Lenny: A Very Good Guy

i1035 FW1.1

 

“I guess I’ll have to eat ALL my fries now,” I blurted/cried out.  We were sitting in the small emergency veterinarian’s examine room waiting for the nice vet to come back with the syringes that would ease our pup’s transition to the next realm.  Lynn and I sat there, both crying, and waiting for the inevitable to happen.

“Our” terrier, Lenny, had aged out of his mortal coil on Sunday and we had to take him to the clinic.  I say “our” because Lenny was, in no uncertain terms, Lynn’s dog.  For eight years the sun rose and set ONLY on Lynn, as far as Lenny was concerned.

We got Lenny from a rescue organization called BARK.  His original owner, in Culpeper, had fallen on hard times and could no longer afford him.  We were told he was about 6-8 years old at the time.  His foster mom doted on him hand and foot.  She cooked him meals of chicken and vegetables; that’s right I said cooked.  When we got him, he seemed indignant that we would would pour dry food into the bowl and expect him to eat it….well….like a dog.  He got used to it.

We had him in a crate for about a minute because that was how long Lynn could stand it.  Eventually, he took over several spots in the house, his favorite of which was the large club chair in the living room.  It was there he could spy Lynn pulling up in the driveway and start yowling in puppy-like anticipation.

I lied.  His actual favorite spot was next to Lynn in her oversized leather recliner.  He would stuff himself next to her, take one “harumph” and go to sleep.

IMG_0188

He tolerated me only when I would share what I had at dinner.  When fast food and french fries were available, he was outright pesky, so I always gave into him.

In the morning when I was reading and having coffee, he would stand next to me so I could pat him and scratch his always-itchy ears.  It was like our daily check-in to make sure we were cool.

He never bit anyone and hardly barked at all.  He was a pacifist to the core and a lover of all things “Lynn.”  In the morning I could hear Lynn chatting non-stop with him.  He was a pretty good listener.

For the past few weeks he seemed listless and sad.  Gone were the excited yowls when Lynn returned home from somewhere.  His back legs seemed weak and draggy.  We had the talk about how old he was and this might be something; trying to realistic about where he was.  Around Friday or so we decided to take him to his normal vet on Monday to get some idea where he was and whether or not this was the end.

Sunday morning I was on my fifth day of having a fever, but I felt like it was getting better.  I dragged myself to the kitchen table and had coffee and the newspaper.  As usual Lenny came by to check-in, but he wouldn’t leave.  He just stood there next me and wanted me to pat him non-stop.  At one point he laid down and put his head on my foot.  “Something’s up with your dog,” I told Lynn.

Around noontime we settled in to watch the football playoffs with Lenny, who needed to be picked up and put on the recliner with Lynn.

At half-time, I went to get an orange and had just peeled it when Lynn yelled for help.  I went into the den to see Lynn clutching onto to Lenny who was having seizure and foaming at the mouth.  This went on for a minute or two, stopped, and went on for another minute.

After an hour at the emergency vet, we were escorted to the aforementioned small room and awaited the diagnosis.  The vet was very nice and also very empathetic.  He had much going on internally and a lot of unknowns at his age as to whether he would survive each step necessary to uncover the next. It was a lot to ask of a small dog for what we considered to be a selfish reason at this point.  So we talked with the vet about all of this and she fully supported our decision,

Lenny was brought back to us for some alone time.  Lynn tried to hold him in her lap but gave up.  He just wanted to sit on the padded bench between us and put his head on my leg.  We stroked him and told him we loved him and thanked him for being our dog.  The vet came in with syringes and we watched Lenny leave us.

We sure did love that dog; everybody loved Lenny.  Other dogs even loved him.  When we would take him out, even if other dogs were aggressive with him, he would just turn and ignore them.  He was that chill.

He slept like 20 hours a day on his club chair and was more like a cat in that sense.  When I texted my son, Jack, about Lenny’s passing he texted back – “He was a good dog and a great cat.”

The worst was telling our daughter, Catherine, about itwhen she came home.  She was distraught but understood.  She adored Lenny and if I’m being honest; if Lynn was number one then it was Catherine who was number two, not me.

