Car Trouble

“You got a car, you got car trouble.”

I think it was my Papa who first said that.  But I heard my Daddy say it many, many times over the years.  Usually followed by that sigh of his.  And the acceptance of the inevitable.

And it’s the truth, isn’t it?  Eventually, something will go wrong.  And it’s rarely when you’ve planned for it ahead of time.

This afternoon, following an appointment, the littles and I went to the big craft store to pick up some gift bags and other small things for holiday festivity’ing.  We left in good spirits and headed out into the misting rain and a nip in the air that hadn’t been quite as chilling when we walked into the store.  We got to the vehicle, unlocked it, loaded up, and were ready to head out.  Only the vehicle wasn’t.  I turned the key.  All kinds of blinking lights on the dash and distressing sounds and then…..nothing.

Well, that’s new.

Actually, it was new to this vehicle. But not new to me.

My Daddy knew his way around a vehicle.  He had to, considering we never owned a brand new vehicle.  He could usually diagnose and often fix what ailed a vehicle.  And when he couldn’t he knew a good mechanic whom he trusted.  “I’m bringing it over, so I reckon you can make your next payment on your car,” he’d tell the mechanic.  It usually was something significant if Daddy took it to the mechanic.

In that moment of realizing we were stranded, I became a sixteen year old girl again.  Needing my Daddy to come fix things.  Everything.

And the feeling of missing him was so overwhelming.

Not just for fixing my vehicle, but for fixing me.  He knew how to calm me down.

I used to joke that when things went awry, I did what all good southern girls do, I called my Daddy.  This grief of not being able to do so was not a six year old grief–suddenly it was raw and new.  All over again.

Unable to fix it myself or call my Daddy, I did the next best thing.  I called the Fella, who did what needed to be done to get to us as soon as possible.

Which he did.  But being he was finishing up work and we were all the way across town, it took a little bit.

I took the littles back in the store so we wouldn’t be sitting in a cold vehicle.  We window shopped and then went back to the vehicle when he texted that he’d be there in a few minutes.

Two things went wrong.  First, it hadn’t occurred to me until we were walking out in the parking lot that I have electric locks.  ELECTRIC.  Battery needed.  UGH.  Also I have one of these weird keys now that isn’t really a key so no way it’s going to unlock a door the old-fashioned way.  I looked it over and over as the cold set in and I started shivering, again regretting that I hadn’t gone back in the house when we’d set out and gotten a jacket.  I saw a little piece that could slide from one side to the other.  I figured it was the key (pun intended) to solving my problem, but none of us could figure out how to free the key that I was certain was hidden inside.  I even texted my law student, who is studying for first semester finals (all the good thoughts needed, by the way), who assured me that yes, sliding that thing would reveal the key.  Ummm, okay, sure.  But no.

That was when our Fella pulled up.  Before I could tell him that the slide thingy wasn’t working, he had a key revealed and was unlocking my door.  Okay then.

The rest of the story is long and wears me out thinking about it again–two different jumpstarts, a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road, Leroy bringing tools from his house (which was closer) so he and the Fella could install a new battery, having the alternator checked and cleared, and two hours later…..I was on my way home in my vehicle.

The littles had stayed in the truck with their Daddy, so I had the rare moment of driving by myself.  I belted out music from Cooter’s program that I had enjoyed so much, and I sang, and then a sad one came on, and I realized I was finally just then defrosting, and I bawled at a stop light because Daddy and…..I just miss him.

It was beginning to get dark as we finally headed back home.  Not even 6 pm.  (Whoever’s idea this getting dark early is, you are off my birthday list!) It wasn’t dark dark, but the light was dimming.  I knew my vehicle was running–I was driving it for goodness’ sake, but I had this fear that my headlights weren’t on.  It wasn’t dark enough for me to tell if they were yet, but I knew they needed to be on so others could see me.

Good gravy.  So much to worry over in this life, isn’t there?

It occurred to me as I searched for signs that my lights were on (besides the light on my dash indicating such–it’s been telling me my brake is on for the past several months–sorry–NOT) that this is how it is when things take a turn we weren’t expecting.  When things start to go south, we don’t know, we can’t see that our own light is there.  That we are still shining out for others to see.  We doubt that we are doing any good.  Sometimes it takes pure darkness setting in before we realize that our lights are indeed still shining.

