Somewhere In Time

Unknown-5.jpeg

Several months ago, a match on ancestory.com paired me with the daughter of a paternal cousin that I had not seen in several years. My dad’s family was a small family and for a portion of our lives we grew up as neighbors. I guess you could say in our early years, we lived in the family compound or at least on the same street. Our house number was 512; my grandparents were at 514 and my uncle’s house was 516. Wow! That was a long, long time ago.

 

My uncle and his family subsequently moved to Lubbock. Actually, during the course of his life, he and his family lived in lots of different places. He was a builder and worked primarily building commercial real estate. I remember when Johnny Cash and June Carpenter released their country hit: “If I Were A Carpenter.” It was a good sound, but I remember my uncle wasn’t a fan.

 

Of course, I can understand why. The lyrics of the song carried the connotation that there was something less than honorable about being a carpenter. What other explanation could you construe from: “If I were a carpenter and your were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?”   If that wasn’t enough, add: “If I worked my hands in wood, would you still loved me?” I can see how a person whose trade was that of a carpenter would be a little miffed at the lyrics. It does sound somewhat denigrating.

 

Late yesterday afternoon I received a Facebook request from my uncle’s daughter. At least, I thought it was my uncle’s daughter. The three-word name on the invitation to be Facebook friends included the name “Rebecca”. I immediately accepted the invitation and with a smile on my face responded: “That’s not really your name. Your name is ‘Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane’.

 

As it turned out, the invitation wasn’t from my cousin “Becky”, but from her second oldest daughter. It was her oldest daughter that I had connected with through Ancestry.com. Annette laughingly responded to the name I had tossed back in her direction: “That’s not my name. That is the name you always call my mother.” She also mentioned that her sister had told her about my daily blog and she thought she’d enjoy reading it. Okay, so that, too, was music to my ears.

 

The name “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane” took me back in time. I don’t remember the year, but I was traveling with my uncle and his family to see my grandparents who, too, had moved away at the beginning of my high school years. It is strange the things you remember.

 

We stopped for lunch or dinner at a café in Jacksboro, Tx. I think it was lunch, but I don’t really remember. You know the kind of café I’m talking about. They have all but disappeared from the landscape of places to eat. There was a large jukebox in the restaurant and each table had a device where you could select a song for a dime or three for a quarter. You sorted through the available songs by simply “turning the page” so to speak of the selection play list.

 

That was back in the day when “country music” was the only venue of music I listened to if I had a choice. I grew up listening to country music. None of us had a musical bone in our body and we had absolutely no musical ability. The one thing we shared was enjoyment from listening to music.

 

I am a sucker for a sale. I always have been. Three songs for a quarter in the jukebox seemed like a bargain to me. Why not? One of the three songs I selected was a song sung by Eddie Arnold. I had never heard the song before and I have never heard it since, but the title of the song has stuck with me well over half a century. The title of the song was   “ Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane”.

 

From that day forward, I have always called my cousin by that name. I guess you could say it has a musical ring to it, but as I recall, it wasn’t the kind of song you latch on to and can’t let go. However, the title of the song stuck with me.

 

Before the day ended yesterday, I had also become a Facebook friend with my cousin, Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane. I treasure the contact. The simple memory of family times together during our growing up years and times shared together at my grandparents home in Forestburg fill me with a sense of delight. I miss those times. They were good times, but they are forever captured in the resources of my mind.

 

It is nice to have the renewed connection with Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane.

 

All My Best!

Don

Insiders/Outsiders

22b760fe9a4c680bf988a1e5e39abea7.jpeg

Have you ever felt excluded? Perhaps you were on the periphery of something you really desired, but it was just beyond your reach?  What you longed for was not within your grasp. It simply wasn’t available. The experience really hurt.

 

Maybe you were twelve or thirteen years old at the time? Everyone else in your class was invited to a friend’s birthday party, but your invitation never arrived in the mail.  The invitation never arrived in the mail because it was never sent. Whether purposefully or otherwise, you were left out. The experience really hurt.

