Monday, December 10, 2018

Change

You know, you don't think about it, about how quickly life can change, and then one day, the husband of your oldest friend gets into his truck to go to work. He'd taken the first week of deer season off, but the weather was bad, and he works for the state highway department. He made the decision to go into work because the weather was bad, and 'the guys would need help'.

Less than a mile from the equipment barn, a truck coming the other way lost control on a curve and hit him head on. 

To me, the miracle will always be that as badly smashed as his vehicle was, he was able to open the door and get out. It was at that moment he realized how badly he was hurt. Crushed ankle, broken hip, nerve damage, 10 broken ribs, and some devastating facial damage (no one will ever have to remind him to wear a seatbelt again, I imagine). 

After three separate surgeries, he finally got out of ICU. After another week, he's being released to a nursing home for rehabilitation. It'll take months before their lives return to any semblance of normal. 

In the end, what matters is friends. It's a powerfully beautiful thing to watch so many people working together to meet the needs of our friends at this difficult time. 


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back to Work

I'll be headed back to work on Monday. The doctor seemed surprised that I was ready to go back, but it's time. My knee is still giving me some problems, but I understand that it might be that way for a while. I got another shot of cortisone for it as it continues to heal.

The doctor and his wife and I got into a discussion about turkeys and swapped a few yarns. Mine: In Michigan we had a neighbor who 'owned' a half feral cat named Buzzard. He was not a very nice cat, but he was a character and you had to respect that about him. Our adjoining properties backed up to the woods, and one day I watched Buzzard coming through the underbrush between the woods and our yards. He was low to the ground as if he was stalking something, but instead of looking intently ahead, he kept stopping, throwing a look over his shoulder and then continuing is low slow move to the safety of his hidey hole behind the neighbor's woodpile. It piqued my attention. Soon a group of about 8 turkeys came out of the brush right behind Buzzard, single file. Every time that Buzzard stopped, the turkeys stopped too, all in a row, their heads bobbing up and down and to the right and the left to see what that cat was doing. When he finally got close to his hidey hole, he broke into a dead sprint, and disappeared behind the woodpile. The turkeys stood still, with their heads bobbing in confusion until they presumably were distracted by something else and wondered off. Turkeys are not bright birds.) We all got a laugh.

It was a very nice three weeks though. I got caught up on things, and I have done more reading than I've been able to do in such a long time. I read Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' and enjoyed it. I read Michael Ondaajte's 'Warlight' and loved it so much that I'm nearly done with The English Patient (best book I've ever read). I got 'Coming Through Slaughter' but lost the heart for that. I think Ondaajte may be my current favorite author. Last month it was Barbara Kingsolver. I read 'Flight Behavior'. I've read all of her books. 'Plainsong' by Kent Haruf. That's a lot of reading in three weeks, and it was luxurious beyond belief, to simply have time to wallow in books and to not feel guilty about it.

Tim's buck. Probably the most bizarre hunting story I've ever heard. Not sure if I'm allowed to tell it. Just asked Tim. His answer was no. I hope that untold stories do not keep you up at night.



People want to sign an agreement to buy on the house Tim just finished.

Thanksgiving was great.

Because I was laid up. I did a great deal of Christmas shopping on line. I got some unbelievable deals. I got a year's gift subscription for a weekly magazine that costs $4.99 at the checkout. Subscription price was $35 for 54 magazines. I ordered things from UK sites for Colin and Cara, including a special evening for the two of them. (When you are the mother of a minimalist, you have to figure out how to give gifts that won't clutter up their nomadic lifestyle - they tentatively plan to go back to Italy this summer.)  I had a $104. check out total that I saved $60 on and got free shipping to boot. I bought Iris Blueberries for Sal, my favorite book when I was a little girl, one I read to all the kids (shockingly none of them remember this). I had so much fun having the time to browse, I had the chance to get very excited about Christmas.

Tomorrow I'll go to my friend. Her husband was involved in a horrible head on crash and injured very badly. Can you imagine rushing to a hospital and waiting, waiting, waiting...and then when you were finally allowed in to see him, the staff insisted that you be in a wheelchair because he looked that bad? But he was coherent and still making jokes.  I cried to hear that good news.

I plan to get my tree up this weekend, because Monday, I go back to work.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

I was putting my pyrex measuring cup in the cupboard when it happened. I dropped it, it hit the counter and exploded, as only pyrex can do. Glass everywhere. 

Tim wandered into the kitchen to find out what happened. I told him. He wandered back out again. 

I swept up the small bits, picked up the big bits, used a wet paper towel to pick up any small slivers from the counter and then from the floor.

That homely little pyrex measuring cup. 

I've had it most of my life. 

Alexandria, VA as a single parent. Gaithersburg, MD and Baltimore MD, increasing the family. Midland MI trying to make something work that I'd have been better off to abandon quickly. Back to Pennsylvania, a single parent again. And then, unbelievably, married again. And then the kids began to leave. I'm still a mom, but it is different now. I'm a grandma now. 

And all through those years, at least 40 of them, I've been grabbing that two cup pyrex measuring cup from my cupboard multiple times a week. 

On Friday, I broke it, and as I cleaned it up, I found myself getting a little misty about times gone by, of meals, and family, and the work of it all. 

Yep. 

I'm a sap. 




Friday, November 23, 2018

Compromise? Capitulation? Dunno.

A couple months ago, William showed me a toy that he wanted desperately. They were odd looking creatures, but cartoons have changed since I was a kid, and some of the creatures ARE odd looking. I let him chatter on about it, and gave him opportunities to earn money towards that toy.

Every time we went to Walmart, he wanted to looks at those toys again. He didn't have enough money saved, but who knows? Maybe they were on sale. (They weren't.)

And he told me that you could watch you-tube videos of these toys. I watched parts of a couple, and they seemed pretty innocuous. He's in second grade now, and he's pretty good at typing stuff into the computer. I wander in and out while he's on the computer, but I guess that I wasn't as focused as I could have been. 