And by then we’re so tired from worrying over it all.

Friends, your lights are shining.  I see them.  If you doubt it, come sit by me, and I’ll hold your hand and tell you stories about the laughter and joy and light that was and will be again.  And I’ll tell you how your light has blessed me.  Encouraged me.  How your light has been what I focused on through the tears, as I cried through the grief and sadness and pain.

Your light is a gift to this world.  And even when you can’t see it, the rest of us can.

May it shine forevermore.

But if your battery ever needs recharging I wish for you to have someone–a Daddy, a Fella, a friend, a sister, a Leroy,  a stranger–there to help bring it back to its beautiful brilliance.

Shine on, friends, it won’t be long and the days will be lighter and brighter again.

Love to all.

headlights in the dark

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Route 52 Snow Storm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Working Out

It was June, I think, or maybe July.  I’m not sure.  I know it was very hot.  And that Daddy was still going for treatments at the Cancer Center.

This particular day Daddy’s physical therapist, Miss Ida, whom I loved and adored from my own visit to the PT office where she worked, had helped get Daddy situated in the passenger seat of Mama’s car.  Mama got in the back, and I drove the two of them down and over to Highway 96 where the Center is located about twenty minutes away from the house.

When we got there, I pulled up under the breezeway to let Daddy out as close to the door as possible.  Mama went in and came back with a wheelchair.  I helped Daddy turn his legs around, and then we wrapped his arms around my neck, and I lifted while he tried to help.

At this point the lymphoma was zapping his strength and his broken hip from a few months before, though healing, was hindering his physical abilities as well.  I lifted, but my efforts did little to get him from the car to the chair.  We tried again, and I got him up a few inches.  And then…..

I almost dropped him.

He almost fell onto the edge of the car and to the pavement below.

I was mortified.  Daddy was fine, but still.  WHAT IF?

A kind soul happened upon us then–no coincidence at all–and she came right over, enveloped my Daddy in her arms, gently placed him in the wheelchair, waved off our thanks, and went on her way cheerfully, wishing us a good day.

BLESS.

It was easier getting him into the car on the way home, and somehow we got him from the car to the house without another incident.

But that moment stuck with me.  My upper body strength was sorely lacking.  If I couldn’t take care of my Daddy, something would have to change.  Immediately.  I was broken over the fact that it had been a stranger who had come to his aid–that after all he’d done for me through all the years, I couldn’t help him–unfathomable.

And so I began working out back then.  Nothing too serious, just trying to build up my strength so that I could help lift him.  And when he was bedridden at the end and would slide down in the bed, I was able to move him back up in the bed.  I am thankful for that now.

A couple of days ago, I woke up thinking about how we work to build up muscles.  How we work and push them beyond their limits to be stronger and to be able to do more with them.  Almost completely recovered from a frozen shoulder, I am ready to start rebuilding my core and my ability to “lift and tote.”  Mostly for groceries, but still–it’s a good thing to work on.

Then I started thinking about our hearts.  And how we love.

That’s a good thing to work on too.

We don’t build up our arm muscles by continuing to do the same thing every day–by only lifting the laundry from the dryer or the groceries from the car.  We have to be consistent, and we have to go outside our comfort zones to be strong and stronger.  We have to lift things we wouldn’t normally lift.

I think it’s the same in building up our hearts–and our capacity to love.  We don’t do it by loving the same people all the time.  We do it by loving folks outside our comfort zones.  And by doing it consistently.  That’s the only way to build up our love muscles.  Loving those we wouldn’t normally love.  Going out of our way for them.  For others.

And that’s the only way to build up the kingdom too.

A kingdom where I’d really like to live.

Wishing you all a day of working out–and building up those muscles.  For the good of all of us.

Love to all.

Die_Frau_als_Hausärztin_(1911)_135_Bruststärker

“Die Frau als Hausärztin (1911) 135 Bruststärker” by Anna Fischer-Dückelmann – Die Frau als HausärztinLicensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Catching Sight of Him

Cooter is enjoying his drama program.  Each week he heads through that door and doesn’t look back.

