Just a shotglass of Nyquil

Forgiveness can be tricky business for some.

“Let it go.” “Put it behind you.” “Forgive and forget!”

I’ve come to realize that forgiveness is nothing less than power. It’s taking control and not allowing an event to determine how we think, feel, act or even how we will treat another human being. It is relinquishment and that in and of itself is very empowering.

I was watching “Capote” with a friend, a movie about Truman Capote’s experience writing his greatest and last non-fiction novel “In Cold Blood.” The movie and actor depicted very well Capote’s brilliant but narcissistic personality. What was interesting for me was his relationship with his childhood friend Harper Lee, a brilliant writer herself who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The contrast between the two personalities was brilliantly done.

In one scene we are at Harper Lee’s book launch party where Truman is sulking in a corner, complaining about a snag in the progress of finishing his own book. He is completely disregarding Harper’s feelings, pulling the spotlight from her accomplishment down to his need for attention. Harper merely patted his arm for comfort and walked away, nonplussed and unoffended.

“I can’t believe she stays friends with him!” I remarked, thinking in my own mind I would have dumped the selfish turd a long time ago. But then my friend said something very astute.

“Yeah, but you don’t give up childhood friends like that very easily.”

He WAS being selfish, acting out of total disregard for another human being, even his very best (if not only) friend. But Harper had the power. I’m sure there was more than once she wanted to just smack him good and hard across his skull. But she knew him, understood him and where he came from. And she knew herself.

Several years ago I had an epiphany when my sister whacked me good and hard across the proverbial scalp. To cut to the chase lets just say I sat on the phone for two hours while she raked me across the coals recounting incident after incident of how I had really pissed her off over the years.

I was stunned. You mean — I wasn’t perfect? Over the next period of just a couple of weeks and through several additional family members I was raked, baked, stewed, and fried with so many simmering spices that I was surprised I had any flesh left.

They were honest.

It was brutal.

I was devastated.

I didn’t know where to start. It was a complicated emotional, psychological and spiritual mess that I had to start digging my way out of—and for the most part—alone.

Fast forward a month. I am sitting on my bed, miserable not only with hurt feelings but with one humdinger of a cold. Remember my friend’s statement about not giving up those childhood friends? My sister was my longest and oldest childhood friend. We had not spoken since our Oprah moment a few weeks before and I was really missing her. I just wanted to hear her voice.

Since I wasn’t a drinking woman I couldn’t turn to booze for liquid courage. So I did the next best thing. I threw back a shot-glass size of Nyquil and dialed the phone. As soon as she heard it was me her voice melted and said, “Oh, I am so glad you called!”

We eventually repaired our relationship, but to be honest it took a good two years of work to do that—and that was with both of us committed to the task. The best part is that today our relationship is better than it has ever been. The other family members? Lets just say it’s a work in progress . . .

I need to make two important points here: we had both forgiveness and reconciliation. The twain do not always meet. Forgiveness is not contingent on the other but it can be a very enriching experience. And it is a rare and rewarding gift.

In Matthew 18:21 Jesus admonishes his followers and disciples to forgive seventy times seven. I really doubt this was a magic number leading to when we are given permission to let the skull cracking begin, but rather a counsel of how to live. Forgiveness becomes a practice, a way of life because—as we non-perfect humans are wont to do—we will mess up again—and again—and yet again. Forgiveness is not a guarantee that the person will never mess up again. In fact most often the practice of forgiveness is through hours of inner, very private struggles.

The practice of forgiveness can still be a challenge for me and it usually depends on who has inflicted the pain. I do know that the sooner the process of forgiveness (and reconciliation) is begun the quicker and greater the chance for success.

It wasn’t easy, but working things out with my sister sure made me smile.

Who is this Sam oh Sam?

One of the kinks of owning a new cell phone (and number) are the random calls for the previous owner. I’ve been fielding anything and everything for an anonymous “Sam”, doing my best to be polite to let them know that “Sam” no longer has this number. Recently I received yet another text for “Sam” inviting her to a surprise birthday party.

I just couldn’t resist.

What follows is our conversation–word for word:

B-day surprise tester (we’ll call her Jeanette)

Sam, fyi, this surprise is for MOM, from Jeanette . . . Joyce’s B-day is Friday . . . she said she has never had a cake nor a party for her b-day . . . well she will have one so come on by and help celebrate Fri around 7

Me

I have electrolysis at 7. What about 8?

Jeanette

We’ll still be at the house, come when you can.

Me

Can I bring the cat!

Jeanette

I’m afraid of cats!!

Me

Oooops. I meant that as a question. My fingers are swollen from picking out cans from garbage dumpsters.

Jeanette

Ok, but still afraid . . .

Me

It only has 3 legs

and I just dewormed it

Jeanette

Eeeeeee . . . even worse!