 

I sometimes listen to a talk radio station and I’m often surprised by the kinds of things that people find unsettling.  I am also surprised by the extremes they will take to extract answers. A young woman in her twenties was offended because her best friend didn’t invite her to be in her wedding party. She wanted to know why?  Instead of asking her friend, she reached out to the radio station to solicit the answer. Long story short, the best friend wasn’t included in the wedding party because the bride didn’t like the looks of her friend’s hair.  She thought the friend’s hair would spoil her wedding pictures. I think I remember that the color of her friend’s hair was blue, but I may be making that up.  Consequently, the jilted friend (blue hair or not) was left out. The experience really hurt.

 

If I were to ask for your participation in crafting my blog this morning, I bet many of you could offer an example of a time in your life when you felt excluded or left out. That is never a good experience, but you have to agree with me that it is memorable. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be thinking of it right now. In all probability, the experience really hurt. How’s that for proving my point?

 

I have a friend who vividly recalls the only birthday party her mother ever hosted for her. Of course, it was a conjoint birthday party for her brother as well.  Coincidentally, it was on his birthday and not hers, but what she didn’t know until later is that her mother made a notation on the invitations that gifts were being limited to the brother only. One was not desired for the sister.  How’s that for being excluded?  Trust me, my friend still remembers.  She still remembers because the experience really hurt. 

 

During my childhood years, I have no recall of my maternal great grandparents on Grandpa’s side. They may have been deceased before I was born. I really don’t know. I do remember that my mother never said much about her paternal grandmother apart for the fact that she wasn’t very child friendly.  Not long ago, I asked my only remaining aunt about her paternal grandmother and I was startled with the disclosure.

 

She, too, never looked forward to visiting in the home of her paternal grandparents. At family gatherings, the men and her grandmother ate together. The women and children were served last and that was only after the men folk and their mother had eaten.  Can you believe it? 

 

I can almost imagine the puzzlement and the confusion my grandmother and her sister-in-laws must have experienced.  They waited while their husbands and their father-in-law and mother-in-law dined together in the dining room before anyone else was served. Talk about feeling excluded!

 

Actually, according to my aunt, it was the cluster of women (her mother and aunts) who were waiting to feed their own children that actually prepared the meal.  My maternal great grandmother was reportedly above any of that.  She was the matriarch of the family and menial tasks like housework and cooking were beneath her.

 

Speaking of feeling excluded, is it possible to be a member of a church and long for connectivity and a sense of belonging with the family of faith only to find that for whatever reason, you never felt like your presence was wanted?  You had the sense that no one really cared whether you attended or not.   Consequently you dropped out. You made your way out the back door of the church and you never looked back. You felt excluded and unimportant.  The disappointing experience at church really hurt.

 

The numbers of people that I know who’ve experienced disappointment, rejection, criticism and emotional bruises from going to church surprises me. I’ve mentioned before that the term “family conflict” seems like an oxymoron. Certainly that is true if it happens within a family of faith.  It is a bitter contradiction to what the church teaches about grace and forgiveness.

 

People long to be a part of a welcoming, loving, inviting fellowship where everyone is valued and deemed important.  By the way, I sense our church is a church like that. We recently were paid the highest of compliments – without disclosing identifying information – I was told about a family that previously worshipped with us and then because of circumstance had to relocate.  They never again discovered a fellowship as welcoming, genuine, loving and inclusive as Henly.  Consequently, they soon dropped out of the church where they moved because they didn’t feel included. That hurts my heart.

 

We don’t always agree on everything, but regardless we are friends that stick closer than a brother. We come from different places. Some grew up in the church. Others of us discovered Henly and the place where we worship in the midst of adulthood. In fact, there is one younger couple that are relatively new to our church. They discovered the church by looking at a house to purchase in the neighborhood. The house didn’t work out, but they concluded God used the house hunt to bring them home – home to a family of faith where there is unity, a sense of family, a sense of belonging and a sense of God’s presence. 