Well not much anyway.  When he is on stage delivering his lines (yes, he’s already memorized them! what a relief), he will glance over and smile with this “nailed it, did you see that?” look on his face.  I smile and sometimes offer a thumbs up.  He’s in his element, and that is a joy to see.

They’ve progressed to the point in rehearsals that all of the children wait backstage for their scenes.  Once they begin, I don’t see him except on stage until it’s time to leave.

This week there were a group of parents waiting for their children near the front door close to the end of rehearsals.  Since I stick around the whole time, I had already walked over and signed him out.  I stood off to the side, waiting.  As the crowd of children headed our way from the back, I finally saw Cooter.  He was moving with purpose towards our direction, but his eyes were steadily searching…..for me.  Oh my heart.  And then that moment when I moved into his line of sight and he saw me…..

bless.

His eyes lit up and he smiled that smile, and his stride was a little more relaxed.  It warmed my heart and soul and made my life to see the expression on his face.

And then just like that, I was his age–or maybe a year or two younger–again.  I was on the playground right after school was dismissed, and I was carrying something that Mama had sent treats to school in.  I was looking for my someone to find me and take me home.  I can still remember that exact moment the crowd parted, and there he was, that handsome, smiling fella I called Daddy.  In that moment, I was relieved, safe, and home.

So it was a very precious thing, this moment that Cooter and I had, where I got a small taste of what that day was like from Daddy’s perspective.  He found me just as I found him.

March 23 is my Daddy’s birthday.  The day to make a cake, light it up with candles, sing, and have him blow out the candles.  It’s the day I give him way more than one card because there were always several that made me laugh and think of him.  It’s the day that we all try our best to make him feel loved and bigger than life.  Because he was.

This will be the fifth year we celebrate his day without him here to give me a pickle or two off of his cheeseburger pizza.  The fifth year I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in the card section and perusing ideas of what to give him on Amazon.  The fifth year we don’t hear his laugh or watch the children trying to help him blow out the candles.

But it will still be special.

Tonight I’m thankful for the man who first looked for me and never gave up finding me, no matter how far away I wandered off.  I give thanks for every single year of his life that I got to spend with him, listening to his wisdom, sharing my ups and downs, and swapping stories.  I am especially thankful for that day that I was feeling so lost and there he was.  And I know that’s how it has always been–when I was the most lost, Daddy has always been there to help me find my way back.  And in a way, he still is.

Most of all, I am thankful for my little guy whom my Daddy named Cooter because he loved cars just like that mechanic on that TV show years ago.  Because I was loved and looked for, I can do that now.  Now I get to see what being found looks like from the other side.

And it is beautiful.

May you all have someone to look for and who looks for you.

Love to all.

img_1841

My sweet Daddy, at age 26, and me at 9 months old. The man who has always looked for and after me.  Love you, Daddy.  Thanks for everything.

 

 

Stories for Daddy with a Brownie on the Side

Today is my Daddy’s birthday.  March 23.  Another one.  Without him.  This is the fourth without him here with us.  The third since we gathered with Mama and planted the tea olive at the foot of his grave.

How is that even possible?  Time is an elusive creature.

The pan of brownies to celebrate Daddy's birthday.  Unfortunately the littles were there before me and the camera were.

The pan of brownies to celebrate Daddy’s birthday. Unfortunately the littles were there before me and the camera were.

Today we made a small pan of brownies to celebrate the day and remember.  That’s a change from what I would normally make for his birthday, but that is the way the wind blows.  Changes keep coming, carrying us further and further away from the birthdays we celebrated with him.

Brownies?  Why not.  The littles were thrilled, and as my Aunt pointed out, Daddy would have been the first to say, “Just make something those children will enjoy.”  And I expect he could have been convinced to have one or two himself.

I get my sweet tooth from my Daddy, I think.

I’ve thought about him a little bit more than I normally do, and I would venture a guess that it’s a normal thing to do, considering.  And what kept coming to mind are the things I would tell him, as though he were here, and I were gathering my crew to head over and celebrate with him.