Me

Tell me about it. There was one worm 5 feet long.

Jeanette

I’m confused!! U talking bout 3-legged cat, for real.

No cat.

Me

Ok. Will have to put it in the fridge till I get back.

How do you feel about parakeets?

Jeanette

Ok, u got me . . . ha ha!!

Me

I can bring a cake with a real parakeet topper.

Mom told me she liked birds but I don’t know if she was just talking about eagles or not.

Jeanette

We got the cake, thx.

Me

Did u invite mom’s taxidermist?

Jeanette

Nope.

Me

Y not? Too stiff?

He did wonders with my cat.

Although he did have to wait for it to thaw out.

When I didn’t hear from the B-day surprise texter for over an hour I decided to come clean. I didn’t want to ruin some woman’s very first surprise b-day party. That and I was afraid I’d receive a random text 2 days later filled with expletives. So I sent the following:

Me

btw–you’d better text Sam’s new number to invite her. She no longer has this number. 🙂

Jeanette

Ok, thanks!

I wonder . . . am I still invited to the party?

A few of my favorite things . . . gratitude

weeping willows
wheat fields
sound of a sprinkler
smell of a freshly cut lawn
the feel of Bryant’s arm pulling me close when I first crawl into bed
first cuddle of 1st snooze alarm in morning
Elisabeth’s laughter
Rachel’s blue eyes
Dad’s blue eyes
Mom’s soft warm cheek of her last hug
first news that I had a son–“It’s a boy!”
hearing the Lord’s voice for the 1st time
the sound of the dishwasher as I throw the dishrag into an empty sink
the sound sunshine makes on the carpet of an empty room
windchimes
leaves rustling in the wind
running on an abandoned road in Idaho
miles and miles of wheat fields, stalks bending in the Idaho breeze
the smell of sunshine in my children’s hair
hearing “you are a good writer!”
a smooth, blank page
rain
Sara snuggling next to me on the couch
laughing with my best friend
the sound of the ocean
Joseph laughing at my lame jokes

Canned peas and ham, Sam I Am

I do not like canned peas, Sam I am. I do not like them, Sam oh Sam.

Nothing good can come from a can of peas.
Let me start with the babysitter.

I was never fond of going to the babysitter. It was more than just being away from home. Being a child was powerless enough, let alone watching the people in charge of your life handing over that power to a stranger that doesn’t have the same emotional investment in your happiness. That, and it just plain sucks.

But each morning my sister and I were handed off like a prisoner exchange, imprisonment before sunrise, parole just after sunset.

We were never allowed on the furniture. From the time we were dropped off my sister and I lived on the floor: watched TV on the floor, colored in coloring books on the floor, took naps on the floor and—yes—took our meals sitting on the floor.

We sat nestled in the corner of the kitchen as our meals were handed down to us in bowls. The utensils were collected immediately so there wouldn’t be time to grind them into shivs. We’d wolf down the food and if one of us got too close to the other we’d cover our bowls with our bodies, bare our incisors and growl just a bit.

One particular heinous meal was a bowl of canned peas “seasoned” with one small chunk of token meat. I experimented with various methods to make the meal more palatable. I’d try eating the meat first to trick my taste buds into thinking that what was to follow was a tasty feast as well. Or, I’d try saving the meat morsel for last as a reward for getting the slimy, squishy peas down my throat. But no matter what method I tried (and there were several) it never ever tempered the gag factor. Face it, canned peas possess nothing more than the color and texture of vomit. And very few things can trick the mind into thinking THAT is going to be a tasty meal.

So I was usually left to scooping up some peas, taking a deep breath, throwing back my head and letting it slide down my throat like the sodden insides of a clam. Then it was gag, rinse, repeat.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” my kids invariably ask when I regale the saga.

“Oh, I don’t know. Back then we were raised with a strange concept called OBEDIENCE. You should try it some time.”

“Well, I would have said something,” replies the pint-sized revolutionary with a sniff.

Even after cuffing my kid for insolence I do admit I had to sit back and reflect on those wise words for this tale does have a happy ending.

On one auspicious day a miracle occurred. There was an angel looking out for me, and I felt that finally God was on my side. For as I sat there, staring at the peas, wondering if I had yet again chosen the wrong eating method by consuming the fleshy part first, I wondered how I was going to get through even one more spoonful. I forcibly shoved the peas in my mouth and commenced gagging. It was the same routine I’d been doing day in and day out for as long as we’d been in confinement.

But this time something was different. Something had shifted in my universe and my life would never be the same after that.

My babysitter finally caught me dry heaving. There was now a witness.

“You don’t like it?” I was shocked. She was genuinely concerned. She’d had no idea!