Anyways, he tends to get pretty focused on his interests, and Five Nights at Freddie's was no exception. He went on and on. It was when he came to me with one of his Lego creations that I began to have concerns. He'd built his own scooping room. 

"What's a scooping room?" I asked. He started trying to explain that it was a room that where robots were built. I'm not sure why triggered my suspicions, but I did some checking into Five Nights at Freddy's, something that, admittedly, I should have done before letting him get that involved.

His mother and his grandparents tried to put the brakes on, but it was late for that. He was upset because he wasn't allowed to get the toy he so desperately wanted. He was no longer able to watch the little videos on you-tube. He was pretty upset.

He knows that there's no point in arguing but that knowledge did not stop him from wistfully talking about the fact that kids play this game on the bus on their phones (he does not have a cell phone) or some other handheld devices. A boy in his class felt sorry for him and offered to make a trade for one of the figures. (The trade involved money.)

He was told no.

He was playing with his aunt Cara's teddy bear. We noticed that he was fond of that particular bear. He came to me and commented that he'd like to make a top hat. Grandma, being a bit out of the loop showed him how to use poster board to make the barrel of the hat. We cut out a large circle to attach the barrel to. He used a super large sign marker to color the hat black. We taped it together, and he was excited. He colored two pink circles and asked me to cut them out. I did. He made a star and colored it yellow. He was getting more excited by the minute.

I gave him some strapping tape and he disappeared. When he returned, he had morphed gentle Marshmallow the Bear into Freddy Fazbear
File:Pictures-of-freddy-fazbear-pictures-of-freddy-fazbears-pizza-animatronics.jpg

The boy gets points for creativity.

His mother was pretty upset. Grandma felt like she'd ruined the boy for life, but understands that we can't go backwards at this point. He knows about the game. He's seen the game at school. There's a lot of marketing for this game. I don't know why it is being directed at kids.

There are lego sets. There are toys. Videos. Children's Halloween costumes. These introductions are a lot less scary than the game, but in my mind, they are a segueway into something very unhealthy. Grabbing people and dragging them into a scooping room to have their guts scooped out so that these animatronics can wear their skins and fool people just does not sound like wholesome entertainment to the adults that are calling the shots in William's life.

Much to his chagrin.

William went with us to Dylan and Brittani's to meet his cousin. Dylan has a Nintendo. He showed William how to play Super Mario, and William was thrilled. He began to say, "I wish I had a Nintendo game..." and looking at Dylan with big brown eyes. Dylan, being a new dad, does not have the proper skills needed to deal with this kind of manipulation. He said, "You know, William, I don't play this game and I was thinking...." before Grandpa and Grandma cut him off.

William is 7. He won't be 8 until February. There has been plenty of evidence of the effects of video games on the brain of young children. So...we really don't want him to get hooked on video games ADHD is in his genetic make up, and we remain watchful for signs of that.

Ay yi yi.

After some discussion, the decision was made. Today he got an inexpensive handheld Pac-Man game. Our hope was that it would satisfy his video hunger in an acceptable way. The rule is that he gets to play it for 1/2 hour. He earns that time by putting his toys away. Or eating without complaining. (Okay, it's a powerful, powerful bribe).

It was also presented as a way to work up to a Nintendo a year or so from now by proving his maturity: He does the work involved to get his game, and when his half hour is up, he puts the game away with no arguing or complaining.

So far, it seems to be effective.



Perfection

I've been off work for a few days, and it's been a wonderful time. I made bread three times in the past week, which has always been wonderfully soul satisfyng to me for reasons that I will probably never fully comprehend.

I rediscovered precious time. Imagine getting everything done that you needed to get done...and still have time to sit down with a book. Or to watch a movie. Or to study the firelight reflecting across a gleaming hardwood floor. Or to write a letter.

I'm able to write to Cara now. I have an address for her, and I'm grateful for that. No letters have actually reached her yet, but 3 of them are in transit, a fourth one in progress.

I was working on one the other day and the house was silent save for the ticking of my old clocks. I love my old clocks. No matter what foolishness man is up to, those clocks keep on marking time.

I wrote steadily on my letter to far away Cara.

I heard a train whistle from across town.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I was perfectly poised between the then and now and the here and there. One blessed moment of perfection.

Outside, the snow fell silently.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Blessings



This is our Iris, Unbelievably, she is 3 months old now. She's begun to chuckle, and to 'talk'. She's active and the picture above is unusual. Know why? She's so lively that usually there's a blur where a hand might be, or a foot might be. Iris is one of the things that I'm grateful for on this day of gratitude.

I'm also grateful for Cara. She and Colin are no longer in Afghanistan. I'm awfully grateful for that. If I posted a picture of the two of them, she'd probably never forgive me, so I won't. 

Tim's son Mike got a bear. While this is not something I can personally get all excited about, it seems to have thrilled everyone else, so I'm grateful to see this much happy. This is Tim and William. They are definately two of my blessings. 

I'm happy that we have a house on the market. It will be a blessing if it sells. 

The drug dealer on Madison has been caught. Another blessing. 

We got robbed. Not a blessing, but Tim had the serial numbers, and the stuff has been found. In the drug dealer's house on Madison. So that's a blessing too. 

We've got Thanksgiving for 8 (maybe 9) at our house on Thursday, and I am grateful for each person at that table. We'll go to my sister's for Thanksgiving on Saturday. Two Thanksgivings in one week...definately a blessing. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May your blessings be many!


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Opioid Crisis Hits Home

Life gets in the way, sometimes, doesn't it? I used to blog regularly a hundred years ago. Now the poor old neglected blog limps along.

It's life getting in the way. It is because there is so much of my life that could not be told, because so much of my life (ours, Tim's, mine) revolved (and still does) around one little boy, our grandson, much beloved.