Since that’s not something I can make happen, no matter how much I wish I could, I decided to write him a letter.  He loved hearing the stories about the littles in the family.  About his grandchildren, his grand nieces and nephews.  They made him smile and laugh and he loved to share them with others.  And so I have saved a few just for him that I think he would enjoy.

 

Dear Daddy,

Happy Birthday.  Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect upon your words of wisdom or wish you were here so I could glean more.  Lord knows and you do too that I need all the help I can get.  I miss you.  I miss you for so many reasons, but mostly because you were my comfort, my safe place to land.  You didn’t always make it easy, but you always made it okay.

Things are changing around here.  You’d be so proud of your first, your oldest grandchild.  She is looking at making changes of her own, all toward the end of reaching her future goals.  She has her heart set on graduate school, and she’s going to see it through, I’m pretty sure.  She’s about to take some classes that you would have enjoyed talking with her about and hearing her thoughts.  And vice versa.  I am looking forward to the conversations myself, but I know I won’t be the partner you were for me.  Thank you for that.  Letting me talk things out.  And think them through in our talks.  Thank you.

That little girl you called “Princess” is growing up too.  She is becoming a thinker, a problem solver.  I know you’d be impressed, as you and Mama tried to raise us to think things through and not to let anything stop us from reaching our goals–to be problem solvers.

Last week the littles and I went over to Aunt’s house, and their second cousins were there.  They were tickled and had a ball playing.  As always happens in the first warm days around here, the children gathered and decided the only way to get relief from the heat was to play with water–in this case, with water guns.  Cooter had his gym class later on, so he couldn’t get wet.  I apologized but said we’d have to let that idea go for this visit.  Cooter was devastated, as he can get when he is disappointed.  But Princess and the three cousins weren’t giving up yet.  A few minutes later they came in, and Princess shared that they had a new plan–Cooter would shoot everyone else with the water, and when he got someone wet, they’d get a gun and join him in getting the others wet.

Well.

Um.

What was I supposed to do with that?  Aunt, Cousin, and I laughed.  What else could we do?  And since Cooter was good with this version of the game, I had to say yes.  I was actually pretty impressed.  And yessir, she got wetter than anyone else.  You know how she’s always loved the water.

She came in a few days ago, after walking our pup Miss Sophie, and I asked if all went well.  “Oh yes ma’am, she went.”  Oh good.  I asked her if she had picked it up with a bag.  She knows to do this, but sometimes I feel the need to followup.

“I sure did.  Did you know if you put the bag behind her when she’s going, she’ll go in the bag and everything’s all taken care of?  All you have to do is tie up the bag?”  She was quite pleased with herself.

“Wait.  What? That works?”  It was one of those kind of “mind blown” moments, and I wondered how she’d come up with that to begin with.

And I guess it does, because our Princess says she’s done it that way more than once.

Okay then.  Whatever works, right?

Left it set up and on going from Friday night until this morning.  Marathon Monopoly--too much fun.

Left it set up and on going from Friday night until this morning. Marathon Monopoly–too much fun.

We found a Star Wars Monopoly game at the GW Boutique Friday.  Brand new, never opened.  We picked it up, because Cooter is the biggest Star Wars fan ever.  And Aub likes to play monopoly.  She’s really good about playing games with the littles.  I know, she gets that from Mama.  So they had a marathon game going all weekend, reminiscent of the games we used to have going at Granny’s–me and the cousins way so long ago.

They were all really pretty good sports through it all.  Occasionally I’d hear voices get a little louder and I’d call out, “Hey, y’all be kind!”

Yesterday morning, I thought I heard them getting after each other.  I was about to remind them again, when I heard Cooter laughing.  “Ha.  Dirty napkin.  Dirty paper towel.”  He fell into fits of laughter again.  When he came up for air, he said, “I’m just trash talking, that’s all.  Dirty paper plate.”  And this time I joined him in the laughter.

That boy.  He’s quite the character.  He reminds me of you in that respect.