All I had to do now was speak up, tell her just how hellacious the peas were, how my heart pounded with each spoonful and the utensil itself felt like lead. I could describe the nightmares I’d have each night I went home, wondering how I would get through another day of trying to swallow yet another ration of what looked like frog’s fallopian tubes.

But instead I did what any 5 year old would successfully do in that situation. I panicked.

Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where the kid really wanted a Red Rider BB Gun? He’d dreamt and schemed and envisioned just how he could pull off getting a BB gun for Christmas. When he finally got the chance to appeal to a higher authority something horrible happened. As soon as he was plopped on Santa’s lap his mind went blank. When Santa suggested a football for Christmas the kid—still dazed—nodded in the affirmative. The opportunity of a life time and he was blowing it!

I froze. I turned to my sister sitting next to me, pleading with my eyes. Could she help? Would she help? She stared at me, bowl and spoon to mouth in mid shovel. She loved the stuff and considered my antics overly dramatic and infantile. But she saw the panic swimming in my eyes and in a weak moment decided to shew mercy me.

You see, my sister had a much better way of communicating with people than I. I don’t know if it was her blonde hair, blue eyes, perfectly straight teeth, bubbling personality, or just the fact that she didn’t always act like she just missed her last dose of Ritalin, but people seemed to be more comfortable around her. They actually liked her. So I was more than relieved to let her take over. She would be able to explain things in a much better way than I ever could. She would fix things.

She turned to our caretaker and—in a proud moment of eloquence and quaint articulation—shook her head. “No.”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was finally out. I—did—not—like—canned—peas. Our keeper took the bowl from my hand and never served the pale green mess again.

Was it mercy, my sister’s clear and coherent communication, or was it just preventing a clean up on aisle 6? I don’t know. But . . .

I do not like canned peas, Sam I am. I do not like them, Sam oh Sam.

Thou shalt not shake thy bootie on my porch


When I was a growing up I had a wee bit more energy than most. The term we would use today would be ADHD. Back then, the less politically correct but probably more accurate label was “Spawn of Satan.” Let’s face it, the sixth child of seven was not going to get a lot of supervision from parents or older siblings. Summers were spent running shoeless and chasing chickens in nearby coops. I had my fair share of scrapes with authority figures and near death experiences—all before the age of eight.

I think it was a family thing. I had four brothers who, even as young teens, were hauled into city hall on accusations of being a “gang”. Mind you, this town was nestled in Southeastern Idaho and had a population of roughly 300 people. Farm boys tipping cows was the closest this town was going to get to anything resembling the LA riots.

Our family lived in a religious town and were considered by the good church-going townsfolk as questionable (another politically correct term.) My father could cuss like a sailor and hold his liquor but would never be caught sitting in a pew. Mom went to church most Sundays, worked full time, came home to help my Dad on the farm, and managed to keep her brood of seven fed. So when it was all said and done everyone and everything was stretched a little thin. By the time my little sister and I came along the only thing that was left to trickle down to us was more freedom and less brains. And it was this combination that made the other parents a little bit nervous.

When I was seven I had a friend who lived across the street. He was a year younger than me and to protect the guilty we’ll just call him Kimothy Tershaw.

We were in the summer of free love and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In—TV’s gregarious show of the 60’s. It featured two men in tuxedos and bow ties, holding martinis, telling stale jokes while scantily clad women (and a very young Goldie Hawn) danced around them in a frenzied manner. The women even showed their [whispers] belly buttons. My other best friend—we’ll call her Wessica Jorrell—had a mother who forbade her from watching Elvis Presley movies for that very reason. I, on the other hand, loved Elvis Presley. I don’t think I could have told you what a belly button was. Anyway, I digress . . .

So growing up on a steady diet of Laugh In, the gyrating hips of Elvis, and bare belly buttons no wonder I was on a one-way, greased sled to hell. One day we were on Kimothy’s porch playing who-knows-what when I just got it into me to dance. I guess that is what you’d call it. Blame Elvis. Blame Goldie. But all of a sudden I started gyrating, wiggling, and jiggling like a possessed demon on crack. Folks, forget about the thousand and one devils wanting to inhabit the bodies of swine in the Bible. Here was a small seven-year-old girl with plenty of room and talent to spare. Maybe I was restless. Maybe I was just old before my time and knew that in the future people would be forwarding drippy emails that would read “If you’re not ashamed you’ll forward this” and “dance like no one’s watching”; because that is exactly what I did. I started dancing like no one was watching and without shame.

But someone was watching. And that is exactly why I think people should include the fine print in their “live life to the fullest” diatribe. If you really dance like that and someone catches you you’ll soon be wearing a new pair of rubber sheets and sporting a strange but spiffy retainer between your teeth. ALWAYS dance like you’re with your parole officer. It saves time, embarrassment, and a good witch burning.