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

0
0
1
853
4863
Apple Computer, Inc.
40
11
5705
14.0

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-language:JA;}

 

Sassy and Self-Confident

Unknown-23.jpeg

Shortly before bedtime last night, I told the General, “I have never been more surprised or more pleased.” She agreed! What a difference a day can make if it occurs in the right venue. The General’s mother and her sister arrived in the greater Henly area (aka-my house) a week ago Wednesday. Little did I know that both planned to be here for a full week. Of course, I was fine with that and pleased that they were here.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the plans. The General operates on the notion that she only tells me what she thinks I have a need to know. Who knows, she says I don’t tell her anything. Perhaps it’s contagious or maybe even projection on her part. She doesn’t tell me much either.

 

Of course, during the week the General tossed several questions my direction. For starters: On the day after her mother arrived, she asked: “Would you like to go to Blanco and watch Mackenzie (the General’s nephew’s daughter) play softball this evening?” The General knew full well when she asked the question in front of her mother that the last thing I wanted to do was go watch anyone play softball. After all, we’ve been married forever and she knows my stance. Despite that knowledge, she asked anyway. What does that tell you? If you’ve got an answer, let me know. I still haven’t figured it out. But, I continue to ponder the question.

 

Common courtesy on my part would have dictated that my response would be “Sure”. After all, the General’s mother wanted to go and so did her sister. “Sure” would have been the polite response. But what would an answer of “sure” really mean? It would either mean one of two things. It could mean that I wasn’t secure enough in our relationship that I could be truthful. It could also mean that I knew full well that it didn’t matter how I responded, the die was cast: “I was going to the game”. If you’ve got a thought to the answer of this riddle, I’d really like to know.

 

As it turned out, I did go to the game. It was my idea.  Guilt is a great motivation. I could have stayed home out of selfishness or I could be hospitable and follow the extended family’s lead. Okay, so I don’t always get it right, but I went to the game.

 

Mackenzie’s grandfather (the General’s brother) saved for me what I immediately thought was the best parking place in the ballpark. It was directly behind home plate. After arriving, I went over the say hello to a friend from church and she asked: “Is that Treva’s car parked there?” I affirmed that it was and she suggested I move it. She said: “People get their windshields busted out from parking in that spot all of the time.” Wouldn’t you know it? The General’s brother was setting me up. How’s that for some level of paranoia on my part?

 

When I explained to the General’s brother that I was moving the car, he denied that a broken window was even a probability. I figured the lady from church who never misses a game probably had a better frame of reference than he did. I moved the car anyway.

 

What I most noticed about the game is that the General’s mother appeared absolutely worn out after it was over. She was moving very slowly and didn’t seem like herself. Actually, I had a similar thought when she came for Easter. She didn’t seem like herself then either. It was almost like she had aged overnight. Never before had I thought of her as old. Obviously the last several months had taken their toll.  I remember thinking: “Is this what’s it like to grow old? One day you are and the previous day you weren’t. Wasn’t aging supposed to be a gradual process?

 

I kept my eye on the General’s mother the rest of the week and I was genuinely concerned. When the entire family (myself excluded) opted to go to Johnson City to church on Mother’s Day so the General’s mother could be surrounded by her family, I thought it was a good idea. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how many more Mother’s Days she’d be here. I mean she looked worn out. It concerned me.  Slow motion doesn’t even begin to describe her demeanor.

 

When the crew returned from church in Johnson City, the General and her sister were very concerned. They both said that their mother had almost passed out during church. Had they not supported her, she probably would have fallen out of her pew. Frankly, I thought they were over-reacting. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the General’s brother preach? Is it possible that she could have fallen asleep? I’m just throwing that out there as a possibility. It is not a value judgment on my part, but the possibility did exist.

 

The General and her sister make a great tag-team. They had questions for their mother and they wanted full disclosure and truthful responses. I almost felt sorry for her.  They were playing doctor and their only frame of reference was the Internet.  Maybe I was preoccupied laughing at my own joke about her bother’s preaching, but I didn’t follow the totality of their conversation. At some point, I tuned in enough to know that the General was recommending that they call her chiropractor because her mother said her back hurt.