I'm so glad that the opioid crisis has been receiving increasing attention because that is what we are dealing with and that addiction has caused so much anguish that I cannot tell you.

William's father grapples with addiction. Since William's parents are divorced, it seems as if that should have ended the problem right there, or least our involvement with his issues.

It didn't. Because William's father had unsupervised partial custody.

We discovered, as grandparents, we don't have any say so. William's mother, our daughter, made regular reports, but nothing became of them.

By the time that William's father went to prison (on four felony charges, stemming from two separate cases), we were relieved. So relieved. Not because we are awful human beings who celebrate all the bad things that befall this awful man but because, for the first time in years, we did not have to hand off a little boy to a man that we suspected (but could not prove) was abusing prescription drugs again.

William is nearly 8 now, and hasn't seen his father in a couple years.

Not sorry about that.

I remember the day that I got the call from school that his father hadn't come to pick him up. I was still working nights, and I jumped out of bed, threw on clothes and hurried to the school. There was William, sitting in the principal's office, quiet and composed. The very first words out of his mouth: "I hope that the police did not put my daddy in jail."

We had no idea this was coming, but William's father had prepared him.

He had explained to William that 'he hadn't burnt down Grandma's house (other grandma, not me), but that the police hated him and were trying to blame him'. He assured William that he had not done such an awful thing. He knew who did though. He explained that another bad man hated daddy and set the house afire, walking out, shutting the door on William's beloved dog and a couple cats.

I held William's hand on the way across the parking lot. It was left to his mother and us to explain that the police were not the bad guys.

It was left to us to gently point out, again and again, that the bad guy that supposedly started this fire was already in jail and had been for a long time, and would not be getting out any time soon. (Attempted murder occupies a man's time for a while.) William had terrors of this man coming to where he was and setting his mother's house on fire. He had those terrors for months.

As his father's cases unfolded, it was left to us to explain that it was not a corrupt system that took his daddy from him, that there was a camera from a nearby rail yard that showed his daddy walking into the house, and then walking out again carefully locking up behind him. It showed the smoke shortly afterwards. The house then burst into flames.

The tape totally belied our ex-son-in-law's alibi, that he had been gone that whole day, and could prove it.

He ultimately pled guilty. To multiple charges. In both cases.

It was left to us to explain that without emotion. Just the facts. Because William needed to know that his father was not a victim of an unjust system, but a victim of himself and his own poor choices. He needed to know that the police do not simply pick people that they don't like and put them in jail. William listened quietly and then looked at us all and said, "Daddy LIED to me?"

Yes. He did, and we are sorrier about that than words can say.

William doesn't talk about his father much two years down the road. He is afraid of the dark and people who might set his house on fire though. He's pretty matter of fact about things. A couple of times that Tim has been mistaken for his father, William corrects them. "This is my grandpa. My dad went to prison. He burned down a house." People gape, unsure what to say next. His mother and I fret about how to explain that Jesus and the world don't need to know every last detail of his life. His grandfather says that he thinks we should just let him deal with it, that he is processing it in a practical way.

He is safe and beloved, and his mother works hard to support them. His grandfather and I live nearby and we never say no. We take William whenever his mother's work schedule requires care. We pick him up from school. We take him to school. His mother, his grandfather, and I all jump through hoops to make sure that William is always cared for by family and he moves easily between our two houses.

But there are those quiet moments that just kill me.

We were driving home from the grocery store with a car full of groceries. As we sat at the light across from the jail where his father had been housed until he was sent to the penitentiary, a quiet little voice from the back seat said, "He wasn't such a bad old dad."

It's a pivotal moment. The real trick is allowing William to feel what he feels without burdening him with all of our negative opinions. He's a little boy. He loves his daddy. In his own unhealthy way, his father loves him too.

I answered carefully, "Do you miss him a lot?"

And the voice came back. "Sometimes. But sometimes I was hungry, and I couldn't wake him up. I'd try and try. But he wouldn't wake up. I don't miss that. I cried in my bed because I was hungry."

The light changed. I made my turn and drove on. How do you answer that? The knowledge that your beloved grandson was hungry, that he was within a mile of your home crying himself to sleep?

Hate is wrong, but I discovered that I can hate, Hate with a white hot rage, and that hate can be quantified. I hate that man every bit as much as I love that little boy. In that moment, I was sick with rage. Physically sick. Even as I write this, it makes me angry all over again.

The opioid crisis.

In my house, it is not an abstract. When I listen to the reports, there is a face, the face of a little boy. In listening to the reports, I learn that he is not alone, that there are (unbelievably!) scores of children with the same experiences.

There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. While his mother remains the central figure in his life, we are heavily invested in both their lives. 'It takes a village,' they say, and this is true.

I have not been blogging a lot in these past couple years because so much has been unbloggable.

No more.

I'd like to hear from others who struggle with this.

Because William's daddy is out of prison now. He is in a halfway house. He hasn't talked or written to William for weeks and weeks now. But it will begin again. He's going to want his boy back.

It will begin again.





Monday, November 19, 2018

Sleeping in the Bathtub.

William generally spends the nights on Friday nights, a tradition that he loves.

He has a bedroom upstairs, but he's afraid to sleep up there by himself and our bedroom is on the first floor, so we have a cot which is set up for him across the room from the foot of our bed.

We had quite a storm this week and it has been cold. An ongoing argument for Tim and I is that I want the electric blanket on. He does not think we need it. (He's wrong, but we compromise and we don't use the electric blanket. In exchange, I wear socks to bed and he keeps his mouth shut about it.)

Anyhow, we were all preparing for bed. After a night of cozily watching the fire in the new woodstove insert for the fireplace, Tim commented that if we installed a grate between the library and the front hall, we could bring some of that heat into our bedroom.

I said, "You're not starting any projects in this house that you are not prepared to devote all your time to finish." (He's just now finishing up a house that we have begun to show, and I know that house is his first priority.)

