But I have a feeling it has a lot to do with that community thing the birds have down pat.  Taking care of each other and surrounding ourselves with good folks, those who will fly on ahead and lead the way when they see us getting tired and those who will nudge us out of our nests when we just want to give up.  Those are the kind of folks we need to put ourselves in the midst of.

Ah yes, relationships.  Community.  There they are again.  I haven’t done any research nor do I have any facts to back it up except for my own experiences, but my guess is that Miss N is very right.  To live out our dreams we need to be in the right place–physically, emotionally, spiritually–and we need to have folks around us who will help and encourage and support as we “hit the street and go places.”  That’s the only way to fly.

 

fairytales schmairytales…..a letter to all my young’uns

A picture by Gustave Doré of Mother Goose read...

A picture by Gustave Doré of Mother Goose reading written (literary) fairy tales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These thoughts are for my children, the ones I gave birth to and the ones I didn’t…..I love you all.  You give my life meaning, and I would do anything to keep you from being hurt.  And yet it still happens.  Don’t let it break you. More than anything, keep being your beautiful and giving selves.  The world needs you.  And so do I.  I’m so proud of who you are. 

Dear Ones,

Those fairy tales we told you,

the ones in the movies,

with the pretty dresses and beauty and rugged good looks

and weak and strong

and song

They are not real

There is no happy ending

guaranteed for any of us

There can be heartbreak with no one to make it better

There can be pain with no relief in sight

There can be getting lost with no breadcrumbs to lead you safely home

There are far more Maleficents and Ursulas

hags and witches and evil stepmothers

than there are fairy godmothers, mice who can sew, and

fairies who save their wishes for last to

reverse a curse, bless her

There are few Prince Charmings or genies or magic lamps

left to rescue you from the tower

or turn you back from a llama to whom you used to be

if that’s what you want

There are rarely happy, joyful, singing birds and dancing dogs

and fairytale wedding happy endings

Instead there is life, there is real, there is feeling it all–

the good and the sad and the joy and the hard

A transformation or rescue is not magical

or in an instant

It can take a long time

And it looks way different from a cloud of  glittering smoke and pixie dust

It looks like a long drive down the coast because of one phone call

Or a purse full of just what is needed at the moment,

A message or note or a hug from someone who cares,

A sister doing what is hard because she loves

It looks like a brother holding a sister and melding their tears and pain into one

It looks like a treasured Soul picking her way across the dirt and pebbled path of a cemetery

to show up

It looks like showing up

Love

looks like showing up

And sometimes it looks like you showing up for yourself

Sometimes that’s as good as it gets

and it turns out that is just whom you needed the most

When the words of others are thrown like darts straight at your heart, again and again and again

until you feel you can’t bear it anymore

There will be no charging steed or Chinese warrior to come and take them out

To make them pay for the pain they’ve caused

It is simply evil being evil and sometimes

there are no consequences for evil

and you are left to wonder why

The real magic comes when you let it go, walk away, and say no more to the darkness

turn toward the light

It is there

in the people who raised you, those who are here and those who are on the other side of the veil

watching, nodding, knowing

you are rising above all the pain and ugliness and above your own desires

to make.someone.pay

There is magic and beauty in the friends who love fiercely and stand beside you,

in front, and all around

to keep out the darkness and to protect and shield and comfort

In the end there is no The End

It is only the journey continuing through the days and nights and one day

you realize

you have found joy, a treasure, that your heart beats to a tune that is life-giving

and fills your soul even in the midst of trouble and hard and broken times

you hear laughter and you realize

it is bubbling up from inside you

In that moment of exhaling the very breath of life, laughter,

that heart-healing, soul-refreshing breath,

you realize that another moment is possible,

you can go on, and that maybe the key is you have to make you own joy and

leave behind the ones who would bring you down

with the poison apple of hatred and brokenness

Maybe that right there is the glass slipper in your life

just the right size, and it can change your life

for the better

My dear ones, there are no happy endings,

life can get messy

folks don’t always do like they should

but you can say no to the dark

and make your own joy

Never let the Evil blow out your light

the world needs it to see all the beauty and love you share

Fairytales, schmairytales

write your own story

and make it a good one

make it real…..

love to all, here if you need me, always

me

My Daddy and His Way of Preaching

I have a memory of my Daddy that I’ve thought back on so often that the corners of the memory are wearing thin like the pages of my favorite books.  It is as comforting as the blanket I carried and then slept with for years and years (and still sleeps in the back corner of my bottom drawer).  I pull it out and think on it when I feel small and lost.