 

Did her mother need to see a doctor? Probably is my best answer. However, I was thinking a gerontologist not a chiropractor. My word, had the General lost reason of her sanity? As frail as her mother was looking, the last thing she needed was someone poking and prodding and popping her back. The tag-team duo of the General and her sister continued to cross-examine their mother. Okay, so the General’s mom admitted to often being dizzy.

 

I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. The General’s mother is about as close as you can get to a Carrie Nations look alike. If Carrie hadn’t led the temperance movement, Opal would have. Carrie took great delight in doing a hatchet job (literally) on taverns. She was noted for attacking alcohol-serving establishments with a hatchet.

 

No offense intended, but Carrie described herself as “a bulldog running at the feet of Jesus and barking at what he doesn’t like.” With all due respects, that sounds a little bit like my mother-in-law. Consequently, Carrie claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by destroying bars. I wasn’t sure why the General’s mom has been dizzy, but it had nothing to do with strong drink. I’d bet my life on that one.

 

When I tuned back in, the General and her sister were thinking cardiologist. Why not? Her mother has a cardiologist. That might be a good place to start. They called the next day. Actually, they had their mother call the next day and they offered the doctor the benefit of their observations. Hands down, he had the answer. The General’s mom needed a pacemaker and she needed one soon.

 

He asked when the General’s mom would be back in Odessa. Unfortunately, her scheduled flight on Wednesday didn’t get her back in time. Wednesday is the one day each week that a colleague of her cardiologist comes to Odessa to implant pacemakers.

 

The cardiologist talked with the General. Trust me, she had lots of questions. At any rate, it was the doctor’s suggestion that the General’s mom get the pacemaker in Austin while she could be with us. He said, “I can make arrangements with a doctor in Austin to see her”. As it turned out, it was the same doctor that flies to Odessa from Austin every Wednesday to do surgery for the cardiologist. True to his word, the General’s mom went to the hospital yesterday mid-morning and was released to go home around 6:00 p.m. last night.

 

I am not making this up. It is as though the procedure restored fifteen years to her life. She no longer looks worn-out and old. Her countenance has been restored to sassy and self-confident. The old persona is back and she thankfully is her old self which really translates to her younger self.

 

Like I said earlier, “I have never been more surprised or more pleased.”

 

All My Best!

Don

What Are Your Three Things?

Unknown-2.jpeg

My daughter looked at me like I was delusional. I said something about, “Old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”  When I responded that it was a Tom T. Hall song, she remarked: “I have never heard of Tom T. Hall and I’ve never heard that song”.  For that matter, neither had her husband. 

 

I guess you could say the song identifies three things of importance for “the old gray black gentleman” that was cleaning up the lounge.  He expressed it to the lone occupant still in the lounge this way: ““Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, but old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”

 

Can’t you envision a conversation like that taking place?  I can almost see it in the resources of my mind.  I also like the concept that the old man could articulate three things he valued for himself.  I’m not really a dog person, but old dogs tug at my heartstrings. They move ever so slowly and you get the sense that life is hard and far more difficult for them than what they previously experienced.  Even I can have empathy with that. Secondly, I easily understand the kid thing. I don’t know that I have a favorite age when it comes to children. I like kids of all ages.  Last week I was holding a six month old and someone remarked, “that I have always been a child whisperer”.  That was music to my heart. I like kids.  Watermelon wine isn’t anything for which I have a frame of reference, but I often associate watermelon with my paternal grandfather.  When I was a kid growing up, he and Granny lived next door.  He often brought watermelons home during the summer to share with his grandkids. That too was a feel good memory for me.

 

Getting back to old dogs and those not so old, I had actually gotten on my hands and knees to retrieve a tennis ball from under an end table to return it to one of Andrea’s labs.  While I was on all fours, the dog for whom I was retrieving the ball licked me squarely in the face.  How’s that’s for a “thank you” while I was attempting to do him a favor?  It was gross!

 

Of course, it was the younger dog.  Who else?  Both dogs, young and old, think the world of granddad.  Why wouldn’t they? I know full well that if my daughter had a hint that I’d been anything other than amazingly kind to either of her dogs, she make the General look like she needed assertiveness training.  If you’ve been reading my blogs for any period of time, you intuitively know the General is emotionally healthier than that and could teach a master’s level course in pleasantly expressing oneself, making her needs known and being confident that every expectation would always be met to the letter of the law. 