He laughed and threatened to get his chainsaw and William chimed in from his little cot, "Oh, no you DON'T, grandpa."

I suggested (for the 100th time) that we get out the electric blanket. He claimed we didn't need it. William perked right up. If we weren't going to use that electric blanket, could he? We told him the blanket was way too big for his little bed, and he began to tell us how terribly cold he got at night. (We have never heard this complaint before. He sleeps between flannel sheets, a fleece blanket, and a comforter.) But he went on at great length. He went on for so long that I simply grabbed the heating pad I'd been using after some knee repair, and put it on his bed. I tucked him in, along with his four stuffed cats, and his Calvin and Hobbes, and he read his book while I read my book (Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain).

Soon he was asleep, and Tim was asleep and so I put my book on the bedside table and turned off my reading light.

Checking on William by the glow of his night light, I saw that a purring Paddy Cat was curled around him, and his very large Calvin and Hobbes treasury was taking up a lot of space, along with the four stuffed cats that he always sleeps with.

I laughed to myself and got out of bed to do some rearranging. I put his book on his table, and moved him towards the middle of his bed and tucked him in once again. By the glow of his night light, he stirred, briefly opened his eyes and drowsily said, "Grandma, I love this. I feel like I'm sleeping in the bathtub."

And he slept until 8 AM.




Sunday, November 18, 2018

Old Dog

I had, for years, a happy red tea kettle with a black, stay cool handle. It whistled to let me know when the water had reached a boil. After years, the whistler broke.

I replaced it with another red tea kettle. This one had a metal handle and a metal tea kettle. Me, being me, thought, "There's nothing on this to break. It'll last me for the rest of my life."

Now, I don't use a tea kettle on a daily basis. I use it even less now that I've had a terrible bout with kidney stones and am limiting my caffeine intake. So when I used this tea kettle for the first time, when it whistled, I made the grand mistake of absentmindedly grabbing it without a pot holder. Calling myself all sorts of names, I ran my hand under cold water. 

Long story short, I lived. And I lived so that I could burn my hand a couple more times while absentmindedly grabbing a whistling tea kettle from the stove. 

What can I say? 

This weekend, I was waiting for a call from Cara. I decided to make myself a hot cup and put the kettle on for a caffeine free beverage. I am proud to report that when the kettle whistled, I grabbed a pot holder before I grabbed the kettle from the stove. 

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

I'm  so proud.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Hoarder's House.

Last year, we bought a house. The man had died, and the house went to his wife. They were separated but not divorced. She was very ill herself and did not survive him for long. Her children did not like the man at all, and they did not want his house. We bought it, chock a block full of contents.

He was a hoarder. There were piles and piles of boxes. One box contained nothing but cigarette coupons. Another box had newspapers. There was a huge garbage bag full of nothing but salt and pepper shakers, still full, as if he and his wife had swiped the shakers from every restaurant that they'd ever gone to. There's a lot of kitchen appliances, still in their unopened boxes. Dishes galore, sheet music dating back to the early 1900s. Crazy, crazy amounts of stuff to be gone through. 3 generations of cancelled checks. Stuff like that.

Something that always made me feel badly was that these folks had tons of family pictures. They were everywhere, Formal portraits, family snapshots, letters, post cards home, all sorts of ephemera. And every time I got there to go through stuff, I'd think "I wish that I knew the family. Surely this would mean something to someone..."

I knew that he and his first wife had divorced and she took the kids and moved to California. I knew that he and his second wife married late in life and had no children. I knew that he and his third wife were married for a relatively short time, and her children wanted nothing to do with him at all.

A young girl at work was moving into her own place and I offered her the chance to go through the appliances and dishes and see if there was anything that she could use. While I was waiting, I went through the music cabinet. It is a piece that I intend to keep for myself. Going through the sheet music, I found some little slips of paper, entry blanks for a long ago Easter contest at a local store. one of those guess-how-many-beans-are-in-this-jar games. I looked at the childish handwriting and stopped cold in my tracks. I thought I recognized the name.

I called a mutual friend and asked if Ed R.'s first name was 'Edwin', and surprised, she said that it was. "Why?" she asked.

I couldn't believe, after all this time, that the answer was right there in front of me.

I told Mary about the Wayne St, house, about all the pictures, and slides, and even home movies. "Do you think he'd be interested?" I asked.

And she said, "Oh my gosh, I know that he would. I'm going to call them right now."

Just that quick, my phone was ringing back. It was Ed, and he was flabbergasted. They remembered the pictures. Betty, the second wife was his aunt. He and his family had even lived with them for a bit when they moved back from Florida. They were very close to their aunt, and when she died, they asked for her family pictures. The old man had told them that they couldn't have them, that they'd been thrown out.

I told Ed that they weren't, that there were boxes and boxes of them. I told him that he was welcome to them. He was very excited. He does genealogy and they had precious little information on his mother's side of the family. He was speechless when I told him about the suitcase in the attic filled with photos from the 1800s, tintypes, post cards home from WWI. (ONE!) even a very creepy Victorian death photo.

We met at the house tonight. His sister drove an hour to be here too. They went through pictures identifying people. They found momentos from long ago weddings. The sister found the baby announcement from when her daughter was born.  And there were tears, and laughter, and a family reminiscing. "This was where I slept!" and "Remember that we sat in this very chair and untangled Aunt Betty's necklaces?"

The old movies? They took them all and the projector and the movie screens too. The slides? They took them, and we found the slide viewer. Strange things caught their eyes: An old biscuit cutter had sentimental value. The cut glass pitcher. A strange old lamp.

The two Swedish bibles from  the 1870s had names and dates of births, and dates of deaths and were held reverently once again. There were letters to be exclaimed over. When we went to the attic, Ed said right away, "My aunt wanted that wicker doll carriage in the very worst way!" Inwardly, I groaned, because I coveted it for myself, but it wasn't my memory, and so I told them that their aunt could have it. They looked at me. "She's dead," they said, and I am ashamed to say that my first thought was a jubilant "YES!" but I only said, "Well, I'm sorry that she was never able to get that carriage." I meant it too. I would not have missed it had I never set eyes on it.