When I was in early elementary, Daddy came after school to pick me up.  That was very unusual because he normally didn’t get off from work until 4:30 in the afternoon.  Mama nearly always picked us up.  Except for that brief time in the third grade when they let me ride the bus.  Until a couple of days into it when the bus driver passed my house and dropped me off four doors down.  Back then it seemed like a very long walk home. When the driver came back by, headed to the school, Mama flagged him down and let him know she was not pleased.  He knew where I lived, but he hadn’t stopped in time.  Yeah, Mama could be a fierce Mama Bear when she needed to be.  I hope to be just like her.

I think we’d had some kind of party at school the day Daddy came to pick me up, maybe even the last day before Thanksgiving break, I’m not sure.  Mama had sent me with something incredible she’d fixed in a Tupperware dish.  I had my bookbag, lunchbox, and this empty dish to carry.  For some reason it seemed more hectic than usual that day with all of these big high school people wandering around, heads taller than me, seeming adult-like in their size and attitudes.  I looked around and I remember seeing Daddy materialize almost in front of my eyes.  This guy I thought was one of the high schoolers took a step towards me and I realized, That’s my Daddy.

Me and my Daddy--he was pretty close to 25 in this picture.  He looks like a baby to me here.

Me and my Daddy–he was pretty close to 25 in this picture. He looks like a baby to me here now.

He always did look young for his age.

And that’s what has always struck me about that day when I replay it over and over.  Sunshiny day, vibrant colors, lots of people moving in crowds with a sense of purpose, and then he steps in front of me.  I have laughed over the years about the fact that I thought my Daddy who was easily in his early thirties at that time was in high school.

Reading with my Daddy.  He loved books as much as I do.

Reading with my Daddy. He loved books as much as I do.

I was remembering it the other day, and I looked closer.  I always focused on the emotions I felt (relief, happiness, joy, love) when I saw my Daddy and realized who he was.  But this last time, I looked at my Daddy’s expression.  His eyes lit up, and he seemed relieved to have found me.  It was obvious he had been searching through the crowds all over.  And then we found each other.

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I understand a lot more about God from how my Daddy lived and treated each one of us.  I’m not saying he was perfect, but he did walk in the dust of the Rabbi, at least how I see it.  My Daddy was a man of few words sometimes.  He wasn’t a churchgoer for the most of his life either.  But he set an example without ever saying a word of how to live, and that example was full of love, compassion, giving, truth, and kindness. When I was seeing this memory in a new light, I thought about how Daddy was looking for me in this great crowd and didn’t stop until he found me.  I suddenly understood the story from the Good Book about the lost sheep so much better.  According to the story found in Luke 15:1-7, the Shepherd will leave his 99 sheep to go after the one that is lost.  It was always a comforting story and now even more so. He could have given up and let me try to find him when the crowd cleared or when I decided to go to where he was.  He could have gone to the office and let someone else find me.  No.  He came and looked for me himself.  Beautiful.  And humbling, to think that I am worth that.  That my Daddy and God would come after me whether I’m lost in a crowd of people or in a pasture of green grass, flowers, and trees.  Neither of them gave up on me.

Today we drove out to Little Union Cemetery at the request of our Princess who will always remember the significance of this day, because it’s the day after her birthday.   We passed by so many landmarks that trigger other Daddy memories.  The road we biked on to get to our Granny’s–a LONG ride.  The road that we drove on when he helped my oldest and me move to our first ever house.  The road we turned on so many times I could do it blindfolded–the one that led to Granny’s.  And then. The spot where Daddy had finally had enough.  He had come as soon as I called and said I needed help.  And with an intense love and protection that can only come from a good Daddy like him, he let anyone around him know, raising his voice choked with emotion, “That’s my baby right there.”  And I was safe.  I cried because I had made him tearful.  I think maybe God is that way too.  God looks around and sees the choices we are making and, as hard as it is, sits there biding time until we have had enough and cry out, “Help me.  Make me safe.”  And then God steps in with emotion and a passion born of great love for us, “That’s one of mine.  Don’t hurt her anymore.”

