Looked After

I lingered too long with my coffee yesterday morning. I planned an Independence Day run in my favorite park but didn’t start as early as intended. Orange cones already lined the street into the park to guide the throngs of firework watchers showing up to stake their claim to the best spots. I maneuvered my car through some of the cones to park in my usual space.

My run started better than expected and I felt good despite the heat. There were more people out and about at the park. Biking, walking, running, or preparing for their picnics. I ran through neighborhoods, around the school, then back to the park.

My run still felt okay but I was hot. I ran on the edge of a parking lot when I nodded to an older gentlemen driving a golf cart. He stopped the cart and motioned to me. I noticed he wore a cap with the park name on it. I wondered if he was an employee.

I walked to the cart and the man asked how long I’d been running. I answered him, then he asked how far I had to go. I told him, “three more miles to reach my goal.”

I must have looked overheated and thirsty. He handed me an ice cold water bottle from his cooler and told me to take it with me. Then he told me to take it slow. I opened the water bottle and drank fast. He looked concerned. I thanked him and turned to walk away. He said, “wait I’m not finished yet.”

He spread a small towel in his lap, filled the middle of it with handfuls of ice, and pulled the corners of the towel up around the ice. He put the “ice bag” behind his neck, on top of his head, under his chin, on his wrists and told me to do the same to cool off. I stood there with the bag behind my neck as he told me to be careful. He warned me of the heat again and I had a fleeting sense of familiarity.

He mentioned how he planned to celebrate later with his family and beamed when he talked about his grand children.

I thanked him again, reached to shake his hand, and asked his name. His eyes brightened, he shook my hand, told me his name, then asked mine.

Before he drove away, he said, “Marie, glad to know you.”

It wasn’t until this morning I discerned the familiarity.

The man on the golf cart reminded me of my father. Not his appearance, but the things he said and how he said them. His makeshift ice bag and demonstration of its most effective use. His going above and beyond in his care about such a small thing as me being too hot.

It was Dad who saw to our wounds when we were stung by yellow jackets or scraped our knees. He did the mean stuff. He dabbed our cuts with iodine or squeezed our splinters to the surface to pull them out with tweezers, and told us to stop whining about it.

As he aged, his care became more tender. More advice and prayers than tending wounds. Moving things or fixing broken ones. Letting us borrow what was his and always helping when he saw a need. Sometimes he helped before I knew I needed help.

Dad looked after us.

I finished my run. I took the man’s advice and slowed down, and it may be the reason I finished. I think it was another one of those times I needed help and didn’t know it.

 

Photo by Arleen wiese on Unsplash

 

Quitting

The sound of the doorbell startled me. When I opened the door the man asked for Wayne. Before I answered him, the man asked if I knew him. He had a familiar smile but his face was aged and different. And the voice……..the voice was familiar too. For the next few seconds my brain tried to match a name with the kind face and his recognizable voice.

Before I could make the match he told me who he was. I was glad to see him and especially happy that he came by to see Daddy.

Daddy would have been thrilled for the visit. The man was shocked and saddened to hear that Wayne, my dad, had passed away. After he gave his condolences, we caught up.

It was a strange mixture of emotions…….remembering what was, learning what is, and trying to summarize thirty years of life in thirty minutes or so.

Then he asked the most amazing question. “Did your dad ever stop drinking?”

Oh how I wish he’d have known the man that Dad had become. The gracious man that cared for Mom so tenderly while working his job from his home office. The man that overflowed with generosity…….with his time and resources. The man that forgave so easily because he knew he’d been forgiven so much.

Daddy stopped drinking in 1990 or so. Never took another drink.

He quit to save his life.

His quitting saved our lives.

And who knows what else his quitting did. Whatever it did, it was good and right.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.          

                            1 Corinthians 15:10

Names

See it Through

In the mid 90s I watched my dad learn a total new way of doing his work. The company he worked for did what most companies did at that time and upgraded the way of doing things to computers and software and transmitting data through the Internet. He’d always used his mechanical pencils, triangular ruler, other items I never knew the names of and his calculator to get the numbers. And he was good at it too. Dad was just fine with his old school ways of estimating.  img_4352

But the bulky computer came anyway. It sat on a hand-built shelf atop Dad’s drafting table. He built the shelf after he accepted the new way.

But it took a while. A long while.

This computer stuff and the email and the downloading files and working out the glitches frustrated my dad. A lot. He thought he was too old to learn the new ways. He thought about quitting. He wanted to give up.

But he didn’t. He stuck with it even when he couldn’t see how it would ever work. And he had that job until the day he died. That job enabled him to work from his home office for years while he cared for Mom. The frustrating technology and new way of doing things that Dad resisted so much at first was the exact blessing he needed later.

Dad stayed the course. He persevered. He stuck it out.

My parents were “see it through” kind of people.