 

Actually, I’m still struggling to figure out how she does that. “How did the ad for E.F. Hutton go?”  “Yes, I remember.  Thank you for asking.” It goes: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”.  The same is true of the General. 

 

The General’s ability and wherewithal to engage in an open and honest conversation about what she thinks, feels and expects is not an unmet need on her part.  Actually, I think of it as a virtue (okay, at times and annoying virtue) but at least I don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking. Would I want it any other way?  “Depends of the circumstance” is my best answer. “Lucky me”, you say.  I agree. Most folks think she should have shot me by now. Of course, I think they are dead wrong.

 

Just for the record, “It was the younger dog that licked me in the face. The older dog would never invade my space by doing that.  The younger dog???  “Well, let’s just say that he has boundary issues”.  He is all over the place.  

 

Think what you will, but a dog’s slobber on you cheek is wet and sticky and serves no useful purpose.  As I wiped the slobber from my cheek, I had the thought: “It could have been worse”.   Earlier, I had observed the younger dog giving Andrea a kiss on the mouth.  I would still be on the verge of having a gag reflex if that had happened to me.  “Oh, yuck! He could have kissed me on the mouth”.  The very thought is unnerving.  The experience of the wet kiss on the cheek was not a feel good moment. I can’t imagine the mouth.

 

The concept of “Old dogs and children and watermelon wine” immediately came to mind. The old dog was respectful of boundaries.  He didn’t get in my way or opt to lick me in the face. It was the younger dog.  Can I endearingly say: “The younger dog is a loveable mess?”  Actually, in dog talk, he makes Marley look like St. Theresa. The older dog understands and respects my limits.  Not so much for the younger dog.

 

Andrea and Kevin had been to the “home and garden show” at Palmer Auditorium in Austin. It was a work related venue for them. Reportedly, Andrew and Holly, the hosts of the “Tidy Tech” show on HGTV were present.  Andrea thought we had met them before.  Maybe it is because they live in Buda and are local.  Somehow Andrea thought that maybe our paths had intersected at one of  previous home and garden shows.  You may be thinking that perhaps the General may have procured their services to deal with me. Trust me, she doesn’t need outside help.  She’s got everything under control.

 

“I am not” a hoarder. Just for the record, let me say that again. “I am not a hoarder.”   I am not emotionally attached to a lot of stuff and nothing makes me feel better than taking the trash out to the street on Wednesday evening for Thursday morning’s trash pick up.  If I were a hoarder, I’d have a problem with that.

 

Apparently, when it comes to hoarding, there are five different levels.  From Andrea’s perspective, we don’t yet classify for even the lowest level hoarder. Just for the record, there is a big difference between being a collector and being a hoarder.  However, she does think we have too much stuff.

 

I’ve known people who fall into the Class 5 (severe) category of hoarding.  They have boxes and boxes of opened or unopened stuff sitting in their house to eventually unpack and make some kind of decision regarding the need to keep or to throw away.  In the interim, the boxes which may have represented one’s inheritance from family members long gone continue to occupy space and represent clutter on top of clutter.  I absolutely could not live that way.  Fortunately, neither could the general.

 

For that matter, our garage is less than stellar, but at least two vehicles fit inside.  I know folks who have never parked their vehicles in their garages because the garage if filled with keepsakes or throwaways that haven’t yet been determined.

 

If you look around and find that your place might qualify for the description of a mess, you might want to reach out to Andrew and Holly at Tidy Tech.  They will therapeutically help you part with your stuff or at least get it organized.  If you just want the stuff gone, you might check with the General. She doesn’t have the reputation for being particularly therapeutic, but she knows how to clear a room.

 

All My Best!

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Don

It Was A Picture Perfect Experience

Unknown-4.jpeg

“Unbelievable” is the best word I can use to describe it.  “Entertainment” is another. It all factored out to be an extremely pleasant and positive experience for us.  I had the thought as the General and I drove to the extreme northwest reaches of the greater Austin area late yesterday afternoon that we were in uncharted territory.  “Concrete jungle” was another concept that factored into my mindset. 