3 hours later, we finally walked out of that house, tired and dirty and one of the people having some serious breathing issues from the dust in the attic.

Outside, they hugged me over and over and told me how wonderful it was to have all these things. They'd bought a fruit basket for us. It wasn't at all necessary. As happy as they were to get it, I was even happier to see it go. The fact that it went to where it belonged made it all the better.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Babies

I had 24 precious hours to spend with my new grand daughter, Iris, and I made the most of it. She is so cute.

Holding her, I re-remembered the way that a baby fits perfectly into your arm, perfectly into your shoulder. I re-remembered the little noises they make, the sweet smell of them, the weight of them...they are amazing. Just amazing.

The next day, I left them all behind. Cara would spend the weekend with Dylan and Brittani and Iris, and then she's headed back to Italy and her Colin.

I felt like I was leaving a bit of my heart behind. There never IS enough time, is there? I felt like we had used what we had very wisely though. None of it had been wasted. Not a second.

I think of my children as I'm falling asleep and the remembering makes me smile into the dark.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tom

Today, I was driving to pick William up from school. I saw a man walking down the sidewalk, slowly, carrying his umbrella, looking up. I recognized an old friend, Tom, from years back at work.

Tom was always a quiet person, the sort who saw good in everyone. He worked hard, smiled a lot. He had a wife he adored, and his children were grown, but he loved talking about them all.

A few months back, I saw Tom at the Walmart and we greeted each other with a hug. "How are you doing?" I asked him. "I haven't seen you in forever!" I asked him if he was still working where I'd seen him last and he told me that he retired.

"That's great!" I said. I commented that he and his wife were probably spending a lot more time with their kids and grandkids. Tom shook his head, looking down.

Turns out that he had retired, and a couple weeks later, his wife had taken sick and with no forewarning, she died. Just that quick.

I hardly knew what to say. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it."

I told him how sorry I was to hear that, and I was.

He told me that his children wanted him to move closer to them and that, while it was tempting, he just didn't feel ready to leave everything he knew behind and start over again. I told him that I thought it was wise to not make a bunch of changes at a time when he was was already negotiating more than his fair share of them.

We talked a while longer and then hugged goodbye.

I haven't seen him since, until today, when I passed him on the street, neatly dressed in dress shirt and khakis, carrying his umbrella, looking up.  Stopped at a light, he walked ahead of me, not knowing I was there. I saw him stop, bend, and pick up a piece of litter from against the curb. He continued on his way, and the light changed and I drove on my way.

It's easy to lose sight of in these tumultuous times, but we are surrounded by goodness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things that make me go 'Hmmmmmmmmmmm...'

All week long, I've had the biggest problem with a clock that just stops. For no reason. It's wound. As soon as you set the pendulum swinging it takes right off. 

Tonight I came home to discover that the clock had stopped again. I was shocked to notice that the horse clock in the front hall had stopped. So had my cuckoo clock. 

I checked them once again. They are level. There's no reason that I can see that they have stopped. Resignedly, I set about starting them and resetting them once again. Makes me wonder if we're having earthquakes or something. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Tantrum

I picked William up from school today, and we headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items. On the way there, we had a talk. He'd had quite an tantrum the previous day and I wanted to talk to him about it. I knew that his heart broke a little when he said good bye to his Aunt Cara, but I reminded him that he was in second grade now. "If you are upset, you're old enough to use your words. You do not throw a tantrum."

He listened, and he agreed. "I was being immature," he said. He explained to me how maturely he had behaved in school that day and I told him that I was proud of him.

We went into the store and picked up some supplies for the next few days. I am having some surgery and wanted to give Tim some easy meal options.

We were waiting behind a man who had a cart with three cases of water, two in the back, one balanced in the seat. There were also two bags of coffee beans.

I was setting my things on the conveyor and I heard him say, "This needs to be rung up separately." I didn't watch closely, but his hand hovered over the coffee. I continued setting my things on counter.

I heard her give the total. I heard him flip. "That's not right!" he exclaimed. But he handed over the cash and she finished the transaction. He snatched his change and receipt, and really began to rant. "This is for the three cases of water!"

She looked confused. "Right," she said. "I'll ring up the coffee now."

He had wanted the one of the waters rung up with the coffee. "When I tell you to ring things up separately, I mean what I say," he growled. His anger was way out of proportion to the situation.

I stood there watching this. The man had set nothing on the conveyor. The water had been rung up from a card at her register. A reasonable person would have set the two coffees on the counter and asked her to ring that up with one of the waters, but he was not reasonable. He was disgusted and he made his disgust known. The cashier was a young girl. She apologized profusely and kept a smile on her face. He continued to rant.

I stood behind him and waited. She waited for him to pay. He finally swiped his card, muttering and punching the buttons. Then he grabbed his cart and took his rage right out the door.

The cashier looked at me and said, "Did you find everything you needed today?"

I said, "Yes. I did, and I just want to say that you did a very good job with a very unhappy customer. It was a misunderstanding."

She said, "I've been here for four years. Most people are great."

She was ringing up my stuff and I was swiping my card and William and I headed for the car, William clutching the stuffed toy he'd picked up for his new cousin, Iris.

Wouldn't you know it? The angry man was parked next to me and he stood glaring at me in a very angry manner. I ignored him. He glared. I'm not sure why he was so angry at me but maybe he was pissed at the whole world. I don't know. Some folks are like that.

William climbed in the car talking a blue streak about his present for Iris and I returned the cart. As I got into my own car, I heard him cuss and then saw him striding purposefully back to the store. I watched carefully. He headed straight in the exit. He was going back in to complain to the cashier or her supervisor.

