Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow on the ground. There are times, especially when I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time, when I don’t mind seeing weather like this slip in. I heard a weatherman refer to it as ‘sugar coating’. It’s like watching the young girls at WalMart who’ve volunteered to ring the charity bell but want to look in style while they’re standing outside.in the cold..in the rain...in the wind...in the bad weather. I passed one little thing a few days ago who had on thin leggings and a pretty sweater and a light scarf tossed around her neck . She was wearing the little slip on flat shoes with no socks. But she looked good...with her hands balled into fists and tucked into her armpits and the token bell tinkling behind her arm. She was hunkered down and her hair blew around her head like it was trying to escape and get out of the wind. A car pulled up and another child-woman voice called out to her from a half-opened window.
“Do you have any gloves I can borrow???” MIss Volunteer called out and ran to the window to grab the prize that was offered.
I used to live like that, concerned that someone would see me out and about and not measuring up to the current accepted style code. Somewhere between then and now I gave up. Now if I’m cold I admit it. I never had the body to adorn with the latest fashions and my feeble attempts were more aimed at matching and being clean than in being ‘cute’. Recently, I complained about my leg being in pain and a coworker ran and asked our team’s doctor to come and check me out. She came into my office and asked to see the offending leg. By the time I pulled up the fleece over britches, the uniform pants and the long-john legging...and then pulled down the knee sock and the ankle sock...she was standing there with her mouth hanging open.
“How many clothes do you wear at once???”
“Usually three to five layers. It’s cold in here and I’m not going to sit here freezing.”
The girls all started laughing. Doctor took care of the leg and life went on. I’m odd, and I’m old, and I’m not interested in impressing people with my sense of style or lack there of.
Honey was good at accepting my quirks. I don’t think a day went by that he didn’t tell me I looked pretty. I’d laugh and tell him he was blind, but he never failed to tell me that he was proud of me and thought I was a beautiful woman. Everyone needs to have a friend like that.
I remember him coming out to the property one evening when I had been in the field all day. I had mowed the upper field and then went to the garden to ‘play’. I had dug, tilled, hauled bricks and rocks and planted and pruned and it was hot. Very hot. Sweat and dirt was running off my face and when he drove up I walked over to the truck to greet him. He was laughing loud as he got out.
“Oh, Meta Baby. I had to come and see what my woman was doing.”
“You still think I’m perty??”
He reached out and pulled me into a hug, still laughing. “It’ll be better when you wash the stink off, but you’ll always be perty to me.”
I threw my arms around him and gave him a bear hug while I scrubbed his neck with my dirty face. “I think you ought to take a little of me with you.”
“Oh, Lordy, I’ll stink too!!!” But he laughed and played and walked on up into the garden to check out my bricklaying and planting.
People seem to be in a stupor when it comes to physical appearance. Honey thought that when a man when to church he ought to respect the church more than he did his boss. He finally started dressing more casually after we’d dated for a while, but he had specific opinions about how Christians represent their respect for their Lord. He accepted everyone, but for people who had the means...he couldn’t understand why they would act like coming to church to worship was not as important as dressing for an interview. ‘Just as I am” did not mean to dress in rags or inappropriate apparel just to prove that God ‘didn’t care’. Who are we trying to impress? Showing off the latest designs is not what church services are for. We now have a ‘mind your own business’ mentality that dictates young women (and unfortunately , sometimes older women) can come in tight or revealing clothes that are more suited for a dance barn than church and young men come in torn, misfit low hanging trousers that declare their attachment to magazine educations. Who are we? Are we children that believe any command to follow designers desperate to make a name in society?
I love to see a person who can make a statement and have a personal style that is not intrusive, embarrassing, or inappropriate for the place and time. That’s dignity. That’s fun.