Kimothy’s dad just happened to walk by and, when he came upon my spasmodic moves, he hid and peered through the crack in the door. I guess he was trying to give me the benefit of the doubt to make sure it wasn’t just because someone had forgot to medicate me that day. The next thing I know he is popping out from behind the door and pulling Kimothy inside. I was summarily dismissed from his porch. Dang. Where was my parole officer when I needed him?

The next day Kimothy told me his Dad thought it would be best if we weren’t friends anymore. I think I took it pretty well. At least I don’t have any memory of my head rotating 360 degrees nor spewing projectile vomit across the yard. I certainly took it better than the time my sister wouldn’t give me her money for extra candy. I kicked HER in the shins.

I now have my own porch and was able to make it through life without needing a parole officer. I still like to shake my bootie every now and then. I know I’m living life to the fullest because when I dance my teenagers start pulling curtains to hide the view from our neighbors.

But, the nice thing is, their dad still wants me on his porch.


 

That was my Dad

I remember a niece asking my mother, “Why are we all just a little afraid of Grandpa?” I wanted to scream “Cuz he’s scary as [beeeeep!], that’s why!” Yes, that was my dad. A wiry little man that I think thrived on the smell of fear.

Perhaps a little background information on a man who fathered three girls and four boys, all of which have their own “fun” stories they like to tell about their dad. First, he was a WWII veteran, drafted into the army and shipped overseas to Europe where he ended up in a little skirmish we call “The Battle of the Bulge.” That and growing up during the depression in the United States shaped him in certain ways long before any of us kids ever came into the picture.

He never took guff from anyone. If one of us children witnessed another getting punishment we’d cringe and think two things simultaneously: “Was that really the BEST solution you could come up with?” and our ever favorite, “Man, I’m SO glad that’s not me.”

He rarely said much, he just did. He was an action man. It could be a belt across the britches, a room turned upside down for not cleaning it properly (including mattresses), or in the case of Ball vs. City Hall, taking matters of a sidewalk into his own hands.

Let me explain . . .

My parents’ house was located very close to two schools. Most people walking to and from followed a narrow alley that butted against my father’s lawn. City Hall requested and received permission from Dad to put in a sidewalk for these school patrons. Cement was poured. A nice, new, fully functioning sidewalk was set side by side the Ball property.

It wasn’t such a great idea. People, as people are want to do, ignored the shiny—albeit hard—new pathway and opted instead to walk on the much softer grass. My father’s grass. That he watered . . . wait, that was my mom. Well, he mowed . . . wait, I think that was Mom too. Hmmm, he OWNED the grass. And after a month or two of watching a well worn path developing through the middle of his lawn he decided that since the sidewalk wasn’t being used it he would just take care of it.

He didn’t say anything. He . . . just . . . did. Without warning he grabbed his backhoe and dug up the city’s cement sidewalk. Yep. That was my dad.

As I listened to my mother tell the story, you know what I thought? You guessed it. “Was the really the best solution he could come up with” and “Man I’m so glad that wasn’t me.”

His favorite pastime was watching old black and white WWII movies while lying on the couch. He’d invariably fall asleep and when we’d tip toe in to turn the channel we’d hear his deep voice behind us, “Hey! I was watching that!” We’d jump and scurry out of there like tunnel rats suddenly caught in the light.

If he thought we were doing something he thought was irritating or . . . hmmm . . . nah, just irritating . . . he’d march down to the basement and switch off the electricity to our bedrooms—without warning and without any explanation. Then we’d scratch our heads and try and figure out what it was THIS time.

Ask him? Are you crazy? Re-read the first line: he was scary.

Late one night I heard him marching down the hall, past my room, and down the stairs. I was up past his bedtime talking with my cousin and I thought, “Snap! We’re too noisy.” I held my breath waited for the lights to click off and for us to be plunged into dreaded darkness.

Nothing.

Whew! Maybe I had him all wrong. The next morning I hear my sister down tearing down the hall and cussing all the way to the bathroom. Dad had got the fuse box switches mixed up and shut off her electricity instead of mine by mistake. I kept my mouth shut and breathed a sigh of relief. I’m glad it wasn’t me! Fess up? Nah. Fear was a closer companion than guilt back then and I was just as afraid of my sister’s wrath.

My dad passed away with my mom over 15 years ago. The adult in me understands the logic of him not knowing they’d be in a car accident. The kid in me is wondering why once again he never said anything—he just did.

No warning. No goodbyes. No explanation.

Now when I see my friends getting a visit from their parents—even if its only one parent—I think to myself, “Man, I wish that were me.” And this time I ask God, “Was that really the best solution you could come up with?”

A farmer. A World War II veteran who never finished high school. A man who was just four months shy of his 50th wedding anniversary when he passed away. A man who unwittingly inspired all of his children to pursue higher educations so they wouldn’t end up on a farm.

That was my dad.

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