They all love and miss you, but the tears have given way to laughter for the most part.  They love talking about what they remember.  How you reacted to cricket sounds in the Eric Carle book.  Every.  Single. Time.  Your playing soccer with them.  Your Matchbox cars.  Watching Cats with you.  Eating pizza with you.  How you made them laugh.  The books you read to them.  So many precious moments, tucked away in their hearts to pull out and look at again and again when they need a smile and to know that they are loved.

I don’t know what else to say, except the same thing I said each evening of those last weeks when I was leaving out to head back home.

Bye Daddy.  Thanks for everything.  Love you.

t

 

 

Selfie with Superman

Tonight was our Princess’ Christmas dance recital.

Precious.

From the little ones dancing to a song about having chicken pox at Christmas to the precision of the older girls as they performed their jazz number, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the season.  I am thankful over and over for my children being able to attend this dance studio and gym.

Our Princess was thrilled that her aunt Mess Cat and cousin Shaker and Aunt and Cousin came to see her perform.  I was tickled pink too.  I got to hug and visit with some of my favorite folks in the world.

My Cousin and I were talking about Julie Andrews and “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” and his high standards in viewing live theater.  The conversation then shifted to talking about movies we’ve seen over the years and the fact that they still have their Video Disc Player.

Oh me, the memories of that VDP!  We had some awesome movie nights, all of us crashed out in their living room, watching “The Man from Snowy River” or the original Star Wars movies.  Or so many others.

Turns out they still have those Star Wars movies.

I think it was my Aunt who mentioned “Superman.”

And my eyes glazed over and I left the room for a minute. Or two.

I was at least thirty-five years younger, and there was Christopher Reeve on the screen.

And I was in love.

I spent YEARS in love with the man.  Superman, yes.  Oh, that movie.  The flying scene.  Most.  Romantic. Scene. Ever.

Okay, I’m telling a tale.  There’s also that dancing scene in Sound of Music and every single scene in “Somewhere in Time.”  (Also Christopher Reeve–in case you didn’t know. And Jane Seymour.  #perfection)

My crush was no secret.  Daddy often teased me about my undying affection for, as he called him, Christopher “No Lips” Reeve.  I don’t know, Daddy, who looks at his lips…..I mean, really?

It was so widely known about that even Santa was in on it.  There was the year that Santa put a small figure of Superman in my stocking.  If you pushed his legs together, he did something but I can’t remember what.  No noise, just moved his arms or something.

And he was awesome.

I wonder where he got off to.  Isn’t it odd how some things just drift off over the years?

But I digress.

When I came back to the present this evening, I looked at my Aunt, and I was so thankful she reminded me of my infatuation.

Y’all, I really hope we can take selfies in Heaven.  (You know, those pictures you can take with your phone of yourself and someone else.  Or are they “ussies” when you include another person?)  I mean, because I really want to take a picture with Superman for sure.  I cannot bear the thought that such a photo opportunity can never happen just because he’s left this world.

And I’d love to snap a photo with Michael Landon.  And Whitney Houston, bless her heart.  And Maureen O’Hara.

And of course–if he wouldn’t mind a really quick one–

Elvis.

All of these people who have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  How cool would it be to walk up, hug their necks, say thanks for all the joy over the years, snap a photo, and then get back to partying with my people there?

Ah.  Silliness, I guess, but in the words of someone I hold dear, “I think we’re all going to be surprised.”

So maybe I will be able to take a selfie or two.

Tonight I’m thankful for the really great movies of my growing up years.  The ones that bring back all the feelings and emotions and memories from way back when.  I give thanks for sugarplum fairies and littles ones dancing their hearts out and smiling so big as they do.  I’m thankful for family gathering together to make little ones feel special and for conversations that remind me of what I used to love and really, that I never stopped loving.

Ah, Christopher Reeve.  Tonight I’m especially thankful for a visit to my youth and a dream planted in my heart.

One day–a selfie with Superman.

(And the REAL one please, not all this “remake” junk–and yes I know CR wasn’t the first–just step away if you don’t think he was the best Superman ever–we simply canNOT be friends.)

It could happen, right?

Wishing you a joyful memory from the past to make you smile today.

Love to all.

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

 

the window

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

Looking back on the day

that we stood by Daddy’s bedside

and let him go,

I see in my mind’s eye and realize with some

surprise

that the curtains on the window were open.