However, even old number three will miss him.  I think if (I know I shouldn’t) have french fries from now on, I’ll always leave a few for Lenny.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Words Fail

Image may contain: 2 people, sky, cloud, outdoor, nature and water

This Saturday morning I’ll wake up and do the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life.  I’ll quietly get up and creep downstairs, turn on the Christmas tree and let the dog out.  I’ll put a coffee pod in the Keurig and check to see if the newspaper has been delivered.  I’ll let the dog back in and sit down with my coffee and a greeting card with pen in hand.  I’ll then attempt to write via the the greeting card something that lets the woman I have been married to for forty years know just how much she means to me on our anniversary.

I’m pretty adept at communicating via the English language.  I’m a passable writer and my verbal skills are fair to middling.  I just don’t know how in the world I’m going to tell this amazing woman how much she means to me.

When I was growing up and coming into the age of reason, my greatest hope was that some day at some point and for some length of time, someone might possibly love me.  I guess I didn’t have the best self-esteem back then.

What do you say to someone who has loved you unconditionally for those years?  Do you thank her for being there when you were sick, sad, confused and beaten down by life?  Do you let her know that she’s beautiful and so very kind?  Do you tell her that after 40 years there is no one in the world you’d rather have as your friend and wife?

I’ve said all these things and more over the years, so to say them now seems weak and unimaginative. I’ve written and erased what I was going to write a dozen or so times already because the words weren’t up to the task.

I love words.  I love using the perfect word in the perfect situation to convey the exact intent.  I acquired jobs with my words, passed exams with words (when I didn’t know what the real answer was), made friends with words and changed kids’ lives with words.  When it comes to how I feel about Lynn, my ability to communicate becomes mute.

So all of you who may read these please wish me luck and pray that this Saturday, December the 23rd, I find the right words to let this angel on Earth know just how much she means to me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

De-Evolution

Image result for compassion

 

“What’s happening to us?  Why are we so mean and hateful to each other?  Why are we so selfish and have so much hate in our heart?” she said.  The “she” in this case was “Linda” the nurse who was in the exam room at my doctor’s office with me.  She and I have become close over the years. I was the next to the last appointment for the day and the last patient had cancelled.  The nurse practitioner was running a bit late, so we took some time to catch up.

It’s been a crazy year to say the least.  Politics, sexual harassment, mass murders, terrorism, misogyny and racism flood the news daily.  It’s so bad, that I hate to watch the news or even open my Facebook page.

I had thought, as a a species, we would be better by now, but it doesn’t seem so.  We were supposed be kinder, smarter and more unified than we are, but it just hasn’t happened.  As the days pass by, we seem to be on the downhill side of our zenith as a civilization;  at least that’s what I had thought.

I looked into Linda’s warm, brown eyes and told her very gently she was wrong.  I told her that what we read and hear is not who we really are.  I told her that there are just as many, if not more more, compassionate humans in the world that there have ever been.  People who feed the hungry, provide aid to the oppressed, medicine to the sick, say “thank you” and “please” or just hold the door for an old, bald man.

Her eyes started to water and she looked at me somewhat ashamed and begin to tell the story of the family who supported her when she came here from Ghana.  It was an amazing story of unconditional love.  We sat there and I listened to it and the world with it’s fading sunlight stopped around us.  It was the best medicine I got that day.

In my part time job, I’ve had to speak with thousands of customers who may not be having the best day or just need some questions answered.   However, I can count on one hand the ones I remember who were rude or angry.  The people I speak with are kind, polite and grateful.

We want our world to be a duality.  It’s easier that way. Hot and cold, dry and wet, good and evil, Republican and Democrat, them and us, etc..  This duality may be playing out to the nth degree to our detriment, but it is not truly who we are.

My head is not in the sand and the glass is not always half full for me.  I just know there is something that is bigger than us and is us.  I know It unites us and cannot be diminished.  I know It’s light cannot be hidden and that It shines through the darkness.  I know It is not terrorism, murder, sexual harassment or the hate we think is prevalent.  I know It will overcome all of those things and make all right again in due time.

I know it’s a woman from Ghana and a man from Bumpass who know we’re better than we’re being portrayed and revel in that knowledge.

