The first missed anniversary

In late August, the 66th anniversary of my parents wedding occurred. Yet, it was the first one that neither parent was alive. My mom passed away last Christmas morning. Being a religious woman, it is somehow fitting she left us that day.

My dad passed away just over eleven years ago. We still miss his laughter and love, but have gotten used to him being gone. They were married just shy of 55 years before he died having met at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

Mom’s memory had been on the decline for several years, as she was diagnosed with a progressive memory disorder, most likely Alzheimer’s. On the phone, she knew I was her son, but in person she often mistook me for her husband as I look like my dad did when he was my age. She often thought my sister was her older sister Betty.

They were a loving couple that endured each one’s imperfections. Young folks are looking for the perfect match, but there is no such person. We are all fixer uppers. So, couples teach each other how to coalesce.

Both my parents were smart. My mom became a teacher working primarily with first or second graders. After she retired, she was a devoted bible study fellowship leader. My dad started in the grocery business, but migrated to a new profession called data processing. He used to take me to the elevated computer room which was quite cool. I remember the tape readers were as large as refrigerators.

My brother, sister and I were blessed to have such wonderful parents. They loved and supported us, even when we hated being pushed out of bed to attend Sunday school. Thanks for everything Mom and Dad.

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Have I told you about that lizard?


Some of the more creative commercials are the Farmers Insurance ones. They are running one now about a hamster that escapes from its cage in the father’s car as his son gets out for school. Unfortunately for the father, the hamster climbed up his pants leg and he caused a multi-car crash in the exit line from the school.

This reminds me of an incident with a lizard my fourth grade son was taking to school. As we ease up in the drop off line at the school, I hear my son say “uh-oh.” Now you have to remember this followed earlier instruction not to pull the lizard out of the cage in the car. The uh-oh meant just what you think it meant. So, unfortunately my son had to go into class “sans lizard.” He would be over said tragedy pretty quickly.

Yet, as I drove off, I envisioned happening what the Farmers Insurance hamster did. Or, I pictured the lizard climbing on my ear or head as I drove. As I was riding down a four lane road, I looked down and the renegade lizard was between my seat and the driver side car door.

So, I reached down and grabbed the lizard  by my left hand. Picture one hand on the steering wheel and one with a lizard. At the next traffic light, my car was blessedly detained long enough for me to grab the cage and repatriate the lizard to his home.

The moral of the story is to remind your fourth grader multiple times not to pull the lizard or animal from its cage. I was lucky on this occasion, but I could have easily been filing an unusual insurance claim and not with GEICO, who has a gecko lizard for a spokes icon.

God gave us a wonderful brain


Paraphrasing King Solomon’s words from the bible, let me say this with emphasis. God gave us a wonderful brain. We honor him when we use it. Here is a sampling of Solomon’s wisdom:

“For whoso despiseth wisdom and nurture, he is miserable, and their hope is vain, their labors unfruitful, and their works unprofitable.”

“Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away; yea, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her.”

“But the multitude of the wise is the welfare of the world: and a wise king is the upholding of the people.”

We often pray for miracle cures, good fortune and remedial help with our difficulties. Yet, we lose sight of this wonderful thing in our heads. God has armed us with a great tool to solve our problems. As Paul McCartney once sang about in the famous anthem Hey Jude, “the movement you need is on your shoulders.” It should be noted, McCartney was going to strike that line from the song as he thought it cheesy, but John Lennon said to leave it in as it was the best line in the song.

I have written before that God does not care who wins football games, so thanking him when you win is misguided. Now, thanking him that no one was hurt is different. Same holds true about war. One of my favorite questions is “which side was God pulling for during the Civil War?” Both sides felt they had righteous cause, yet the prayers should have been for leaders to find wisdom to stop this carnage and let all people be free and not to win a war that claimed the lives of 750,000 Americans.

It is my belief God wants us to solve our problems. He  gave us this wonderful brain and it is incumbent upon us to use it. When people pray for a miracle to cure cancer in their child, how do we know if the doctor’s experience, skill and intellect are not the miracle for which we are praying. As reported on “60 Minutes” last night, some doctors at Duke University may have discovered a cure for certain kinds of cancers using a variant of polio. I stand in awe of those who are behind this research that has saved three lives and prolonged others, thus far.