0
0
1
859
4901
Apple Computer, Inc.
40
11
5749
14.0

 

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

 

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-language:JA;}

 

 

I guess for a Sunday afternoon, the traffic wasn’t bad.  I honestly didn’t know what to anticipate or expect.  We don’t get out much on the weekends.  Once we are home (I mean “I am” home) for the weekend, I try to keep it that way.  The call of city life isn’t a concept that draws me back.  In terms of difficulty or quagmire of traffic, there wasn’t any yesterday afternoon.  Traffic was moving at posted speeds.  Do you have any idea how unusual that is in the Austin area?  Posted speed limits are ingeniously posted at frequent intervals simply to give drivers false hope. 

 

If you drive in Austin traffic, you know what I’m talking about. “School zone” speeds is what I’m talking about. The signage may reflect a posted speed limit of “65”, but you immediately get the sense that somehow you must have missed the “School Zone – 20 mph” posting because nothing is moving.

 

Before we got to our destination, the General asked: “Where are we?”  At least I knew the answer, but I couldn’t prove it. I agreed with the General. Everything looked different. Then again, how long as it been since I’ve been to Cedar Park? Many years ago, I worked with a foster family that lived in Cedar Park.  Truthfully finding their home was an easy process.  It was a relatively short drive from Round Rock and I guess you could say, “I took the back roads”. 

 

“Back roads” is a concept that I long to have resurrected.  There even used to be “back roads” to Henly. Reflecting back fondly, that was the day.  When we lived in the “Castlewood” neighborhood of Austin, I’d sometimes take the back road to Dripping Springs on my way to Henly.  Even in the late 1970s, the absence of what I considered to be traffic was a source of refreshment.  However, sooner or later, I’d make my way to the one flashing traffic light at the intersection of RR12 and HWY 290 in Dripping Springs.

 

What a different environment from the one that now announces, “Gateway To The Hill Country”. Getting back to Cedar Park, I bet it was once named Cedar Park because it was mostly open spaces covered with cedar trees in a park-like setting. It is just a guess on my part, but can you prove me wrong?  Whatever the origin, it is something very different today. It is figuratively a concrete jungle. 

 

A close personal friend from a work related connection had invited us to attend the OVO CIRQUE DU SOLEIL at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.  His company maintains their own viewing suite.  Consequently, he invited the General and I to attend the performance.  I’ve known the guy for several years and we meet for lunch at least once a month, but I’d never had the pleasure of meeting his family.  Now that I’ve met them, picture perfect is the best way I know to describe them. 

 

With the exception of his four year old, I think his other children all had their own cell phones.  His four children span the range of childhood.  They are a close-knit family.  As it turned out, my friend was not only inviting me to meet his immediate family, the CIRQUE DU SOLEIL event turned out to be an extended family event for his family. Immediately after I met one of his aunts and his father, he said to me: “I forgot to tell you, this is a family event.  I’m related to all these people.” Gregarious and friendly are the only terms to describe them.  No wonder my friend is so personable and thoughtful, he didn’t have a choice. It is all in the DNA.

 

Actually, there is something about the presence of adults and kids together at any venue that always fills me with a sense of hopefulness.  When our kids were small or even teenagers, we seldom went anywhere without them.  Even at church, anything that takes place as a fellowship or extracurricular activity is always open to a cross-generational perspective.  I like mixing age groups. It provides children and young people with a sense of identity and connection.  It is also good for those of us who are approaching our golden years. I guess you could say, “It keeps us young.”

 

I also had the thought while we took inventory of the H-E-B Event Center that sometimes the General gives me too much credit.  She noticed the Texas flag, American flag and Canadian flag hanging at one end of the auditorium.  Turning to me she asked: “So is the Canadian flag posted to honor the CIRQUE DU SOLEIL performers?”  I am amazed that she thinks I’m so smart.  For all I knew, this group could be from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Consequently, I answered that I didn’t know. 