Maybe, like watching snow that covers flaws and unfinished garden work and makes everything look fresh and clean and pure, we to be adorned in God’s covering or human misconceptions of what man should wear. Clothe your heart in love and righteousness, in joy and peace and hope and know that what God designs will last longer than the threads we put in our closets. Serve Him and be ‘in style’ for eternity. Christians might remember that clothes are not where true beauty really lies. Snow melts and the earth shows itself again. Clothes get old and we get tired of them and we take off the old and get new. It’s not true that ‘clothes make the man’. God makes the man and man chooses what will mark his life. ...the design of God or the wiles of the world. Maybe we ought to go and check the closets of our hearts and find out who our dresser is. Be blessed and stay warm.(
Thursday, December 18, 2014
I have scattered memories of my childhood Christmases. Of course, that was long enough ago that dinosaurs still roamed the earth and we used giant ferns to decorate the halls. I can’t remember what age, what year, what the overall season was like..but I still have random pictures that flip in and out of my mind, especially as we close in on the holiday proper.
I remember going to my maternal grandmother’s house and making my way through mobs of legs and loud talking. I had a cousin who was about 2 years younger than me that was always my goal for having a playmate. We were always in awe of the number of gifts under the tree and as the family grew, Gramma went from giving silver dollars as a gift to each person to giving a silver dime. We didn’t care. I remember loving Bat Masterson and getting a holster and an official cane from the show..a dowel rod painted black with a silver colored plastic decoration ‘knob’ glued to one end. Uncle Mitchell didn’t have any kids, but he always had the latest photography equipment and would take family photos and movies that are so cherished today. Gramma and Papa and 6 children with their wives and husbands and their children and finally the great grandchildren. It was loud and noisy with everyone crowded into rooms too small for more than 3 or 4 people at a time. The tree was in a corner of the living room and when it came time to give out presents, everyone found a place on the floor or the arms of the sofa or someone’s lap. An adult was designated to hand out the gifts. Everyone would oooo and aww over each unwrapping and laugh at the silly things and be jealous for the special choices. We each got a gift or two and a candy cane off the tree and the dime from Papa and Gramma and a big meal. No show, no ‘is this all???’, no disappointment…just family and appreciation that we were all together.
The only tree in my parent’s home that I can remember before I started grade school was in a house with a big front window. I don’t know what I got that year but it was overshadowed by all the colors on the tree. Ornaments were passed on then. Fragile little horns that ‘really blew” and glass balls with glitter glued to them. Paper and felt and strings of lights and tiny candle holders perched on the end of branches with a warning, “don’t touch, you’ll break it”. The big star that sat on top of the tree that was replaced or replaced a beautiful angel with spread wings that was intended to spread tidings of good cheer, but always looked like she was recovering from a hangover and about to fall off her perch. No one but immediate family is in that recollection and I have no idea of what I even asked for.
At one house I got a bike that was stolen out of the garage a few weeks later and at another I was given a silver coated keepsake box with a wristwatch that broke as soon as I put it on. I still have the Cinderella watch I was given about the age of 3 and a large grey stuffed bear that sits in my bedroom keeping a lookout from my grandmother’s sewing rocker. My mother tried throwing that bear away several times over a 20 year period and I rescued it again and again. Might not be the greatest thing in the world and has absolutely no monetary value, but Grey Bear has been a point of security for me.
This year on the holiday, I’ll be passing the time with my daughter and her family. I have no imagination for gifts to give anyone else or desire to receive anything in particular. I don’t feel the excitement that used to permeate the air with thick expectation of mystery and wonder. I will enjoy my grandson and get down in the floor to become his playmate and his totally attentive audience. I will watch my daughter and her wonderful husband with great admiration and try to figure out where the little girl went that I used to work so hard to surprise and provide the magic of the season. I can’t seem to find the simplicity of yesterday. I can’t find anything from the commercials and secular decorations in the stores that dredge up even an ounce of nostalgia or charm. I’m just not feeling it this year. Grinch and bah humbug.
That is, until this morning when I read my scriptures and devotional. And there it was, waiting where it’s been all the while, right where He said it would be. That star, that field, that sky, that nasty stall, that rough manger, that baby. There He is. That little body that would only live in human form for about 33 more years and then be butchered by the hands of the men He created and came to earth to save. There He is. That promise that all of my sins would be washed away by the blood that would spill down from that splintered cross and that I would not have to pay the cost of sacrifice myself. There He is. That man of sorrows who would be scorned and hated and accused and abused for my sake, just because He loves me. There He is. My Jesus.