Quite a tantrum, all of it over three cases of water and two bags of coffee beans.

What a world we live in.




Friday, August 31, 2018

Little Glimpses

Cara is back in Italy now. She and Colin live outside Venice. Mack that cat is having a fine time getting into arguments with hot tempered Italian cats. He's visited the vet twice. He's not happy with caravan life and gets destructive inside, so they've made the tough choice to make him an indoor/outdoor cat. He's an Afghan street cat, with street cat wiles. He tends not to roam far. Much to Cara's horror, she watched him march up to a tent, reach out, hook a claw into the zipper, and unzip a tent enough to wiggle inside.

Cara has a temper of her own, and I shall not relate what she called him, but she was not pleased, and she braced herself to hear a barrage of complaints. Luckily, Italians on vacation seem to be a very relaxed group. They are charmed by Mack. 

I also got to finally see Iris. She's beautiful and alert, and there is something very powerful in the re-remembering of the fit of a small baby into your shoulder. It is a powerful thing to watch your son and your daughter move confidently into parenthood. 

William is a second grader. 

Summer is drifting into fall here. I feel like summer was an eye blink, but the seasons change with indifference to our thoughts on the matter. 



Thursday, August 30, 2018

Prodigal daughter

Cara's home from Italy for a while.

So happy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

William's Bike

The bike that William won at the fair was a full sized men's bike. It still had the tags on it, the instructions dangled from the handle bars, and the wheels still had the paper inside the spokes. We figured that we could swap it for a new kid's bike.

But the store would not take it back without a receipt.

We contacted the group that gave it away. They would have come out about $40 ahead on the deal. But they never contacted us back.

I got the idea to put a post on facebook explaining the situation. If a man was looking to buy a new bike for himself, he could get one and save about $40 by simply buying a little boy a bike and working an even steven swap with us. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Within minutes, someone was wanting to buy that bike for William. We met with them at the store, and William picked out his bike and he was a very excited little boy. The man said, "You need a light for that bike. Safety first. And so William got a light too.

The only fly in the ointment was that the couple refused the bike. We debated it, but they were adamant. "Pay it forward," they said.

It's been troubling me. I felt pretty guilty about how it all shook out.

Fast forward two weeks later.

Our church had our worship outside in the park. We had a pot luck, followed by a few hours of live music. Sitting at the hospitality table I noticed a young man wander in and sit quietly listening to the music. Later on, when I went inside to use the bathroom, the young man was getting a water.

I pointed towards the next room. "We've got a bunch of food in there, go fix yourself a plate."

He stood stock still and said, "Is it free?"

"Sure is," I said. "Go fix a plate." And he did. I saw him going back for seconds.

He came over and said, "Is there coffee anywhere?" I said, "I can make you a pot." So I did.

Outside again, I watched him return to the church several times for coffee.

He just kind of stuck in my mind. I wondered what his story was. Then suddenly, it popped in my mind that he needed a bike. It would not go away. I tried to get someone else to talk to him about it, but in the end, I got up and did it myself.

I said, "Hey, can I ask how you get around?"

He said, "I walk."

I said, "Would you like a bike?"

He looked at me like it was a trick question. He finally said that he would.

I said, "Come on."

We went to my car and I drove him home. He was very quiet, but he did ask, "What size is this bike?" Still a bit mistrustful of what was happening I think. I told him it was a 26 incher, and he was quiet again. I live about five minutes from church, and when we pulled into the driveway, I walked into the garage to pull it out. He said, "This is brand new!" I told him the story behind it.

I went into the house to get a pair of scissors to cut the tags off. When I came out he was struggling to fit his pop bottle full of coffee into the frame. I said, "Wait a minute." I went inside to get a bottle that had a loop to go over the handle bar.

He was gobsmacked. He thanked me and then he was gone.

Later, I messaged the people who'd given William his new bike. I told them what happened next. They both cried.

At that point, so did I.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Angry boy

In school, William had a friend. He wasn't a good friend. In fact the kid was in trouble, a lot. But I work with his step dad. I know that his parents struggle a great deal with him. I know that T. has had some pretty big stuff to deal with in his seven years on this earth.

Tim and I have great faith in the idea that if you set boundaries, if you expect the same things every time,  we think that kids respond to boundaries and clear expectations. I thought perhaps we could take this young man along with us camping a few times this summer. Unfortunately, as it worked out, this summer has been a bit of a challenge for me and I have been under the weather. We were only able to camp a handful of times.

However, in this last week of summer vacation, my friend and his wife have been struggling. They can't find day care for the boy. They have been taking turns missing work. They can't afford it but they have no alternative. My friend asked me what we were doing with William. I explained that Tim just takes him along to whatever he's working on.

Just so happens that Tim is working on a house that is on the route they take to get to work. After some amount of talk, Tim and I thought it would be nice to have his friend for the last few days of the summer, and that the boys could play together in the creek while Tim worked on the house. It would be just for a couple hours. His mother would drop him off after lunch, and his father would pick him up after we get out at 2:30.

The first day was not good. Seems that T. has an affinity for smashing things. Even more shocking was that William simply followed along with the bad behavior. Tim spoke very firmly to both of them.

The second day was even worse. Tim overheard the boys. T. was telling William that he couldn't play with his handheld game unless he *whisper, whisper* and while Tim didn't hear all of it, he plainly heard the 'f' word.

Tim was very interested to see what would happen next. William has a big tendency to blame his misbehavior on those around him.We tell him over and over again that it doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. He has a choice. He can either choose to go along with those who are doing the wrong thing or not, but it is a conscious choice he is making. He has to choose whether he is going to do the right thing or the wrong thing.

William did not say the 'f' word, and he was very quiet. T. was picked up and Tim had a private talk with his stepfather.

When William and his grandpa arrived home, Grandpa said, "I was very proud of you today, William. You made a good choice." He told me about the talk between William and T.