 

If I’d done my homework I could have told her that she was absolutely correct. However, even that would be wrong. Ovo is a touring circus production by Cirque du Soleil that premiered in Montréal. However, the cast members are from 16 different countries. The show is built around the world of insects, but boy can they fly.

 

The cluster of trapeze artists was my favorite.  Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable is the only way you can describe their performance.  Actually, that was true of the entire show.  It was amazing.

 

It was an absolutely feel good experience. In addition, the two-hour performance was over by 7:00 p.m.  It was still light outside.  It wasn’t one of those experiences where you get home past your bedtime.  Top shelf is the only way you can describe it.  I guess you could say that it, too, was a picture perfect experience. 

 

All My Best!

Don

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

images-10.jpeg

Last night as I stood in the foyer of Crofts Crow Funeral Home in Blanco, my mind went back across the years – 38 of them to be exact. Across the years the sad business of doing funerals hasn’t changed much. I guess that is true since the recording of time.  Sometimes death is expected. Sometimes it isn’t, but regardless of whether families are ready or not, they find themselves immersed in grief and faced with the sad business of bidding farewell to loved ones.

 

Actually, I’m not sure one is ever really ready. Cognitively it is easy to process that the time has come, but when the hour finally arrives it is always ushered in with emotions that reframe the experience. Who can deny it? The death of a loved one is always more than you anticipate or expect.

 

Sooner or later in every life, the hour comes when the commanding need is for comfort. Moments come to each of us when our self-sufficiency is inadequate. Perhaps that is most evident in the death of a loved one. The Scriptures recall for us a time when Jesus wept. That, too, was on the occasion of the death of his close friend Lazarus. So this need for comfort is nothing for which to be ashamed.

 

Comfort often comes from standing fast as a family and supporting one another through the experience of loss. Friends also draw near and offer assistance. They are willing to do anything they can to be of support. But the ultimate source of strength comes from God himself. The good news of the gospel is that God doesn’t abandon us when life becomes difficult. He offers to support and sustain us through the difficulties.

 

Who can deny the importance of standing together in unity as a family? Across the years, I’ve seen families strengthened through the process of grief. I’ve also seen families torn apart and completely unravel in the process. Generally, the unraveling has more to do with inheritance and the belief that one’s perceived fair share wasn’t fair.

 

Last night brought back lots of memories for me. For almost four decades I’ve had the privilege of growing close to an extended family that bids farewell to a loved one later today. In fact, the family has treated us as family since day one of our arrival. Consequently we. too, share in the emotions that reframe the experience.

 

It has been years since I regularly listened to country music, but last night I could hear the voice of Johnny Cash singing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” in my head. Do you remember the words?

 

“I was standing by my window,

On one cold and cloudy day

When I saw that hearse come rolling

For to carry my mother away

 

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, lord, in the sky

 

I said to that undertaker

Undertaker please drive slow

For this lady you are carrying

Lord, I hate to see her go

 

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, lord, in the sky…”

I had the thought that with the funeral that takes place later this morning, the circle will be unbroken. I will have had the experience of sharing in the final farewell of everyone of the five siblings and their spouses. In addition, I’ve grow old along with their kids. We talked about that last night. The last family member of that generation is being laid to rest today.

 

I have been privileged. You really get close to families when they are in the midst of grief and you have the privilege of providing comfort and support. We currently live on land that belonged to the patriarch of the family. We purchased it from one of his sons who thought we needed to be back in the community. Two decades earlier we had purchased family land from another son. It was on that location that we build our first home in Henly. Unfortunately, we sold it when we moved to Midland.

 

The old farmhouse is directly across from our home. Mr. Lauren was still living there when we first came to Henly. His wife had already gone on to be with the Lord. He had five children. Three still resided in Henly. Two didnt.  Over the course of the past 38 years, I’ve had the privilege of officiating at the funerals of each of Mr. Lauren’s (first name) children and their spouses. Or at least, that will be true at the close of today. At the close of the day, the circle will be unbroken. I will have had the privilege of bidding farewell to every family member of that generation.

 

Having had the privilege of knowing and loving them has enriched my life.

 

All My Best!

Don

Why Settle For 2nd Chair?