Peace in Christ

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Shoes of a Fisherman

Image result for florsheim wingtips old

He would sit there every Sunday – frozen.  Two socks on, one shoe on and the right shoe in his right hand.  Just staring – frozen and looking out in space for five to ten minutes.  Eventually he would snap out of it and put his right shoe on and finish getting dressed for Sunday school and church service.

This was my father’s routine every Sunday.  He would take out his J.C. Penney suit and his Florsheim wing-tip shoes.  He would then get partially dressed and retrieve this rickety wooden shoe shine box packed with its assortment of Kiwi polishes and rags.  The task of polishing his shoes was automatic; years in the Army during World War II had taught him the importance of well-cared for footwear.  His application of the polish was meted and purposeful as were his brush stroke and the finishing snaps of the rag as he applied the spit shine on his beloved wing tips.

Image result for shoe shine kit old

He then re-packed all the polishes, brushes and rags into the old wooden kit and placed it back in the closet.  A seat was taken on the sofa in the living room where this all took place and the left shoe was put on then the right shoe was picked up and the trance began.

I was nine when I noticed the routine.  I would watch him around the corner of the door; not daring to interrupt.  Even at the age of nine, I had some sense that what he was doing was sacred, needed and important.  I didn’t know the “why” but I DID know it was necessary.

He did the same thing when he went fishing.  I never could comprehend why he would go fishing after a long day of work and make cast after cast while staring out into the pond.  You could see it, though, with every cast.  The fishing had become automatic and his mind was performing a very important task that could not be interrupted by the loud splashes of a boy throwing rock after rock into the water.

Fifty years later, on a recent Sunday, I believe I found the answer to the question – “why.”  I, too, was putting on my shoes to go for a walk and found myself frozen in time with my right shoe in my hand. I have written about my dad’s routine before but something was different and revealing on this particular Sunday.  When I finally snapped out of it after five minutes or so I had a sense of what my dad, at around age 59 was experiencing and what I, also at age 59 was experiencing.  It was the examination and filing of those life events into some sort of order within your brain.  It felt like my mind was putting everything back in the right file folders and placing them in the correct position in my “file cabinet” so I could move forward.

My dad’s files were World War II, the tobacco fields, the Great Depression, working as a logger and raising two sons and they all had to be unpacked, examined and re-filed so he could move forward that week.  My “files” seem to pale in comparison to my dad’s but they were mine and needed to be sorted. I have more or less placed this sorting on hold for the last three years. That needs to change and my dad once again showed me the way that recent Sunday morning.

At the age of nine,  I never understood why my dad went into a trance while putting on his shoes or fishing.    It seemed insanely boring.  Now I understand.  Now I need to move forward sharing his legacy of kindness and compassion; one right shoe, one long walk and one long bike ride at a time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Thoughts in the Still of the Morning

Image result for cardinal snow

This story from the surgeon and writer Richard Seltzer in his book, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, about a young woman with a tumor in her cheek.

Dr. Seltzer writes of his visit to her hospital room after the surgery.

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of her facial nerve, the one to the muscles in her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. As a surgeon, I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

 Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. “Who are they,” I ask myself, “he with his wry mouth who gaze and touch each other so generously?”

 The woman speaks:

 “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

 “Yes,” I say. “It is because the nerve was cut.”

 She nods, is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.

 All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful of my presence, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I’m so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

I’ve often looked for God yet could not find him.  I’ve searched in vain, down on my knees pleading for Him to reveal himself, yet I could not find Him.  If only I did enough good deeds or donated enough money; would He show Himself then?

Yet could it be that Heaven and God are hiding in plain sight?  Every once in awhile, if I’m very still and can quiet my mind, I catch a glimpse of Him.  I see Him within the courage of my wife as she deals patiently and so tenderly with her aging parents.  I see Him in many of the teachers I taught with who compassionately cared for their students.  I see Him in the faith of my brother, the beauty of a cardinal in the snow, the laugh of my daughter and the smile of the Pakistani clerk at the the convenience store.

If I really quiet my mind and let go of the past and stop worrying about tomorrow, then Heaven and God open up before me.  The glimpses expand and the words become sentences.