Oh how my Daddy loved us.  As my dear friend Weezer would say, “Warts and all.”  He never stopped coming when we needed him, and he loved us with a quiet fierceness that was the greatest comfort of all.

It’s been two years ago this afternoon since my Daddy went on up to The House.  It’s been a hard day.  For so many reasons, but mostly because it’s been two years.  We keep moving away from the time when he was still here to hug, to shake hands with, to listen to, to ask his thoughts about something.  Or to make laugh.  Oh goodness me, how I loved to make him laugh.

The view from Daddy's window at Blackberry Flats.  Cardinals love those those hedges.

The view from Daddy’s window at Blackberry Flats. Cardinals love those hedges.

Thankful that these things matter to a new nine-year old, I took time to go out to the cemetery today for our Princess and for me and for our family.  We stopped by Blackberry Flats, and I stood and looked out the window that was Daddy’s view for over thirty years from his recliner that sat next to it.  When he came home from the hospital for the last time, we had a hospital bed waiting to keep him comfortable and to help us better care for him.  And we put it next to his window.  This was the same view I saw in the moments I stood with the strong women I love–my Mama, his sisters, my sisters–as we listened to his breath growing quieter and quieter until he was finished with this battle with Goliath, and it was over.

After I looked back at some of the pictures this afternoon and listened to the quiet, the crew and I loaded back up and headed over to the cemetery.  I love the drive over there.  It’s just over the county line, I think, and the land out there just feeds my soul.  Mama said it’s because our people lived around there.  And she might be right.  That is one beautiful ride.  It’s the kind Sunday drives were created for.  When we got there, I stopped to look and remember.  It was my Princess’ birthday two years ago just after lunch that I had planned to meet our sweet and kind funeral director out there about Daddy’s plot.  We had just shared my girl’s birthday lunch with Mama, and Princess had finished her birthday treasure hunt.  It was about to storm, and Mama didn’t want me to go.  Call him. Just wait until tomorrow, she said. But I felt deep in my heart that I had to go then.  I met Mr. K out there, and I loved the spot immediately.  It had been a while since I’d been out there, but when I saw this path I knew.  Perfect.

20131117-233034.jpg“The foot of the path.  Is that okay?”  I remember choking up.

Mr. K nodded.  “Yes, that’ll do just fine. But I hope I won’t be seeing you about this for a long, long time.”

It was a little over 24 hours later.  Bless him, he and his wife are two of the most caring folks I’ve met.  They were called to do what they do, and they are good at loving on folks in the hardest of times.

Tonight, two years after I tried to sleep with Mama in her bed, and then moved to lay with Mess Cat on hers and we all played musical beds, I am thankful for this day of remembering.  My Daddy and my Mama are the reason I know how to behave.  They often said, “Know better, do better, and folks’ll like you better.”  And if that ain’t the truth, I don’t know what is. Some folks don’t have the truth in them and we call them “liars.”  My Daddy was a truther.  I expect he could tell a tall tale for entertainment purposes, but he didn’t have an untruthful bone in his body.  As Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “…..the truth will out.”  Daddy knew this, and he didn’t play.  He didn’t accept less than the truth, from himself or others.

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When our Princess walked up to the graves with me today, she smiled and said in that way she has that I’m sure has God and everyone else smiling and high fiving at what a good job they did on THAT one, “Oh look, it looks like they’re holding hands, the way the dirt goes across at the bottom.”  Oh baby girl, there is NO doubt that is exactly what they are doing.  Their love was something special.

I know not all men are created equally, at least when it comes to being daddies.  Some know how almost instinctively, some don’t. Some learn as they go, and others never do.  But I also know this–my Daddy was one of the best.  He taught me more about God’s love and pursuit and protection of us than any preaching from a pulpit ever did.  He was a good Daddy and a treasured friend, and I miss him with every breath.

Daddy took time to teach me about life and living things.  Daddy, me, our pony Adabout, and our dog Pete

Daddy took time to teach me about life and the living things. Daddy, me, our pony Adabout, and our dog Pete