William filled in the rest of the story that Tim hadn't heard. William wanted to play with the game but Terry would not let him unless William told his grandpa to "Shut up, you big -------." Tim and I were shocked speechless. That is a tremendous amount of anger from a 7 year old.

William continued on. "I knew if I said that, Grandpa would ground me for the rest of my LIFE." He looked upset. "I love my grandpa. I don't want to be mean to him."

The world has changed a lot since I was a kid. Since my kids were kids. It is scary. But in the middle of that, we saw that all of our preaching made a difference for the boy we love best in all the world.

That night at the supper table, he said, "I have to be everybody's friend." We explained that no, he did not. He had to be kind. He was never to mean to others. However, when someone behaves badly, we want him to know that he's certainly entitled to choose to play with others. Just as we expect and hope that he will never stand by and watch someone bully another child, we hope that he would never just stand there and allow someone to bully HIM.

He digested this thoughtfully, right along with his meal.

The world is not a simple one, but it always amazes me that the answers generally are.

There are two more days before school starts again. I don't know what his parents are going to do, but T's problems are more than Tim can deal with. I feel sorry for him, and hope that somehow he gets sorted out.



Saturday, August 18, 2018

Iris Lynn

Two years ago, a little angel child was born and died, a shooting star in this world. Keegan's passing broke many hearts.

Now, 3 days before what would have been his second birthday, there is Iris Lynn, named for rainbows and her maternal grandmother. Three weeks premature, she weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz, and she made sure that the world knew, right away, that there was nothing at all wrong with her lungs.

She is beautiful, and she is perfect.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Bike

Last week, Grandpa took the training wheels off William's bike. He'd got the bike for his 5th birthday, and he's always been a bit afraid of it. So it's practically new, very seldom ridden. Tim got tired of waiting for William to gain confidence, so he just took the training wheels off and matter of factly said, "Well, you're just going to have to figure it out, William."

And William did. He's been watching other kids riding around on their bikes, and he really wanted to join them. 

So he got on his bike and took off. Just like that, he got on his bike and he was riding all over the place just as if he'd been riding a two wheeler for all his days. 

He was beyond amazed, and came rushing into the house to tell me (at the top of his lungs) that he could now ride a two wheeler. I obligingly went to the door to watch him, and noted that unfortunately, he'd mastered the bike only after he'd outgrown the little 16 incher. 

Saturday night was the last day of the county fair, and Stock Car football. It has become a family tradition. I've been under the weather, so this year I couldn't go, but Tim and William went just as they always do. 

Now just before the "Super Bowl" round of stock car football, they have a drawing. Each kid in the crowd gets a ticket as they enter the gate and then at the end of the competitions, right before the grand finale, the Fair Queen pulls four numbers out one at a time, and the lucky ticket holders win a bike.

William was excited. He told Tim, "I'm going to pray to God to get one of them bikes." 

Tim smiled indulgently and gently explained that there were hundreds of kids there. 

Undeterred, William spent a great deal of the competition reciting the numbers out loud to himself, memorizing them. He recited the number over and over again. By the time the drawing came around, not only did he have his number memorized, so did every person in the vicinity. 

The Fair Queen read off the first number. It was not a match. William slumped a little. 

The second number was called and William studied his ticket anxiously, slumping a little more.

The third number was called and William sat up straight and stock still with big eyes. Two ladies sitting in front of him said, "That's YOUR number!" 

And it was. 

Tim took the ticket from William's excited fingers to make sure he didn't drop it down the bleacher seats and William shot off ahead to claim his bike, scared to death they'd think he wasn't there, and give his bike to someone else. 

William and Grandpa pushed the bike to the gate, and William commented, "I gotta calm down. I'm shaking." 





Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Death by Patience.

One boy came home tired and dirty from the fair.
At supper time, he ate like a little piglet, and then began to pester to go to the playground. "Listen," we explained in reasonable tones. "We've been working all day. We have things to get done inside the house before we go back to work tomorrow. You had a fun day already and you'll spend most of tomorrow at the playground."
He glared and sulked. "I'm bored!" he whined. "I don't have anything to do." And he flounced to the living room to complain and mope.
I channeled my inner grandma. "Come on," I said. "You can be a chef." Major meltdown ensued. He wanted to do something FUN, not work. "Nope, you're bored, can't find anything to do. I've got something for you to do."
He wailed the blues while I chopped the carrots, celery, mushrooms, chicken, onions, asparagus, garlic, etc. and dumped them in a fry pan with the left over chicken. He howled as he sauteed them. He was still howling when we added the thick rich chicken broth from the multipot and added the rice.
I ignored him and kept on cleaning the kitchen. "Just think," I said, "you're cooking tomorrow's supper!"
To which Mr. Picky said, "WE GOTTA EAT THIS FOR SUPPER?!!! Get ready for a big fit at suppertime." And his lip stuck out stubbornly.
We had a discussion about the fact that he was being terribly rude, while we discussed how pretty our rice dish looked with the colored vegetables, "Hey, I said, "get a bit of rice and tell me whether you think it's done or not. Blow on it," I reminded him. He nibbled and looked at me in amazement. "This is very good."
By the time we were done with the rice, we decided what to make for dessert and while the brownies baked, we had a stern talking to about how he's not the boss, and that no means no, and every time he starts complaining about being bored, I'll find something for him to do.
Licking the spatula, he said, "But I love helping you cook, grandma. It's fun."
The stinker.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Family Time

Tim and I bought property some time back for our retirement home. It is across the road from my sister and brother in law's, and a two houses down from my nephew and niece's house. It's nice to have the 'fambly' time.

Last week, my other nephew (who is in the military) and his wife brought property that backs up against his brother's property.

We had a work bee.