All my life I thought I was so smart.  I thought I could use my brain and my cleverness to find God.  In truth all I really needed to do was stop thinking and be still.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First Aid for the Soul

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10

Image result for peace

Much has been written and discussed about out recent election.  So I’m not going to bore you with my political ideology because, frankly, who cares!!

Regardless of whether you were blue or red it has been a VERY stressful time for us all.  Now, without much of a break, we’re jumping right into the holiday season which carries  it’s own special brand of stress.  Yes, it’s the joyous time of year and all that jazz.  However, it also is the time of year when depression is at its highest.  During the holidays the  loss of love ones and old wounds that can be opened hit us particularly hard.

Might I suggest a few things you can do to combat this stress?

  1.  Take a walk.  Yes it’s getting cold and the days are shorter, but you need the sunlight AND the fresh air. It’s a documented fact that some sort of exercise done outside significantly helps with the blues.  Even if you can’t get out during the day, it’s an excellent time to get out and see the holiday lights in your neighborhood.
  2. Realize that there are no perfect families.  I used to lament that my family wasn’t the Hallmark family you see on TV.  However, the older I got and the more I talked to other people, I realized that there are no “Leave It to Beaver” families out there.  Heck… even “Leave It to Beaver” times weren’t the best time for women in our country.
  3. Watch a video from “On the Road with Steve Hartman.”  Often heartwarming and never disappointing.
  4. Watch this video on gratefulness with Brother David Steindl-Rast.
  5. Escape into a good book, sports or binge-watch something.
  6. Set aside time to pray and/or meditate.
  7. Text or call an old friend and reconnect.
  8. If you can’t be happy….fake it!!  Denis Prager, the Jewish theologian,  states; Happiness — or at least acting happy, or at the very least not inflicting one’s unhappiness on others — is no less important in making the world better than any other human trait.
  9. Take a technology day off.  Shut down the phone, computer and tv.  You might go into withdrawal for a bit, but you’ll get used to it.
  10. Simplify your life.  Clear out that closet, trunk or room.  Organize your paperwork.
  11. Put God first.  In fact, this should be first on the list.  Make an effort to start your day with God.  Realize that outside of the election and holiday, there is always God.

There is no disputing the fact that these are indeed tough times.  So I end this blog with a quote from someone who endured much sorrow and had every reason to be stressed.

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Whoever is happy will make others happy too. – Anne Frank
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Is There Something You Would Like to Have?”

These were the words that were spoken, as I eavesdropped in on a conversation between  husband and wife.  How many times in the history of man have these words been uttered, I wondered? Such a simple request; yet so telling.  It’s really a very gracious statement when you examine it closely.  Is there some need I can fulfill for you?  What would make you happy now?  How can I serve you?  All of these questions can be inferred from “Is there something you would like to have?

The conversation I was eavesdropping on was between Vice Admiral James Stockdale and his wife, Sybil.   Stockdale?  James Stockdale?  Where have you heard that name before?  You probably heard it in 1992, when Presidential Candidate Ross Perot named James Stockdale as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Needless to say, everyone was shocked and unaware of who this aging sailor was.

Stockdale was not informed that he would be participating in the October 13th   vice-presidential debate held in Atlanta, Georgia, until a week before the event. He had no formal preparation for the debate, unlike his opponents Al Gore and Dan Quayle, and did not discuss any political issues with Perot beforehand.  The 69 year old Stockdale opened the debate by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”, when responding to a request for an opening statement from debate moderator.  He was lampooned immediately by everyone from the New York Times to Saturday Night Live.

Yet that is not the James Stockdale I will remember.

From Wikipedia –

James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005) was an American and United States Navy vice admiral. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years.  He had led aerial attacks from the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On his next deployment, while Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16 aboard the carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34), he was shot down in North Vietnam on September 9, 1965.

He was held as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  He was routinely tortured and denied medical attention.  This left him with a damaged leg and a permanent limp.   When his torturers tried to use him as a propaganda tool by parading him out in public, he slit his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face so that he was so disfigured that they couldn’t use him.

Stockdale and ten other prisoners were known as the Alcatraz Gang because of their tireless efforts in organizing resistance.  They were separated from the rest of the prisoners and each kept in a 3 x 9 foot cell; shackled in leg irons each night.