My dad beat his addiction to alcohol. That doesn’t happen if you give up.

Mom stayed with Dad through a lot of painful years of marriage. Fifty-one years don’t happen unless you see it through.

Thank God I have some of that grit too.

Have you hit hard times? Don’t know how you’re going to make it through another day?

Want to give up, give in or quit the whole thing?

See it through my weary friend!  See it through!

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”      Hebrews 10:39  NIV 

Summer

imageThis is the first Summer living in my childhood home since I moved out 24 years ago. It’s special to get to be here. So many memories to be remembered that would stay forgotten if I weren’t here.

When I was a girl summer weekends meant hard work. The yard would be mowed, the garden tended, and the house cleaned. Then the best part came in the evening.

A good meal and enjoying our rest after the day’s work. If a late afternoon thunderstorm rolled in and cooled the air, Dad would prop the screen door open. If not, the small air conditioning unit in the window would keep us cool.

imageI walked around the house today enjoying the unearned beauty all around me. The ivy growing in the cedar tree. The day lilies in whites and yellows and oranges. The fruit trees and blackberries and muscadine vines. The Rose of Sharon and gardenia and the magnolia.

All the work of those before me.

 

Summer will always be lightning bugs blinking, cicadas humming, mosquitoes biting.

Tomato sandwiches, homemade ice cream, vegetable dinners.

Afternoon thunderstorms, long days, hot nights.image

 

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.   Ecclesiastes 3:11 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gone 

I was exhausted after the funeral. We all were. But family and friends were bringing dinner to the homeplace for all of us. And far away friends were in town. I wanted to go home, sit alone in the dark, and cry. But I couldn’t. There were more people to visit with. Talk with. And the house needed to be cleaned after everyone left.

And Mom. We had to make sure Mom was alright. We had to take care of her now.

The months prior to Dad’s death were some of the most exhausting days of my life. My husband and I were going through what seemed to be a never ending rough season in our marriage. I’d just started a new job, while consulting at my previous one. Finding time for much needed one on one discussions was nearly impossible with our jobs, three kids, my sick parents, and other normal life happenings. So we didn’t.

Most of my days consisted of work, a long ride to the hospital after work to be with Dad, a longer ride home after the hospital, sometimes a quick stop to check on Mom, a call to one of my sisters to check what they knew from the doctors, and then it all gets blurry. At home in the evenings, I’m sure I did laundry, cooked sometimes, helped with homework, and all the other things I’m supposed to do. I don’t remember. I was barely getting through the days. I’d fall into bed but only sleep sporadically then do it all over again the next day.

I remember trying really hard to stay strong during that time. Zoloft helped me put on the good face some days. I was coping the best I could but on the verge of tears constantly. My heart was breaking over and over every day.

Because of the growing distance between me and my husband. Because my kids needed me a lot and I couldn’t be there. Because my parents, who were strong and capable and always there, needed me to be strong and capable and always there. Because all Dad wanted was to get well so he could keep caring for Mom but he was getting weaker and weaker. Because the new job I thought I always wanted wasn’t what I wanted.

Nothing was like it should be.

Then Dad was gone. And then you do the things you’re supposed to after someone dies. The phone calls and funeral arrangements. The telling of what happened over and over again because he was fine a few months ago. And then we had to figure out what to do next. Because Mom shouldn’t be by herself.

And Mom had good days and bad ones but the bad ones were coming more often. When she couldn’t breathe she wanted us there. All of us. By her side. Just there.

Everything hurt my heart.

I felt raw.

It hurt to be around people and the better I knew them….the more difficult it was.

I wanted to take pain pills. But I didn’t have any.

I wanted to get drunk every night. But I’m too responsible for thatimage. I stuck to one glass of wine a few days a week. Sometimes two glasses. Sometimes more than a few days a week.

And I kept trying to be strong but there was nothing left.

Dad was gone. But I was too.

Photograph

We’ve been here a month now. The entire house has been renovated except for one room. The room holds sentimental treasures….Dad’s pipes and briefcase and shoe shine kit, Mom’s rocking chair and her favorite trinkets. Some old furniture. Old letters and cards and photographs. Hundreds of photos in boxes and bins and old photo albums.FullSizeRender (1)

I started moving things around in the room. Trying to make space for when my sisters come and we go through it all. I accidentally started looking at some of the photos. Remembering moments I’d forgotten.

There are lots of old memories here. Good and bad ones. The good ones we treasure.

But mixed up with all those treasured memories are painful ones. Sad ones too. And some that made their mark on us forever. But God redeems those. He uses them all for our good.

And then we can help others who are going through trials and painful circumstances.