Let all the glitter and glitz and sparkle and waste be swept away with the ashes of the commercialism that leaves me jaded and empty. Let the world at large deny Who He was and is, but in all of the rubble left behind and thrown out with the empty boxes, let me, let us, let my family and community see that there is so much more to celebrate than the tree sitting in the middle of packages soon to be ripped open and thrown away with the day’s trash. There is so much more than the big dinner and what is or is not served and how much was spent for whatever latest gadget. There’s more than the ornaments and the things this world calls so important. My Jesus has prepared a place for me, a home and an inheritance beyond the commercialism of this present earth. I will celebrate the promise and remember the first gift and I will praise Him for His love. As I mourn my temporary losses and continue to live in expectation of eternity, Christmas will come and go, but I have the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and will be forevermore. Thank you, Lord for giving us Christmas to look beyond the rough manger to see what lies ahead. Spread the true joy this year and really celebrate the true meaning of the season. Praise Him.
Monday, December 15, 2014
There are many things about Honey’s life that he wasn’t proud of. He told me on many occasions that if I really knew him that I wouldn’t stay with him. I found it odd that a man who leaned so hard on the Lord and was confident that he was forgiven completely would think that he could not be loved by another human being. He told me so many stories of his relationship with Ann that left me wondering how in the world she survived his shenanigans, but at the same time learning that she had enough of her own vinegar to keep him sort of- maybe –half-way in line.
Honey started drinking back on the rock farm when he was about 9 or 10 years old. His father would stash his bottles in the barn and slip out the back to get a drink and Honey would watch. Eventually he began to ‘share’ the whiskey ..uninvited and just got used to the habit. Once he married Ann, it became more routine. He would work all day and ‘stop by’ the local bar for a drink. Many of those stops would last the rest of the night. He talked about her reaction to a couple of the ‘long nights’ with a long neck. The first occasion he told me about was a weekend when he had run into some buddies after work and came home with ‘the stagger’. He came into the kitchen and Ann was sitting at the table.
“What d’jyu fix for supper?” He slurred.
She listed the menu. “Fried chicken, potatoes, corn, biscuits.” She never looked at him. It was almost midnight, the girls were in bed and she was not a happy wife.
Honey checked out the oven and then the refrigerator. “Got any left?”
Still looking, he shuffled to the cabinets. “Well , where it’stit?”
“I threw it in the garbage.”
Honey turned around, looked at her, still swaying, and went to the trash can and opened the lid. There, right on top, still on a plate, was his supper. Drunks do what drunks do. He reached in and picked up the plate and stood right where he was and ate it up. Ann pushed her chair back and went to bed.
A few weeks later he gave a repeat performance, coming in after midnight, grabbing onto everything in the kitchen to keep from falling on his face. Same question.
“What d’jye fix for supper?”
Ann was already up and walking down the hall to go to bed.
“You know where it is.”
“OKAY…” he slurs as he heads for the trash. This time was not as good as the first event. He opened the lid and there was his supper, on a paper plate, completely covered with the contents of a very full ash tray. There was no picking it clean…it was coated. Honey said he learned to stop and eat somewhere else if he wasn’t going to be home in time.
Another night he came in and decided to take a bath before going to bed and passed out in the tub. He told me that Ann couldn’t wake him up and finally just left him in the water . He laughed when he told me that he was frozen when he finally woke up. That discussion concerned “Why didn’t you let the water out and at least throw a towel over me. I could’ve drowned”. He said in those years he sort of wondered if she wasn’t hoping..but it was obvious, especially after the later years once he knew the Lord, that their devotion went beyond the moments they had to work through.
His brother in laws got in on the act sometimes and so did close buddies and their wives . One New Year’s Eve they had invited another couple over to spend the evening and around 9 the women decided that the men ought to drive to Hinkle’s in Madison Indiana (30 minutes away) for hamburgers. Hinkle’s are like giant White Castles and the place had its own reputation in the day. The men went, the women expected them back in a couple of hours but time passed. Somewhere between 2 and 4am, in came the happy brothers.