While James was held captive, Sybil organized The League of American Families of POWs and MIAs calling for more light to be shed on the treatment of POWs.  She was also used by the government to send coded messages to her husband in a twist right out of the movies.

 

Stockdale4

He was released on February 12, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. His shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets, his leg shattered and his back broken during his torture.   The first thing he did, when he was safe at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, was to call Sybil.   The conversation was recorded by their son, Stanford.  As you listen to recording, you can hear the frailty in his voice.  You can hear the years of torture and pain.  After professing their love for each other, James asks the question that I am not ashamed caused me to cry and started this story.  “Is there something you would like in the way of a gift?”

James Stockdale had endured seven and a half years of torture.  He was a skeleton of the man he was.  Yet he asked his beloved wife what HE could get her.  I’m pretty good with the English language but words fail me in trying to describe how this made me feel.

I heard this story told by his son, Jim, on the StoryCorps podcast as Lynn and I wove our way through the Louisa countryside in search of pie. On the podcast, Jim played the recording of the conversation between James and Sybil.  I felt the hot tears stream down my face as I heard him ask her if there was “something she would like.”  I tried to hide them from Lynn but I knew chances were she was crying, too.

Stockdale5

What is it in us as humans that allows such magnanimity?   How can someone who was beaten and tortured routinely for seven years be so thoughtful as to ask his wife that question?  It’s at these moments that the face of God is revealed and I know that all is right and good if we only listen to his voice.  Listening to that intimate conversation from over forty years ago was sacred.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale may be remembered by most as the befuddled, fuzzy old, bent Vice Presidential candidate who was ridiculed by the questions he uttered in 1992.  I, however, will remember him by the question he asked in 1973 – “Is there something I can get for you?”

 

To listen to the StoryCorps Podcast AND the conversation between James and Sybil click here.

 

ps – It’s a bit ironic that his middle name is “Bond.”  He’s more of a hero than 007 could ever be in my book.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Knockout!!

I have been knocked out thrice in my life and none of them were fun.  The first was when I was sparring with a black-belt friend of mine, a second in a bike accident and the third while teaching kindergarten.

lab

I’m guessing most of you have done the math on the black-belt-friend knockout and bike accident, so I’ll describe what happened that day I was “teaching” kindergarten.

It was 1998, a beautiful Spring day, and my second year teaching kindergarten.  I was teaching in Henrico County which at the time had half-day kindergartens.  You would get a group in the morning, they would go home around mid-day, and then the second group would arrive.  It was neat because the classes tended to be small and you really got to know the kids.

I was the lone guy with three amazing, smart, young women who took pity on me and taught me how to be a passable kindergarten teacher. We took turns going out for recess; two classes at a time. “Alexa” was my teacher-team partner.  Since it was the first gorgeous Spring day,  we grabbed some “grown-up”  chairs in preparation for an extended recess.  My only grown-up chair was my office rolling chair so I rolled it out and took a seat to watch the munchkins run wild.  The sun felt great and Alexa took post on the opposite side of playground.

There was a small blacktopped decline going down to the basketball court from where I sat.  Well….I had a chair that could roll and there was the decline calling my name, so I took off.  It was GREAT fun rolling down that decline.  It WAS great fun the first three times.  The fourth time proved, shall we say…problematic.  The kids saw what a great time I was having, so they decided to run behind and give me an extra boost down the decline.  It was a good idea in theory.

What actually happened was on that fourth run, my rolling chair hit a seam in the blacktop walkway.  This caused the chair to pivot around backwards, and  fall  over; slamming me and my giant head onto the blacktop.

I opened my eyes to the bluest sky I had ever seen, and the sound of 5-6 year-olds fleeing the scene.  Alexa was screaming, “The fool has finally killed himself.  The FOOL has finally killed himself!!”  She helped me sit up, and I told her I was fine but I wasn’t completely fine.  I tried to pick the chair up from my sitting position but my fingers wouldn’t work.  I had to pinch the chair in between the back of my hands like they were flippers to get it upright. Luckily it was the end of the day and I was able to get the kids packed up and on the bus.

Afterwards we had a wedding shower in the library and I remember somebody bringing me cake but my fingers still were not working.  I had to pick the fork up with my flipper hands and try to eat the cake while my “teammates” were snorting and laughing at me.