Because whenever He changes us or heals us it’s never just for us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.         2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

Magnolia


An unseasonably warm day of winter here in North Alabama gets me outside to explore the yard. The sun shines through the leaves of this beautiful magnolia tree. I can’t remember when Dad planted this tree. It must have been a long time ago because magnolias are slow to grow and this one is a good size.

I do remember the day I pulled up for a visit and Dad was about to cut the tree down. I asked him not to and here it is now….filtering the sun through its waxy green leaves in a beautiful pattern onto the ground below. It will stay here and grow taller, slowly taller and wider.

And I will think of Dad often because of this magnolia tree.

In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge Seasons.

Next

It’s been a little while since my last Live Like it Matters Challenge. The challenges were initially a weekly feature posted on Wednesdays but lately I’ve issued them on different days and not weekly. I will continue to issue the challenges randomly for now.

My challenge to you today is to think about the next person, then act accordingly. You probably already do this. Like when you take your empty grocery cart to the corral, you’re thinking of the guy who will park his shiny new car in the parking lot AND the clerk who has to gather the carts to take them into the store.

My dad was the most excellent Next One Thinker I’ve known and actually inspired this challenge.  More than a year past his death and one of his small acts of “nextness” was appreciated by my husband the other day. The screws to the flat screen TV mount were taped to the bottom of the TV just in case the NEXT person wanted to mount it to a wall. Some would have thrown the screws away. Dad didn’t because he was thinking of the next person. The way Dad kept up with his tools, and his finances….the way he installed anything with extra safety measures…..the way he left us notes about where he kept documents….the way he taught us to be generous with our time and resources……all because he was thinking of the next person.

Be-Type-Of-Person-You-Want-To-Meet
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Another way you already think of the next person – I HOPE YOU DO THIS – is when you replace the empty toilet paper roll.  Do one even better and when the roll is almost empty, put a new roll close by so no one is caught without enough TP.

You’re a Next One Thinker when you don’t put the milk jug in the refrigerator if there’s only enough milk left to soak one corn flake. Why? Because the next person has no need for one teaspoon of milk. You do the better thing by using the milk, drinking it, or even pouring it down the drain, but you do not put the milk jug back in the refrigerator.

The next person is blessed by you thinking of them and doesn’t even know it. But they surely know it if you don’t think of them.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of someone NOT thinking of the next person. You’ve been sitting on the toilet when you realized there’s not enough toilet paper or worse, no toilet paper.  Or poured yourself a big bowl of Cocoa Puffs and reached into the fridge for the milk jug and discovered there’s not enough there for a mouse. And you think, “Why did someone do this?  How selfish and cruel?”

Don’t be selfish and cruel!  Think of the next person.  Jesus said it best, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.

There are thousands of ways to think of the next person. At home, in your job, at the grocery store, the bank or school. Even in traffic. Yes, traffic. Let someone merge!  Don’t flip them off and/or make a scowling disapproving face.

Refill the copier with paper. Take good notes for a fellow student that’s absent because of the flu. Clean off your table before you leave Taco Bell. Load the dishwasher so that the dishes get as clean as possible. Take the weird flavored Greek yogurt back to the dairy aisle that you decided you didn’t want. Clean up your popcorn and candy wrapper mess before you leave the theater.

Think of the next person. We tend to forget how much it matters to do the small, kind, extra things.  IT MATTERS.  A lot.

But here’s the thing:  you will probably never hear a thank you for it.

Do it anyway.

When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.
Philippians 2: 3-4 NCV

Our House 

There’s something special about getting to renovate the house I grew up in.

In the process of removing the existing floors I’ve discovered the floors I walked on when I was a little girl. The brown and gold flecked linoleum in the kitchen and the solid hardwood in the bedrooms.

In our attempt to remove the wallpaper in the back bedroom I found the green and yellow flower patterned paper that decorated my older sisters’ room when they were teenagers.
And I found pink walls underneath the wallpaper in my dad’s office which used to be the room I shared with my younger sister when we were in elementary school.

I’d forgotten the floors and the yellow and green wallpaper and the pink walls. These discoveries have unlocked a flood of memories.

Like the time I was sitting in my sisters’ yellow and green bedroom listening to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on the radio one Saturday morning.

And now I remember sharing our bedroom with my grandmother for a while. She slept in a hospital bed beside our bed and I was scared.

And when Mom cooked oyster stew and I only put the milky part in my bowl to eat with oyster crackers because I don’t like oysters. Or when Dad showed me the way to eat cereal so that the little Krispies wouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. I sill eat my cereal that way.

I know other memories will come. Sweet, sad, and joyful ones. Maybe some scary ones, too. I am who I am because of the life that happened in that house and the people that loved me there. Those that taught me there and cared for me there.

Mom and Dad struggled there and forgave each other there. Dad took care of Mom there. We all learned there.

Learned to live and care and forgive there.

We all learned to love there in our house.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. 

Psalm 52:8-9 

Heritage