“Where have you two been?! We sent you for hamburgers and you just up and disappear?”
Both men found that pretty funny as they handed the ladies a smashed, greasy brown bag. And, indeed, it was a bag of burgers.
The men had made up a story that they had just stopped by “the Hill” in Madison to get a beer, and it would have worked a little if each man had not been wearing a hat from 2 other bars and carrying party toys like whistles and confetti from at least 2 other places. They had toured the town and the “wouldn’t it be nice” turned into ‘we should have thought this out a little better’. But that was those days. I think that events like this were foundational in many ways in making Honey so determined to be upright as he matured in the Lord. Wasted years make you appreciate the blessings of God so much more. And Honey truly appreciated his Savior.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
By February we knew we were going to stay a couple. I was secure in his intentions and we started talking wedding. I teased him and told him that I wanted the biggest celebration our town had ever seen and he told me I’d be satisfied wearing the paper band off of a cigar on my finger. We talked about what we’d serve at the dinner, our attendants, (of course he listed the two men he’d had a prayer meeting with for 4 decades as first on the list), and colors. Stuff kids would talk about. I talked to people who knew how to cook and to people who knew how to decorate and fantasized about the guest list and the music.We laughed about being so old, he teased me about being so much younger than him, and he actually asked me what I wanted for an engagement ring, not easy for Mr. Independent to do. I wanted an emerald and for Valentine’s day he wrapped it up, fixed a candlelight dinner, and put the box in the middle of my plate. Again, we had some talking to do. I told him that I felt we needed to exchange families and see what happened. He called his daughters to arrange a meeting. My daughter was away at school and wouldn’t be home until summer, so she would be a delay, but I had told her about Honey and she was supportive. We had a lot of blending to get done. He set a date for me to have a meeting with his girls. We met at Company’s Coming, their husbands went to Honey’s house, and I introduced myself. I told them that Honey and I had been dating and that we were in love and wanted to be married. It was interesting, to say the least, but Honey and I decided to give it a little more time and just learn more about each other.
His family had a tradition of meeting every three months to celebrate birthdays and events. They came to Honey’s house on the specified Sunday afternoon and ordered pizza and then opened birthday or celebration gifts. Honey loved to see his family gather. It was good when Honey came to my family outings. People swamped him, got him a chair, pulled him into conversations and made sure he had plenty to eat and was a part of the day. He seemed to enjoy the attention and getting to know my people, We accepted him…..Locust accent and all. He was ours. He was Honey and deserved respect and attention and time and most of all, our love
We eventually settled into the "your family- then my famiy" routine that most couples with baggage carry. Young married people must have a lot more stamina than old folks with less energy. But God was so good and we made some really nice memories.
The second year we dated was a strain in and of itself and we overcame a lot that would have broken other couples up. In March of 2004 I found out that I needed surgery as soon as possible and went on medical leave. I had two friends in particular who took the time to help me beyond the call of duty. Honey was at the hospital constantly and was such a support. My daughter graduated from college on Mother’s day and the family gathered to celebrate. My father made the trip to Tennessee and the afternoon of the graduation, he collapsed. He got to see her in her graduation gown, told her that he was proud of her and 6 weeks later, after a very brief and trying illness, passed away a year to the day that Anne had died. Honey had taken the week off to mourn for Anne on June 22, but found himself supporting me instead, and in the long run, we supported each other. I finally went back to work and we got back to courting, but it wasn’t the same, it was more stable. Less of the sparkle and more of the foundation. We’d both grown in the relationship and had become comfortable enough for total honesty with each other. It was rough in many ways because he held on to traditions and beliefs that I had no part of and I did the same, but we eventually began to create our own history and routines .
Looking back, and that hind-sight is always much more clear than what we perceive in the here and now, I would have done a lot of things differently..but I cannot regret the decision I made to fall in love with this man. In all of the months ahead I found him to be honest, dependable, supportive and transparent in most things. Old people don't try to change each other...they walk into relationships with eyes wide open. I wouldn't take it back for the world. God was answering prayer.
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