What I didn’t know was that because the playground was situated near where the building was in a kind of u-shape, half of the other teachers had seen my crash.  The news made it to my long-suffering principal, Herb Monroe, who insisted I go to the doctor and get a brain scan and bring him proof that I had one (he said this while he was doubled over laughing).

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Pie That Binds

13244846_1084552291583603_8363383685211541744_n

The place had a familiar feel.  Deja vu comes close but off by a little.  Even the spot where I sat had a sense of sameness and then it hit me and once again the old black and white movies started to play in the the theater of my mind.

Yesterday, Cookie and I were having our breakfast of eggs, cereal and crosswords and coming up with a plan for the day.  We didn’t want to do any painting or house re-habing.We had been doing a lot of on her parents house we’re getting ready for sale.

I suggested that we do some light geocaching along Route 6 (Patterson Avenue) west and cut over to the Town of Louisa and hit Floozies Pie Shop.  My friend, Bill Lohmann, had done an article about Floozies, and when you write as well as Bill you can make pie seem pretty irresistible.

So we piled into our Subaru and headed west on Patterson in search of geocaches and pie.  The geocaches were far and few but the scenery was gorgeous and we listened to a few The Moth podcasts along the way.

As we pulled into the Town of Louisa I was amazed at how much it had changed over the years.  I grew up in Louisa on the eastern end of the county as far away as you can get from the town and still be in Louisa.

We parked on Main Street about a block from the restaurant and walked along the busy street in search of Floozies (I just realized how bad that sentence sounded).  It was crazy busy on this Saturday before the 4th of July.  Large American flags lined both sides of the street.  We walked past several restaurants along the way, and I told Cookie that the only place to eat when I was growing up here was a Pizza Hut (still there by the way).

We walked into Floozies and decided to have lunch and get the pie to go.  We were seated at a table near the right hand wall, and as I sat down a strange feeling came over me.  It was a feeling of belonging and calmness. Then the movie started to play.

If you were a boy in the late 50’s and early 60’s you had one choice of haircuts – the crew cut.  My dad had one his whole adult life, and so by default I had one.  This required regular trips to the barbershop which for us were every other Saturday.  My dad would get me out of bed super early, and we would get there a full half hour before Callahan’s Barbershop would open.  We would park in small lot down the street from the storefront, and if my dad’s friend, George Badgett, was there, we would pile in his car to talk and stay warm during the cold winter days.

dadandme

In front of the house I spent the first 18 years of my life

The barbershop was like thousands across America back then.  Two large, heavy cast iron barber chairs, combs soaking in a jar of blue solution, and a machine that dispensed hot lather for shaves and neck touch ups.  Mr. Callahan was like a god to me.  He was in the same boat in my mind as my doctor and preacher.  While there was talk of sports and politics, most of the talk was about hunting and fishing.

Mr. Callahan was fast when it came to dispensing his crewcuts.  My favorite part was when he put the hot lather on the back of my neck, then took the single edge razor and swiped it on the strop and shaved the back of my neck.

My dad would give me my allowance to take to the five and dime next door for important purchases, while he was getting the same haircut.  I don’t remember many of the purchases; except for a pocket knife one time and Silly Putty another.  Back then if you were a boy, a pocket knife was a requirement, that went with you even to school.  Different times.

As I had sat in my chair at Floozies, I realized that this restaurant was probably in the exact same location as the barbershop was many, many years ago.  Perhaps occupying that specific space had triggered those long ago memories of hot lather and dime store visits.

The lunch was delicious as was to be expected.  We paid our bill and took our mixed berry pies.  On the way out, we stopped to look at Bill’s article proudly displayed on a beam in the middle of eatery.  We walked slowly to car soaking in the quaintness of it all.   The American flags, the soul food restaurant, the courthouse across the street and the barbecue joint down the street were reminders of a simpler time that was still accessible if you looked for it.

I took the long way home to visit my brother in Bumpass, and along the way pointed out memories to Cookie.  My Uncle Ronald’s house, Willie Sprouse’s cabinet shop and the fireworks stand that has been there forever, served as portals back in time.