I was standing knee deep in a spring fed pond in my bare feet cleaning out heavy vegetation. I was excited to see that the pond was rock walled. I pulled and pulled and pulled, and made good headway on what my sister had begun the night before. My brother in law loaded up the stuff in his bucket loader and gave the grandchildren tractor rides to the yard waste pile somewhere out across the pasture. After a while, my feet got so cold that I had to get out of the water for a while. My nephew took a turn, trying to get as much done as we could before the thunder rumbling across the hills turned into rain.

Bill's first pitchfork of water plants brought up a largish crayfish, maybe 4 inches long, and I was quick to point it out to my grand niece and nephews. Bill tried to grab him up but he let loose of the roots of the plant he came up with and wriggled back into the water even as I called out, "Look at the crayfish!" Little Niko immediately made gimme motions with his little fingers and wailed, "I want to look at it with my hands!" We all laughed at the sweetness of it.

The thunder rumbled, and finally it began to rain, and three generations went in to eat together.





Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hot Summer Day

Last week, I walked to pick up William from camp.

A small girl was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a poor looking house, but unlike many children in the neighborhood, she was attended. Her father was sitting on the steps watching her draw.

"Hi!" she said, looking up from her stencils.

"Hi!" I said back, stopping.

"I have chalk!"

"I see that," I said, "and you have have sparkly chalk. I've never seen that before! And stencils too! Did you make those stars?"

And she began to point. "My daddy made these, and I made these..." and the chattering began in earnest.

Her young father, a mechanic from a local business, according to his shirt, began to look a little self conscious that a total stranger had been told that just moments before he'd been sitting on the sidewalk with his daughter drawing stars with sparkly chalk.

I said, "Well, I have to go pick up my grandson from camp. You have fun drawing."

"Bye!" she called out, waving her chalk at me.

As I continued on my way, I heard her father say, "Gees. You don't need to stop every single person that walks by..." and I turned back to him to call out, "She's adorable, and this was a very sweet moment...don't you be taking that away from me now!" and I shook my finger at him in a mock threat.

He laughed out loud and his little girl did too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rescued

Like most of America, I've been following the cave rescue in Thailand. Studying the maps and diagrams, it really is miraculous that they found these kids to begin with, but they did. I wondered why a coach would have led them 2 1/2 miles into a cave, the passage so narrow at times that they had to squeeze through to continue. Then the rain came and the passages began to flood and they were trapped. 

But the boys were found. Keeping morale up, letters were taken out of the cave to parents, and parents wrote letters which were ferried back in to their boys. Something that touched my heart was the coach's apology to the parents, begging their forgiveness for putting their sons' lives in danger. I was touched again, when the parents' wrote back to the coach. "We forgive you!" "We do not blame you." "We are grateful that you are with our son, because you can help them stay calm." The answers came one right after another, and they were all forgiving and kind. 

I know a woman who is always angry about something. Really. She's always complaining. Something always disgusts her. She's always got to vent her spleen about it. Today, studying her phone, she exclaimed, "Oh! They got all the boys out!" 

I quietly rejoiced. 

But as is her custom, she immediately began to complain about the coach and his poor decisions that led to this catastrophe, and what should happen to him, and on and on she went, her disgust increasing the more she talked. 

Forgiveness. 

It makes me happy to know that there are places where it can still be found, and abundantly, too. Because I have to tell you it is something that seems to be in pretty short supply in my country.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Phone Home

Tim got a wild hair, just as Tim tends to do. He found a house.

I said, "Well, you need to go look at it the inside before you get all carried away with yourself." (Right hand to God, I figured that the inside would be a disaster because the roof looks wonky.) Since he's working on a house right now, with another house waiting to be worked on, I knew that he would not be wanting to sign on for another project. So I thought I was safe.

He happily gets on the phone with 'our' realtor, and makes an appointment for 10 this AM.

This morning, I went off to work, reasonably confident that nothing would come of this.

At lunch time, I called home, prepared to say something to the effect of  'well, things work out the way they do for a reason,' or 'it just wasn't meant to be' or some other comforting (and totally insincere) platitude.

I caught Tim on the roof of a house. I said, "So did you meet with Ron?" and he cheerfully said, "Yes I did."

I began to grow concerned at his cheerfulness.

"It looks really nice," he says, "but there's a little glitch."

A little glitch? I began to feel hopeful again. He continued on. "Yes. Two properties are being sold together."

I said, quickly, "The house next door?" (because it is vacant, and I don't understand why it is not a blighted property). "We're NOT buying the house next door," I said, preparing to dig my heels in.

"No, no, no. You've got to buy her beauty salon."

"A BEAUTY SALON????? WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!! I DON'T WANT A BEAUTY SALON! NO!"

Tim said, "Someone wants the beauty shop. I'll tell you all about it when you get home."

I hung up the phone and headed to the microwave to heat up a lunch that I'd suddenly lost my appetite for.

If there is a 12 step program for Tim's addiction, it probably leads to the front door of an old house....and the steps probably need fixed.



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Strangers.

You know how, sometimes, you have an idea in your head that never quite matches the reality of the situation?

After I got off work while William was in school, I'd drive up to the school to pick him up. On the way, I'd pass an older white haired gentleman with a beard. He was walking with a young boy. His head always seemed inclined to hear what the lad was telling him. The boy seemed happy to have the undivided attention of his grandpa and would be talking away. 

It was such a sweet picture, and it gave me a happy moment to see them and their quiet joy in simply being together. 

Then came a week when I did not see them. 

I wondered about them. Did something happen to the elderly man? Did the little boy move away? It seemed that I would never know. Shoot. I did not even know their names. 

I was at a protest, and there was honking and beeping and chanting and the like. We were just about to break up for the evening, and there across the street was the white haired bearded fellow.

I shot across the street to introduce myself and tried to explain the small spot of joy it brought to my heart to see him walking with his grandson on the way home from school. My explanation made me feel a little foolish. 

He looked at me, threw back his head and laughed out loud. He said, "It's the small things that make all the difference, isn't it?" 

Yes. 

It is. 

And two total strangers looked at each other and understood. 

I love when that happens.