So, let’s continue praying, but don’t stop thinking and acting. We may have the ability to solve our own problems and doing so would make God happy, just like it does when a child makes his parent happy.

I am reminded of the key moment in the movie called “Ray” about the life of the blind singer and pianist Ray Charles. The scene is when the mother leaves him alone in the house as a child and watches from the door as he figures out things on his own. It is breathtaking. In my eyes, she was God-like. Let’s use our brain like Ray did.

 

Saturday in the park

If you are my age or a Chicago (the band) fan, you are thinking of the next line, “I think it was the 4th of July.” It is a beautiful Saturday morning and my daughter and her friend are slowly arising. Hearing your child or children laughing is the greatest sound in the world.

We have always had a home where our children feel comfortable having their friends over. It is a treat to meet your kids’ pals and hear them having fun. It also helps as a parent to know the friends of your children in our imperfect world with greater temptations than we had growing up. This is our safe haven.

My daughter is home from her freshman year of college and we are so proud of the woman she has become. She is interested in stopping injustice to people and the environment. She is well read and active at school and has made the Dean’s List twice. She loves her professors and they offer encouragement. I was sharing with Hugh on his blog that one of her professors applauded her for writing a paper that disagreed with the author’s position, which he said he usually only sees from upperclassmen.

My oldest son moved out a month ago and is rooming with a good friend. They have a tribe of friends that hang out and look out for each other. He has taken on more responsibility and is asking more questions about living on a budget, saving, insurance, etc. He is a fine young man and a good friend, but like many his age is still finding his path forward. Working two jobs 50 – 60 hours a week is wearing him out. We do miss having him here, but are happy for his spreading his wings.

My youngest son will be home at the end of next week completing his junior year. He has changed majors and colleges and is enjoying his eclectic college in the mountains. He is relishing being a scientist and exploring wildlife biology and the environment. He will only be home briefly as he will be interning this summer at a place that takes care of different kinds of wildlife. The college is perfect for him as it is work-study program where all students have to work 15 hours a week. Plus, it attracts eclectic people who I find to be a joy. It is ironic in a state that has passed an anti-transgender and LGBT law, his dorm has unisex bathrooms and showers.

I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday and all mothers have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

What is really scary to me?

On this Halloween, I was thinking about what has really scared me in life and in the movies. I should note that nothing in the movies is as scary as what happens in real life. The only time it comes close is to show something that really could happen.

In a horror movie called “The Kiss,” about a parasite that would enter one body from another via a kiss, the scariest part of the movie had little to do with the larger plot. Early on in the movie, the husband’s wife was electrocuted in her kitchen as she fiddled with a shorting toaster at the same time someone spilled milk on the floor underneath her feet. The family had to watch her die, but could not touch her as they would have been electrocuted as well.

But, that is not even close to the seconds that seem like hours when your child gets lost out in a public place. My youngest son wandered away from us at the zoo when we stopped for a coke. He kept walking as we paused. Those twenty seconds to find him seemed like an eternity.

Or, when my oldest went into the restroom at the ballpark as I waited outside. He walked out a different entrance and did not see me. He did remember our assigned place to meet if we got separated and that is where I found him. These scary moments are burned in my memory.

Health scares make movie scares pale in comparison, as well. On my 44th birthday, I thought I was having a heart attack on my way to meet my family. Waiting in an ER room with wires attached is quite humbling and scary. I can assure you that you do not think of your job, but focus on your family and what you may not witness in the future and your not being there for them or watching your kids grow.

However, when your child has a health scare, it is worse as you can only react and make things better. You cannot take on his or her pain and anguish. And, that makes you feel powerless. Each time our children have had lengthy illnesses, issues or allergies, it has been a little scary.

I am writing this today as last night, we attended a funeral service for an 8 year old boy, who died of a rare brain cancer. He was the grandson of our neighbors and their family has been in anguish over his fight to survive. There is nothing worse for a parent than losing your child.

In the throes of his battle, this child taught everyone how to live and love more deeply. The service was a poignant tribute to this effervescent little person with a big heart. He helped others, especially his parents, live through this horrible ordeal.

So, the scary stuff is outside the movie theater. We deal with it the best we can with our faith, love and care. And, we do it one day at a time.

 

A few more movies worth a nostalgic look

My wife and I rented few new releases and enjoyed them, but felt nostalgic about some older movies. “Gone Girl” was good, but the characters were not very redeeming. “Interstellar” was good for the relationship between father and daughter, but was on the bizarre side toward the end. Of the three, we did enjoy “Wild” the most with Reece Witherspoon hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, but Laura Dern helps the movie greatly in flash backs as her mother.

I was thinking about some older movies that may be under the radar screen on searches for movies, but offer a sense of nostalgia as well as coming of age. So, in no particular order:

Breaking Away – made in 1979 and won an Oscar for best screenplay. Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley and Daniel Stern star in a movie about four kids who have graduated high school and are trying to find themselves in Bloomington, Indiana where Indiana University is located. Christopher is fascinated by all things Italian as he has become a world-class bicyclist and the Italian team is the best and coming to town. Paul Dooley, as the former stone cutter and now used car salesman, steals many a scene.

Summer of 42 – made in 1971 and won an Oscar for best music score. Jennifer O’Neill, who every boy falls in love with in the movie and audience, Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser star in the movie based on a summer on the Nantucket shore. The boys are coming of age during the onset of WWII and O’Neill’s husband has been deployed. The story is told from Grimes’ character’s perspective looking back at that summer as he discovers love and loss.

American Graffiti – made in 1973 by George Lucas and starring a huge cast of soon to be famous young actors – Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard (was only known as Opie at that time), Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark and Wolfman Jack. It is nostalgic and mirror into a different time as Dreyfus and Howard’s characters are headed off to college the next day. The movie spawned the TV show “Happy Days” which eventually led to “Laverne and Shirley” as a spin-off.

Each of these movies are nostalgic in nature. Kids are coming of age and wondering what it is all about. “Breaking Away” is set in the 1970s, “Summer of 42” is obviously set during the 1940s and “American Graffiti” is at the brink of the 1960s. Kids have not changed in this outlook to discover what is it all about. Today’s kids are more technologically advanced and are seeing a world change at a fast pace, yet they have many of the same questions.

To me, I go back to “Breaking Away” and the father son chat at the end between Christopher and Dooley’s characters. Christopher and his fellow mates have always felt and been put down as “cutters” short for stone cutters. As they walked through IU’s campus, the father notes “we” carved these beautiful stones that made these buildings on campus, but once they were erected, we felt the buildings were too good for us. The son responds “I don’t mind being a cutter.” The Dad says, “You’re not a cutter. I am cutter.” He is telling his son, do not limit yourself by what I accomplished. Go find yourself.

And, that is the best advice for any of us. Go find yourself. That may be why we liked “Wild” the most of the three new movies, as Witherspoon’s character was looking to find the woman her mother knew was always there.

The end of the beginning

My daughter just completed her senior graduation project in high school last week and the melancholy of her last few months of high school is kicking in. In August, she will be off to college, so we will be officially empty nesters. We are so very excited for her as we were (and are still)  for her brothers, when they headed off. But, this is not the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning.

People have said many times that it is interesting to see the change in relationship as their children grow more into adulthood. I totally see this with our oldest son and am seeing this with our youngest son. While it is a journey upward and onward, there are moments when they make child-like errors in judgment. We all do, but they are more in number at this age. Boys take a little longer than girls to make that journey, but we take pride in more adult conversations that we are having with our children.

Our girl has equipped herself with a keen sense of humor and an ability to get along with many. While we could have done many things better, our children share their friends, so our youngest is more mature due to such interaction. She also carries a passion for doing the right thing and standing up for others and the environment. She does not appreciate showing teachers disrespect for the sake of juvenile enjoyment.

She is a neat young woman and we are quite proud of her. We are looking forward to her taking flight and will be there when the need arises. Yet, this is her story to write. It is only the end of the beginning. There is much more story left.

It will also give my wife and me the chance to do things for us. As parents, we are forever planning around events, classes, schedules, etc. It will be quite lovely to do a sudden day trip or take a long weekend. Or, go on a longer vacation. We will be able to date more, which oftentimes is killed because of being tired or busy. So, it is our new beginning, as well.