Daddy spent many hours

sitting in his chair

by that window

watching the cardinals

living in the arbor vitae,

the flying back and forth and building homes

amongst the branches, their red wings

in beautiful contrast with the somber news to come–

all before the chair was moved

to make way for the

hospital bed

and the story changed

forever.

Before

he would sit there

in his chair next to the window

listening and telling stories and

doling out what wisdoms he had to share.

He watched his favorite shows, old movies, and sports

but his favorite view

was looking out

that window.

So it is only fitting that the curtains

were open and

he left

in the light,

not tucked away in the dark

behind a closed curtain

like a secret

we were afraid to tell.

He left in the light,

surrounded by love,

taking our hearts with him.

And after he left,

at the same time he left work

to head Home all those years,

the sun began to set,

shrouding us in darkness

for the day,

preparing us for the shadowed journey

without him

in the years to come.

 

The Bricks and the Twine

I can still see, in my mind’s eye, my Daddy’s strong and weathered hands, tying the twine.  First through the hole on one clay brick, taking his time to tie it tight and knot it well.  Knowing how long he wanted it to be, he pulled his pocket knife out of his worn jeans pocket and cut it precisely.  He then went to work at tying and knotting it through the hole on the second brick.

The bricks were still warm from the rays of the sun.

He put his knife back in his pocket, and stood up to get on with the task at hand.

Daddy worked quietly and efficiently.  I enjoyed working alongside him, comforted by his presence and the songs of the birds near by.  He made his land a haven for many, birds included.  As he walked out to the plot of land he’d decided to garden that spring, his shadow grew long.  He was tall enough, but his shadows could stretch for yards that time of day.

Daddy handed me one brick and walked a ways before he set the other brick down at the edge of the plowed ground.  Telling me to keep a hold on my brick, he pulled it taut.

And so it began.  Daddy used the hoe to make a straight line for a straight row…..of corn, okra, squash, snap beans, peas…..whatever he decided he wanted to plant and whatever else Mama asked him to.  After he finished hoeing the straight rows, he handed me the bag of seed and told me how many and how far apart to plant them.

It just depended on what we were planting.

But the rows were always straight.  Daddy made sure of that.  As long as I followed what he’d mapped out, all was well.  I couldn’t go astray.

As it was for so much of my life.

Daddy guided, showed me the way, made suggestions on what and how much and the timing…..and then he let me grow.  I’m not saying I never went astray; there were times I did so with flying colors.  But with my Daddy there, I always knew where the right path was.  It depended on the situation, but he never failed to share his wisdom when I asked.  And he always had brick and twine to lay out the right course ahead of me.

The bricks out back are still warm from the rays of the sun.

But my Daddy’s hands are at rest, as is he.  The hands that were so strong–the same ones that held me when I was a baby, that toted the bucket of horse feed and me perched in on top of it, that lifted me up onto my horse, that guided my hands in brushing her and putting the bit in her mouth…..the hands that showed me how to do so many things, the hands that played cars with his grands and read books with them, and shelled peas that he’d just finished picking–those hands aged from the sun and hard work, the hands that wrote stories and love letters to his bride and poetry and letters to his children far away…..the hands that built and programmed computers and lifted knifes to slather peanut butter on just about anything it could go on…..those hands are no longer here to tie the twine and lay the bricks and hoe the straight rows to guide the garden…..or me.

Tonight I am thankful for the man who was the brick and twine in my life.  As time gets closer and the memories of those last days become more vivid…..again…..I listen to the birds and feel the warmth of the bricks and smell the fragrance of the tea olives he planted…..and I hug the children he loved so much.  I know that I have grown to be who I am because of the ground he plowed, the rows he laid, the seeds he planted and the weeds he pulled out of the garden of me.  As time continues to take me away from when he was here, I hope that I don’t grow too far away from the rows he planted, taking the time to lay them out.  With brick and twine.

The bricks that are still warm from the rays of the sun.

 

the strength of his hands

still carries me through hard times

and points the way home

~~~~~

the bricks are still warm

the same sun has watched him live

and knows he is gone

~~~~~

the garden, its rows

so straight and obedient

growing the good things