Unknown-2.jpeg

Jake, my eight-year-grandson, has never met a stranger. Every fiber in his being is laced with extrovert tendencies. Frankly, I’m a little envious. He is not at all intimidated by engaging an adult in conversation. A neighbor mentioned to me on Sunday that his son, who is a year older than Craig, was commenting on Jake. He said something closely akin to: “Jake has a great personality and he is really funny. He definitely has the ability to think on his feet”. For example, Jake had shared that the deer his sister killed was bigger than the deer he had killed. I’ll tell you more about that conversation later.

 

Sibling rivalry or competition is as commonplace as the morning dew in most families that have more than one child. Of course, in Jake’s case, he was born into a family where competition and the need to be a high achiever seems as normal as the hands on a clock rotating to the right. I get it. I grew up in a similar household. It was particularly true of the relationship that Ronnie and I shared. “Whose the smartest?” “Whose the fastest?” “Whose the strongest?” “Whose this” and “whose that” were the comparative questions that folks repeatedly pelted out for us to answer.

 

Of course, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the answers that Ronnie and I provided to the questions asked of us were also based on our bias and personal perceptions. We did not easily concede or yield to the other’s perception of superiority.

 

Growing up in a family of three boys, I have absolutely no idea how difference in gender manifest itself in sibling relationships or the need to be competitive. Yet, I’m sure it is a factor that has to be factored into the equation. Okay guys, we’ve all heard that girls mature more quickly that boys, but do you really believe that is true? If you were to ask the General, she’d probably suggest that I never grew up. She’s perfectly content being retired and considers it age appropriate. On the other hand, I’m struggling to get to that same place.

 

I also wonder how birth order factors into the dynamic? That, too, could be a contributing factor. In terms of my grandchildren, Jenna is the oldest. She also has a tendency to be a little bossy. Okay, I may be overstating or understating it, but she definitely has that “I’m in charge” persona. Of course, her brothers don’t necessarily choose to follow her instructions. “Good for them!” Did I say that out-loud?

 

So is that “take charge” persona tied to birth order, gender, environment or all three? If I ask enough questions, I could get into a heap of trouble. That is particularly true if the General reads my blog. I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the General pelted out orders for her younger siblings during their growing up years.

 

If you have an opinion or experience related to sibling rivalry or competition, I’d be interested in your insight or experience. I probably should think of a more subtle way to express this: “Are older brothers as adapt at engaging younger siblings in assigned tasks?” That is a question for which I have no idea.

 

Please hear me say, “I’m not suggesting that the ability to share insight, wisdom, wise counsel and an assignment or two to younger siblings is a character flaw? I’m not saying that at all. I am simply suggesting that birth order, gender and environment or life experiences all factor in to influences formative in a youngster’s life.

 

My grandchildren don’t attempt to negate the accomplishments of their siblings to enhance their own. They don’t share that kind of sibling rivalry. They actually are a very close-knit harmonious group. William and Jake are very close. It is almost as though Jakes sees his older brother as his hero. They celebrate the success of each other, but they also want their own opportunities stay in the high achiever category. You can rest assured, if one shoots a deer, it befalls the other two to want the same opportunity.

 

So what was the conversation that Jake was sharing with my friend’s adult son? Jake was talking about the deer he shot and comparing it to the deer his sister shot. He said this: “The deer my sister shot was a little bigger than mine”. He then added the caveat: “Of course, that was her first deer. When I was six, I got a six pointer. The day I turned eight years old, I got an eight pointer. It is just going to get better for me.” The man he was talking with countered: “It seems to me that you’ll soon be running out of more pointers that you can get.” Jakes response was immediate and it was dismissive. He responded, “Not at all, I’ll just shoot two deer.”

 

Of course, my grandchildren are in a regimented environment where accomplishment and winning is a value highly regarded. If you question that, watch both of their parents watch Texas A&M play football. You’d be amazed! You’d think it was a life or death situation. Neither parent manifest the persona that “it is only a game”. No wonder their children aren’t content to be anything less than first chair or in the  winners circle. No doubt, that competitive edge will serve them well in life.

 

All My Best!

Don