To be quite honest I don’t know what lesson there is to had from the pie/barbershop experience other than I’m pretty easy to please.  A nice with lunch with a pretty wife, hot lather on the back of my neck, dime store buys and a great piece of pie on a Fourth of July weekend seem to move the needle for me; whether I’m eight or fifty eight.  I kinda like that about myself.

Click on the orange “Floozies” word link to read Bill Lohmann’s Time Dispatch article.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Father’s Day Gift

We all sat in the den watching some dumb reality show and laughing until our sides hurt.  That’s what always happens when my oldest son, Andrew who lives in Baltimore with his wife, comes down.  He’ll leave his job as an Air Force Chinese Linguist on Thursday afternoon and spend the weekend with us.  During that time Jack and Catherine will also come over and we’ll eat horrible food and try to make each other do a spit-take while doing so.  We’ve done this several times since he returned from being stationed in Hawaii.

If you asked me what my favorite thing to do is; that is it.  All three kids and Cookie there; telling stories, making comments about current events and just generally catching up on life.

Cookie and I have three children.  There’s the aforementioned Andy who lives with his wife in Baltimore.  Catherine works with autistic children, and she graduated from VCU like her mother and father.  Jack the youngest went rogue and graduated from ODU. He is a computer guy subcontracted by Chesterfield Schools.

While the degrees and fancy Air Force jobs are great, they are not what I am most proud of in regards to my kids.  What I am most proud of is that they are genuinely kind and compassionate humans.

When you watch my kids interact with other people you can see it in their eyes.  The patience to listen, the compassion and understanding that comes from someone who truly listens to you.  I think that’s pretty rare.  I would love to take credit for it all, but I think they get it from Cookie, her sister Karen,  brother Brian, along with my dad and brother Hank;  ALL world class humans.

komen

Cookie’s parents had to be transitioned to assisted living recently, and it has become a gargantuan task taking care of the all the details which  include re-habbing their home for sale.  We didn’t even have to ask our two offspring who live in town to help.  They have been there the whole time – cutting grass, moving furniture, making trips to charities with stuff and moving their grandparents into the new place.

Sunday we went over to the house and started throwing the dozens of black garbage bags and miscellaneous furniture into the dumpster we had rented.  It took awhile, and then we started working on the yard which needed a ton of care.  My bad back was killing me, so we took a break and went home for lunch.  Cookie remarked that she thought it would take about 10 bags of mulch to do the area we had just cleared, and I winced at the thought of it.  So I shot a text to Jack to see if his young back was available.  He must have been busy, so I didn’t hear from him right away.  I told Cookie I would go get the mulch,  meet her there, and at least drop it off in place for her.

On the way to Home Depot, Jack called and asked, “What’s up?”  I asked him if he was busy, and he said he was just getting ready to head out to go grocery shopping but it could wait.  I let him know that I was pulling into Home Depot and said, “Thanks anyway. I can handle it.”  He pleaded with me to let him help, but I told him I was good.

After dropping the mulch off I went home to take some ibuprofen and stretch and rest my back.  When Cookie got back home about an hour later she looked exhausted.  I asked her how it went, and she said that she had replanted the monkey grass. She was so tired after that she didn’t know if she could spread the mulch until…..Jack dropped by.

I could go on and on with stories about how all three were kind and compassionate but that is the most recent one.  I believe serving your country and working with autistic children kinda of speaks for itself.

IMG_2032

When I was a teacher on the first day of school I would tell the students, “I am going to give you a gift.  It will be the most important gift that you will ever get.  The gift I am going to give you will make you happy for the rest of their life, and all that  you have to do is do exactly what I tell you”

I would ask them if they would be willing to do what I told them if it meant they would be happy?  They would all nod their “yes” and looked super excited.  Then I would point to the powerpoint slide that had popped up next and it would say – “Be a good person.”   I would then tell them that they would still experience pain, loss, and death, but on the whole if they lived their life as a good person they would be as happy as the richest person on earth.  The first lesson of the year was the most important and paid dividends throughout the school year.

So my gift this Father’s Day is the gift that I know will keep giving long after I’ve been released from this mortal coil. It’s the gift that somehow Cookie and I were able to have these kind and compassionate children.  We’ll get together and maybe have some Popeye’s chicken and try to make each other laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment