Sunday, November 10, 2019

Honor


Honor
By: Kelli J Gavin 

When my grandmother passed, I felt defeated and utterly broken. She was the last of my grandparents left and I mourned the loss of our truly great matriarch. She was bold and vibrant, loving and forgiving, and an inspiration to anyone who had the honor to be in her presence.  Her loss spurred such a season of mourning and grief in my life, that I worried I would never pull myself from the miry pit where I seemed to dwell. 

Receiving a phone call from my grandmother's attorney was the last call I expected two months after her passing.  My grandfather passed away the summer before and I was under the impression that in their old age they had spent everything they had and that was left were the social security and survivor benefit checks that faithfully arrived each month in the mail and the equity in the roof that covered their heads. When the attorney left two and then three messages on my answering service, I knew I needed to make time to return his call. 

"Ms. Garlow, thank you for calling back. I was concerned that you had moved or that I was going to have to stop by your place of business to ensure contact. I would like to request a meeting as soon as possible.  I have sold your grandparent's home, liquidated a small life insurance plan which paid for your grandmother's funeral and final expenses and hired a small company to clear out their home. Anything that is sentimental and all furniture is now housed in the dinning room on the main floor and the rest of the home is vacant. The final sale will be complete the first of next month and I need you to claim anything that you wish to keep and give me the final instructions for the disposal of the rest of the physical property. Could we meet this Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the house?  We should be finished by 11 a.m.  Please bring a truck or trailer and at least two people to carry and pack the furniture and belongings." Mr. Smithers spoke so quickly, I wasn't tracking.

"Mr. Smithers, I am sorry.  What did you say? 9 a.m. this Friday?  I already have a truck and don't anticipate wanting to keep more than I can haul.  I will hire two men to arrive by 9:30 a.m. and they can start loading while we finish any paperwork and other business." I replied. 

"Splendid.  I will see you then.  You should know that there were instructions about a few pieces, but we can talk about all that when we meet. Have a good day and I look forward to seeing you." Mr. Smithers quickly hung up the phone. 

Pondering Mr. Smithers comments about instructions on a few pieces,  I found my mind going down rabbit trails the next few days.  Calling to secure a team of two men from the local college service agency,  I also made sure that I had plenty of thick blankets and boxes paper for anything that I chose to take with me. Busying myself with preparations for the meeting on Friday made me feel better.  I noticed by Thursday morning, I didn't feel so sad constantly.  I was still mourning, but didn't think that sudden tears were threatening to flood my cheeks at anytime.  

Friday morning as I pulled up to my grandparent's home, I couldn't help but smile as all of my childhood memories came rushing back to me.  Times spent running in the backyard sprinklers, sitting on the back porch eating watermelon with my grandfather, and helping my grandmother decorate the large home each Christmas.  Beautiful memories that I knew I would always hold dear. 

Mr. Smithers greeted me at the front door as I reached the top stair of the front porch. "Wonderful, I am glad there was a close parking space by the curb. This street is usually quite full, even during the day. I have the papers ready to go here in the dinning room."  

We both sat down and he pushed two pens in my direction.  There were flags on each page and I had no desire to read each document, so I quickly sifted through and signed each spot.  Three packets had been prepared for my signature.  Two pertaining to the sale of the home, and the last pile was for the distribution of a few small leftover investment assets, liquidating and closing bank accounts, and selling everything that I didn't want. I also signed a form which reimbursed Mr. Smithers for his extra time spent on everything involving clearing out the home and hiring packers and movers. 

My hand cramped near the end of third packet.  As I passed the signed pages and pens back to Mr. Smithers, I glanced around the room at all of my grandparent's belongings.  Hearing a knock on the door and conversation,  the moving men entered the dinning room and introduced themselves. Quickly giving instructions about belongings that I knew I wanted immediately, I asked the two young men to take the china hutch, the two side tables and coffee table that were once in the living room and sideboard from the dinning room. I located the China and kitchen dishes that had been carefully packed and labeled and my grandmother's jewelry, my grandfather's World War II memorabilia and all of the photo albums, journals and family keepsakes. I found my grandfather's black trench coat and my grandmother's furs.  Not sure that I wanted either, I knew I wasn't yet ready to part with them. I placed a star on each box I wanted and then moved a few vases that were still sitting on the sideboard to be wrapped and also placed in my truck.  I didn't have a need for any of the beds, dressers or the dinning room table or chairs, but knew I still needed to locate the sheets and towels.  My grandmother had the most beautiful pillow cases I had ever seen and I always knew someday that I would want those hand embroidered pieces of art so that I could continue to treasure them in my own home. 

As I made my way to the back of the large row of labeled boxes,  I found the sheets and pillowcases in the very last box on the floor placed next to my grandfather's chest. An audible gasp left my lips as I remember the last time that I saw the chest as a child.  

"Never, ever touch that chest.  That chest is your grandfather's and no one is allowed to touch it." My grandmother declared. 

"But what is in it?" I asked.

"That is none of your business.  I have never been allowed to touch it either.  Just promise me, your hands will never even grace the hinges.  Promise me."  Never seeing my grandmother so serious before, I instantly promised her I wouldn't touch the chest.  I was fascinated by the fleur-de-lis metal adornments and the rope handles.  It took everything that was in me to not touch the chest which sat in the basement of their old home.  I always wanted to even get a glance of it down at the bottom of the rickety stairs. And then one day, it was gone.  I knew not to ask about the chest and then I just forgot that it seemed to be missing from the bottom of the stairs.  

"Ms. Garlow. You should know that one of the things that your grandmother had listed in her final instructions was in regard to the chest.  Your grandmother wrote that under no circumstance was I to disburse of the chest on my own. That the chest was for you and it needed to go to your home. That opening it wasn't an option. You have to take the entire chest, contents and all."  I smirked at the attorneys final disclosure.  That sounded exactly like something my grandmother would request. 

"I will take the chest and I promise not to open it until I get home.  I think I am done with putting a star on all the boxes.  Those movers have done a great job loading all the furniture.  I am going to go outside and make sure that they started loading the boxes safely for transport."  When I went outside, I found only one box that should be moved as it was lighter than all the rest.  

Returning indoors I perused the boxes to make sure that each one with a star had already been taken outside and pointed to the chest.  "Don't open it. Just put it on the floor boards of the front seat of the truck."

"Of course ma'am." The second mover quickly replied.  

Mr. Smithers had also been given strict instructions from my grandmother from my grandmother to tell me about who had purchased the home, once purchase papers had been signed and the final sale was pending. 

Once everything was loaded,  I decided to do one final walk through of the home. The amazing home that I loved as a child.  Saying a silent prayer for the family that purchased the home, I prayed for the children, that they would enjoy each room as much as I did. I prayed for the parents that would raise their kids in the home the same way my grandparent's raised my mom and her siblings. Heading home, the two moving men that I hired, followed me in their car. So pleased with their hard work after they had brought all of the furniture and boxes into my home and positioned each where I had requested, I paid the two gentlemen in cash and tipped them well.  I remembered what it was like to be a struggling college student. 

I had requested that the chest be put on the coffee table in front of the couch.  Sitting down slowly,  I steeled myself for what I would find.  Slowly, as the chest creaked open, the smell of cedar and lavender wafted out.  My grandmother had placed the cedar chips and lavender swags to fight against any musty odors that may have sunk in over the years. Sitting in front of the open chest, I stared in disbelief.  

Apparently, the Purple Heart that had always been rumored to have been awarded to my grandfather, had found its resting place inside of the scarred chest.  My grandfather had never spoken of his wartime experiences, and even denied being hurt during war and subsequently sent home.  He had mentioned that so many of his friends had lost their lives, and he was grateful to ever make it home.  I remember my mother questioning if he thought he was diminishing the experience of those that served and gave their lives when he was only wounded and had the rest of his life to live. Whatever the reason, he valued the Purple Heart enough to keep it and store it for safety.  

Next to the treasured medal, was a picture of my grandmother and grandfather.  Oh, how young my grandmother looked. I believed the picture was from when they were dating, and turning it over I received confirmation. A handwritten note from my grandmother read, "Come home to me.  I will be waiting for you. You are loved."  Tears poked at the corners of my eyes.  Underneath, I found my grandfather's class ring from high school, his class ring from college and the small framed award he had received when he had reached 25 years on the job. I also found my grandfather's watch and wedding ring which my grandmother must have carefully packed away after his passing. Beneath all of these beautiful items, I found something I never expected.  There was a single envelope addressed to my grandmother with her maiden name from my grandfather when he was stationed in Europe during the war. The envelope was never sealed, nor was it torn open.  The flap had been neatly tucked inside of the envelope.  



"April 11, 1942

Lovely,
I miss you more each day. Know that I will always love you.  I won't overwhelm you with the details, but I am struggling and concerned that I may never see you again.  My friends are dying. More and more every day.  I have seen so much killing, so much death.  I can't imagine how I will make it three more months, even three more days.  If we are not meant to be married, if I do not return, know that I want you to be happy. Find someone who loves you the way you deserve, someone who will treat you like a queen and give you all the babies you want. But promise me you will be happy.  Promise me.  I need to know this one thing.  I love you.  I love you. I love you. Always. 
Love, 
Me"

Tears streaming down my face, I took the envelope from the table.  The envelope had never been posted. My grandfather wrote this letter and never sent it to my grandmother. Checking the date on the top of the letter, indeed, he returned just over 3 months later to the United States.  He loved her the moment he met her, when he was drafted and was forced to leave her, all while he served his country, and he loved her the moment he was reunited with her after a 13 month tour of duty. He loved her and this letter wasn't meant for her to see, as he planned on returning home to his soon to be bride.  It also wasn't meant for me to see either. Until now.  

That day was the day when I knew that things wouldn't always be so hard.  It wouldn't always hurt so much to continue each day without my grandparents.  I would always miss them, but grief would no longer be so heartbreaking.

Thankful for these treasures, I opened the China hutch which was placed in the new desired location in my dining room. The Purple Heart, the wedding ring and picture, the watch, both class rings and the letter in the envelope were all placed accordingly on the top shelf. A shelf of honor. 








Saturday, November 2, 2019

Do You Care?



My daughter is a little drama queen. She loves music and singing and acting in plays. She also loves swimming. She lacks any sort of talent when it comes to sports, but can ride a scooter like it was her God given gift. My son loves drawing, golf, swimming and going for walks. Everything he enjoys is a very solitude act.

My husband and I have always enabled our kids to choose their activities.  We never forced them to participate in tee ball, little league or even any team sports. I never encouraged my daughter to try gymnastics, dance or baton like I had when I was young.  But I also never encouraged it.  We never signed them up for anything and then made the go against their will. However, there was a week long summer dance clinic that made me feel like that week was actually going to kill me in the end. My kids swim in the backyard in the summer when they want.  The go for walks and scooter rides. They tell us when they want to go to the golf course, the driving range or Top Golf. We are a content family without surrounding ourselves with the busyness of organized team sports.

We are also content with the idea of our kids not being involved in a ton of other activities. We make it a priority for our kids to attend church youth group on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We also make sure that if our daughter wants to be in a play or volunteer through school or church, that she is able to do so.  We encourage our kids to have fun through doing the things that they like to do and we don't force them to do the things they may not enjoy just because other kids participate in those activities.  I never want to be a parent that passes on a Keeping Up With the Jones mentality to the next generation.  And that attitude can be formed when it comes to the acquisition of things or the participation in events or activities.

I have been asked if Josh and I have any plans for Lily to become involved in any additional activities.  Um.  No.  What?  Why? My daughter is in 7th grade, has asthma, lacks any coordination whatsoever to excel in any sport, but loves to act in two plays each school year, sing in choir, volunteer after school each fall and at church every other Sunday.  I have full confidence that she enjoys every activity she participates in and doesn't begrudge Josh or I for forced participation. Parents are already talking about college and scholarships and resumes.  My mind can't even wrap itself around the fact that we have two teenagers.  I can't even yet imagine the idea of Lily going to college.

Parents are a funny thing.  Of course we all want whats best for our kids.  But sometimes, parents fall into the comparison game. They even take more pride in the personal accomplishments of their children than they do in anything they have done.  And that pride can morph into a raging machine when they want to make sure that every other parent knows how well their kids are doing in comparison to other children. 

Nope. I just don't have time for it.  A humble brag, yes.  My kid is having fun in a play at school. The performance is this weekend. So proud of her.  Not- My daughter is the most amazing actress ever. - And then try to recruit the entire family and friend sphere to attend a performance of a junior high play.  Or- My kid loves to draw and he has really improved over the last two years.- Then post updated drawings.  Not- print out a million copies and and distribute them to everyone including the lady stocking fruit at the grocery store. 

My goal each day is to love my kids, encourage my kids and point them to Jesus.  My goal isn't to fill their day and frankly my day with more activities and more stress that make them feel like they just want to make it through each day rather than enjoy and savor every moment. 

Do I care that my daughter won't have the most padded resume or activity involvement when it comes to college applications? No. I do not.  But I do care that she has a kind heart. I do care that she enjoys helping others. And I care that she has time to play with friends, time to read, time to play games with her family and time to be a kid.  Because in a few short years, this world is going to ask an awful lot of her. This school will ask her to be an adult in a world where adults aren't very nice to each other.  This world will ask her to compete for positions in school and for jobs.  This world will ask her to focus on everything that doesn't matter rather than focus on the condition of her heart and mind.

So, for now,  I will not push.  I will not sign her up. I will not pester. I will not beg. I will not make her do anything she isn't interested in or be involved in anything she doesn't enjoy.  Because today, we are focusing on her being a kid. On having fun.  On smiling and laughing.  On enjoying this day that we have been gifted.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Never Disturb



Wondering what brought on a rush of emotions the other night, my husband wiped a few of my tears and gently asked me what was wrong.  My feelings were deeply hurt when I reviewed a text history with a friend. I realized that I was the one texting. I was the one asking questions.  I was the one initiating every interaction we had.  I continued to put in the effort and hadn't caught on that the effort wasn't appreciated.  That the effort hadn't been appreciated in quite some time.

I wish I could say that this is the first time it has happened to me. That it was the only time I shed a tear over a friendship when I realized it had played its course. After drying my own tears, I fondly remembered what my mom had said more than once when I was growing up. "Never chase anyone. I don't care if it is a friend or a boy. Some relationships are meant to last. Some, for only a short while. When you learn who will stay, hold on to them."

I think my mom knew a little about relationships playing their course. She had watched friends come and go. She had also grieved as she experienced her marriage to my dad crumble.  A personality larger than life,  she was driven, focused and sometimes too much to take in.  People felt overwhelmed by her.  But I realize now as an adult, that the relationships my mom lost, said more about the person who walked away than it ever did about her.

When someone loves another person fiercely, it can be scary and often disarming.  What if a person was hurt, even expected to be hurt,  and built up a few walls of protection in the mean time?  When all that love is directed at someone, it can be overwhelming. And usually when people are overwhelmed, they either shut down or flee.  And flee was what I saw people do when it came to my mom.  No longer answering phone calls,  not available to hang out or meet for a quick meal. And eventually,  that friend, that person who was once so close, was a fond memory. 

Never chase anyone.  I always listened to my mom. Well, I usually listened to my mom.  I won't chase.  But I also won't fall apart. I will miss my friend. I will miss texting, our late night laughs, our giggles and catching up over coffee. Our meals that turn into 2 then 3 and 4 hours long.  But I will never disturb them again.

And what if another text is received? What if an attempt is made to contact me?  I will love them like I always have, I will remember fondly a friendship that was important to me.  But I will remember the feeling of being avoided and move on. I will move on to the relationships that encourage me, to the relationships that restore me.  The relationships that I plan on continuing to treasure.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

When Surgery Takes It All Out Of Me

I had surgery again this past Friday.  I say again since this is technically the fourth one I have had this year.  Three in January at the same time and now this surgery.  I struggle in many ways when it comes to medical stuff.  Pain meds and narcotics don't work very well for me.  Because of the lack of pain relief, I often turn to muscle relaxers. They enable me to fall asleep even though the pain is still very present.

But this time? This time is different.  The muscle relaxers are also not helping and I have developed an allergic reaction to the glue that covers my stitches that close my external incisions.  To be very honest, I am miserable.  I am tired and so incredibly ready to sit, lay, even lounge without being constantly aware of the pain that is present.

I am not a stranger to physical pain and extended recovery times.  I have found that in these down times, I have a lot of time to pray, to read the bible, strategize (future game plans for projects that need to be completed) and to write and edit. I also really do enjoy watching movies.  But I get bored so very quickly.

My kids are returning to school tomorrow.  Josh will leave for work, and Lily is responsible for getting Zach on the bus.  I will have the entire house to myself all day. I have about 10 minutes of energy in me at a time.  If I can shower and get dressed and sit down quickly I will be fine.  Then I will wait an hour and try again for some cereal and coffee.  I will take it slow and probably need a nap after just that.

Surgery has taken it all out of me. All of it. Every last ounce of energy that I had prior is non existent now.  And I am completely content with that. No, the kids laundry isn't folded. The kitchen counters looks like someone may have died on them.  And my kids are just going to have to fend for themselves when it comes to lunches and snacks this week.  But I am content with the fact that things are a bit messy and even more so out of control for a bit.

While my body heals,  my entire body relaxes.  I am not racing from one activity to another. I am not booking clients and working until the late hours of each night.  All of the things that seem so important can wait for a bit.  A week or two, maybe six.  I will sleep and enjoy coffee. I will reread my group bible study and enjoy my friend Michelle Choe's blog at https://deeperriches.com/blog/
I will do all of the things that I wish I had time to do, and not be expected to do anything else.  I will enjoy this time.  I will welcome this time.  I will remind myself that no one wins a trophy for being the most busy person.  It isn't a cool thing to be the busy person who always complains about being busy. Defeats the purpose.  (Lily would call them Attention Seeking Busy Creators.)

Tonight, I will sleep. That is it. Tomorrow I will edit.  That might be it.  Coffee will be consumed.  And yogurt with fruit and honey.
And I will be grateful for a doctor who has the knowledge of how to fix broken bodies.  I am thankful the Lord hears my prayers and meets me wherever I am.  And right now,  that is on the couch in the front living room enjoying the beautiful fall breeze blowing in through the open window.




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Spend All My Life

Every single day.  That is how often I fall.  I fall in love with people. With friends. Even with people from afar.  Certain things people will do or say will catch my attention and I am drawn to them.

My daughter has a friend who believes herself to be beyond her 13 years.  She strives to wear the cool clothes that the older teen girls wear. She wants her hair always in a messy top bun.  A few months ago,  I observed that this sweet girl had an obsession with her hair.  She would take it out of its pony tail holder throw her head over to her knees and proceed to gather all of her hair just to place it back on top of her head again.  Usually I wouldn't give it another thought, but something strange was occurring each time she did this.  She always seemed to be doing it in very close proximity to other people.  She would somehow manage to flip all of her hair into the eyes of the person standing next to her. Or she would cover the shoulder of her friend. It struck me as odd. I don't want other people's hair touching me or being flipped onto my eyes.  I saw one of the girls roll her eyes as she looked at me, and then later, a boy turned and walked away.

I pulled her aside. "I like your top knot. When you put your hair up, try not to do it when other people are standing shoulder to shoulder with you. Do not rush. Take your time to gather your hair all in one hand and put the pony tail holder in with the other.  You can even excuse yourself to the bathroom and do it in the mirror to make sure you got all your hair.  If your pony tail holders don't seem strong enough to hold your hair, let me know and I will order you a set like I purchased for my Lily."

My daughter's friend heard me loud and clear. She could tell I was momming her, but also trying to help, not hinder.  "Thanks. I think I will take you up on your offer for pony tail holders.  My mom has such pretty hair and she doesn't have thin hair like I do.  She never has to put hers back up.  I feel like my hair falls out constantly.  I think if I use a tighter one in my hair, that might help. Thanks."

Right at that moment,  I loved this little girl.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  She was comparing her hair to her beautiful mom's hair and was struggling with her own.  There isn't a teen girl alive that I have ever known that hasn't struggled to some degree with self image.  She needed help, a few pointers, and she felt comfortable taking them from me.  Just another mom. But a mom that cares.

My son loves going to his special needs youth group on Tuesday nights at church.  It is the highlight of his week. When I go to pick him up, I can hardly contain my smile when he dives into arms in excitement and can't wait to tell me everything that he did at Capernaum.  Jake, his 20 something helper, came out to greet me also.  "Mrs. Gavin, your son is amazing.  He loves music and loves the other students.  I enjoy watching him interact with other volunteers and students.  He makes volunteering a fantastic experience for me." Behind Jake, three other volunteers were smiling and nodding in agreement.  Right then, my heart soared with love for each of those volunteers who so selflessly give of their time to serve my family and to love on my son.

My husband leads a men's bible study on Thursday mornings and oversees men's ministries at our campus church.  This past Sunday, we hosted an hour of prayer to uplift a soon to be deployed serviceman and his family in prayer.  We adore this sweet family and consider it an honor to do life with them.

As the men from the bible study were preparing to leave, one of the men pulled me aside and said, "Kelli, thank you for having us.  I want to tell you how much I value your husband and how much I look forward to spending time with him and the other men in the group.  Your husband is a wonderful encouragement to me."  Right there, my heart loved this man who took the time to tell me how thankful he is for my husband.

Sometimes, when I love someone, it is for something they have said, or even something they have done. Other times, I love someone for the words they chose not to say. And love is always present when someone loves my people, my family.

I will spend all my life loving people up close. I will love my children and husband until this world is no longer. Different people and in different ways. The love that strikes anywhere and at any time, in single moments, is something that I want to experience every day for the rest of my life.



Saturday, October 12, 2019

By Order of the Peaky Blinders


I have a vivid imagination.  When brainstorming, I don't just think about practical, every day solutions to problems, I think of oddball, quirky, not able to happen in the real world, and sometimes even downright illogical solutions.  I can blame it on on my writer's brain, even the fact that I love to read and love to watch documentaries. My brain tends hold an inordinate amount of insignificant information that really can never be used at a later date. As in ever. 

Life is often overwhelming. Sometimes, it is problems with one of my kids at school, or with friendships. Sometimes, it is figuring out a way to forgive someone who has hurt me knowing that they will never say they are sorry or change their way of relating to other people. And even other times, it is mending a broken heart over a situation that will never improve. Right now, I seem to be faced by many problems. All of the problems.  Assailed from every direction.  Yes, I know that this isn't actually true. But it feels like it.  

While trying to come up with the solution to world peace, (actually just trying to figure out how to increase my productivity when there doesn't seem to be enough hours in each day) I began to wonder if I just needed to hire a fixer. Yes, a fixer. Someone on the payroll who would swoop in at a moments notice and fix whatever happens to be the dilemma of the hour.  

Like Dr. House. When all of the other doctors have tried to diagnose and failed, Dr. House will swoop in and save the day and his new patient from certain death.  Or, Annalise Keating.  The impossible case where someone is facing a life sentence for a crime that they didn't commit, and Annalise arrives not a moment too soon. Not only through her remarkable investigation skills and expertise at cross examination, she is able to have her client cleared of all charges, a public apology is made, and the accused even receives a trillion dollar defamation and libel suit win. 

And then there is the Shelby Family. Thomas Shelby only needs to hear of an injustice that faces a family member or someone he has sworn to protect, and he immediately comes up with a plan of how to fix it and to make sure  that it will never happen again.  Now, the Shelby brothers may have some interesting ideas on problem solving.  Their solutions often involve action first, and analyze later.  While I do not condone violence or organized crime,  I love the idea of other people caring enough to solve my problem or issue sometimes even before I have had a chance to be concerned about it. 

We are not guaranteed a perfect happy life.  We are guaranteed anything but. Even in the book of John- In this world you will have many troubles... - That sounds like a for sure promise of trouble.  So knowing that troubles will at times abound, what does the second part of verse in John 16:33 say? - But take heart! I have overcome the world!" - Jesus has overcome the world. 

Daily challenges will seem to pile up.  They will overwhelm and continue to bring me to my knees. But I need to remember that this world is temporary.  This world is a mess.  I am not of this world, I just happen to be taking up a temporary residence. So yes, discouragement may set in, but this isn't a place I wish to remain or dwell. 

No,  I don't need a Dr. House or Ms. Keating.  I absolutely think anyone of The Clan Shelby would create more havoc.  It is Jesus. That is who I need. Every single day.  The comforter and lover of my soul. The one who gives me strength, who sees my tears, understands the turmoil and anticipates my prayers before I even speak. 

Jesus.  

That is who I need today and every day. 





Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ha! I Don't Get It.



I love a good play on words.  My favorite one currently is this:  Say- Rise up lights. Rise up lights.  This sounds like a person with an Australian accents saying razor blades.  Go ahead. Say it again.  And then again. I will wait.

The other day, a man a restaurant said, "No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationary."

Or the one my teacher told me as a child and I didn't understand until years later- A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

I don't often catch on right away when someone says something funny or uses words as if they alone can quite possibly be punchline.  I am not the brightest bulb on the tree. You can see my gears turning, me slowly catching up, and then arriving at a full understanding of what has been said.  I am horrible at dinner parties.  I will look directly my husband and say, "I don't get it." Or,  "What in the actual what are they talking about?"  He finds humor in this each and every time.  He says the second he sees the corners of my lips turn upwards, he knows that I then get the joke.

I wonder how much I have actually missed over the years? How many jokes I haven't understood and just glossed over or changed the subject? I have a feeling it is a lot.

If you struggle with this also, just know, that you are not alone.  Also always remember, that you can tune a bicycle, but you can not tuna fish.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

It Is All In How You Choose To Look At Things



This day was interesting.  I had delusions of grandeur of how much I would actually be able to accomplish today. I didn't have any clients booked, and my home is a wreck, so I knew I needed to play catch up.  I put five loads of laundry away, and hung up 21 items of discarded clothing that clearly should have been hung up weeks ago.  I replied to 7 emails, and then raced to the bank, to the grocery and to two garage sales for fun.  I also chose to go out for lunch which is something I never do on my own. 

I went to La Hermosa and enjoyed the GF Tacos La Hermosa made with carnitas, onions and peppers.  It was amazing.  I felt bad however, because I went without Josh.  He loved it the last two times we went there and I felt I was cheating on him.  He felt absolutely insulted and questioned my love for him when I volunteered this confession at the dinner table.  (Not really, but he made me promise I wouldn't do it again.)

While there, I got quite a bit of writing done for a short story that is due in October. The waiter questioned me where my family was.  Even he knew that I was cheating on them by even walking into the restaurant without them.  I promised him I would return with my entire family in a few weeks.  

I took a brief rest this afternoon, organized two baskets of clothing for my daughter and gathered two baskets of dirty clothes to start laundry tonight.  I began preparing the vegetables and chicken for dinner, (stir fry)  and panicked when I saw a text from Josh. - Don't forget to pick up Lily from play practice. I won't be done at work until at least 6.

I looked at the clock. It was 4:47.  I needed to be at her school in Cologne by 5:15 and the chicken was in the oven and the water for the rice noodles had just begun to boil.  I put the chicken on the cutting board, shut off the boiling water and hollered for Zach to hurry up and get in the car.  We were both out the door by 4:55.  I even made it to her school with 3 minutes to spare.  

Dinner was completed by 6 pm, and I had the kitchen cleaned up and backpacks packed for tomorrow by 7 and then moved on to start one of two loads of laundry. Lily reviewed all of her vocab definitions for her test tomorrow. The kids are getting into bed now and it is just after 8.

I didn't make a to do list for today.  I rarely do. But when I do make notes, it is usually items of note to make sure I don't forget things we need at the grocery store, or the ideal order of errands. But today, my mental to do list was no where near completed.  

I wanted to get further in the story that I was writing.  I wanted to clear up some of the mess on the main floor and to address the overflowing almost out of season clothing that seems to multiplying in Lily's room.  None of those things were completed.  But there is always tomorrow. 

But I completed errands. I reclaimed my home so that it no longer looks like a bomb went off, only that a small struggle may have taken place.  I enjoyed an amazing meal that I didn't have to make.  I was able to witness two young brothers playing in City Square Park and enjoying the beautiful day.  I found a great puzzle for Zach and a coloring book for Lily at a garage sale. I also discovered 9 items of clothing that I can donate because I will no longer wear them.  I played a few hands of cards with husband after we finished eating dinner together. 

I cuddled with Lily and goofed around a bit when she told me that she loved the note I left of her in her lunch bag.  And I enjoyed spending time with Zach, talking about his day at school, all that he accomplished at work and what he is looking forward to in the weeks to come.  

All of these amazing things were spotlights of joy that I didn't necessarily plan for, but 
yet, I got to experience each one. No, the to do list wasn't completed, and the day wasn't a complete success. But I guess it is all in how I choose to look at things.

I don't work tomorrow. The only thing on my agenda is housework and writing. So tomorrow, I will get a chance to do it all over again.  And that is just fine with me.  Because today was a good day just as it was.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Bulky

Josh and I enjoyed a very nice impromptu dinner out at La Hermosa in Chaska this evening.  We decided to stop at Cooper's Grocery Store to grab some yogurt, granola, apples and toilet paper.

We made our selections and paid. Josh took the two bags and I grabbed the toilet paper. It was a 12 pack, not heavy, just bulky.  I held it between my arms against my chest.  Josh approached the front exit and I followed him towards the door. 

A man who clearly worked at the store said loudly, "I have never wanted to be Charmin more in life!"  I was stunned.  My first reaction was- wait, I didn't hear him correctly. My husband stopped dead in his tracks and glared at him.  My husband then turned to me to make sure I was following closely behind. He picked up the pace and exited the store. 

Why? Why is something like that ever appropriate to say to a woman?  Did he think he was being funny?  Did he not see my husband was walking maybe 5 feet in front of me? 

"Why?!  Why do these things always happen to me.  Why do people always have to be so awkward with me?  Do I welcome it? What about me screams- bring it on?!"  Josh turned to me and smiled. He told me to let it go. He also told me that it had nothing to do with me and more to do with guy who thought he was being clever. All I know is that he was an absolute tool.

After my issue yesterday at Eden Prairie Center, I may just be a bit more aware. But tonight, tonight I never want to see that man again. 


Friday, September 13, 2019

Be the Second Man

Pleased that my schedule today allowed for a stop at Eden Prairie Center, I finally would be able to check the two stores I needed to stop at off my list.  I parked in the main floor parking garage outside of Von Maur.  The mall parking lot and parking garage were both very full today, so I found myself having to park quite a ways away from the external storefront entrance.

I enjoyed searching through the Von Maur women's shoe clearance room.  I didn't find anything, but enjoyed a giggle with a woman who was pondering buying 5 inch heels as it would make her exactly the same height as her husband at 6'2''.  I told her to buy the purple shoe, because they were amazing, and of course they were on sale.  I also told her that I am exactly the same height as my husband and wore flats to my wedding.  My tennis shoes make me an even 6 feet, so I usually don't wear a heel that would make me taller than 6'1''.  She was young and realized I was not, and told me that she appreciated the fact that I told her to buy the shoes so she won't regret it.

I finished my shopping at Bath & Body Works and Old Navy for tee shirts for my son and school uniform shirts that were on sale for my daughter. I even found a cute dress for myself.  Because I can never pass up a dress on clearance. I used the escalator on the second floor of Von Maur and returned to the door I entered.

It had begun misting again and I was ill prepared in a tee shirt and capri pants. I placed my long strapped purse over my  shoulder and carried one shopping bag in each hand. As I entered the parking garage I looked around and notice how dark it was now that the clouds had returned.  Without enough light, I couldn't really see how far down I had parked, but I knew I was in the correct row.

I saw my car about six more ahead, and saw a large figure of a man approaching me.  His body was back lit from the light coming from the far side of the parking garage. Because of him being back lit, I was unable to see his face.  As he came closer, I saw he had a broad smile on his face.  He said, "Hi!" I returned his hello, and as he passed me, he said, "Do I know you? Maybe I should know you."

Normally, what he said wouldn't be viewed as creepy, but I turned and observed that he had stopped and was walking back in my direction.  That inner most panic started rising in me. I turned back and picked up my pace.  "Oh, no.  You have a good day."  Just as I finished speaking, an older man walked out from in between my vehicle and the next.

Split second thoughts. That was all it was. I perceived danger. The second man shouted, "Ma'am, are you alright?"  I started to assess the proximity to my vehicle.  My car wouldn't unlock until I put my hand on the handle.  I had my heavy load in the right shopping bag, and I gripped the handle tightly.

"I am fine, thank you."  I had stopped dead in my tracks at that moment.  I couldn't turn towards the first man, but wasn't about to approach the man that stood in between me and my car.  In that split second I thought -they are together. They are here for me.

And then I realized the older man standing next to the rear of my car was staring down the younger man.  He had puffed out his chest and squared his shoulders and was actually standing there to ensure my safety.

My fear was unfounded.  But my fear was real.  I turned when I reached my car and saw the first man had turned and was walking towards the store. "Ma'am. I just wanted to make sure you were okay." His warm gentle smile told me I was safe and his intentions were honest. I told him I was fine and thanked him.

I waited until I saw that he was also going towards the store, and got into my vehicle and locked the door. My hands were shaking.

I was shaken to the core. It took me almost ten minutes to be able to gather myself. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me hold every thought captive. When I calmed a bit, I then realized what had happened. The first man, was trying to make a connection, but he did it in the wrong way.  The second man saw my discomfort and came to my rescue, my defense.

This evening, while talking with my husband and processing it all, I brought up the book that I have mentioned before in my blog called The Gift of Fear. Today, The Gift of Fear was real.  I assessed my surroundings, I found a way to defend myself if need be, and I kept my emotions in check while I still perceived danger. I also let myself fall apart before picking up the pieces. Josh asked a few questions.  He asked if something like this has happened before.  If I fear men in general.  He also asked if I was okay.  He cared, he listened, he encouraged me.

Yes, this has happened before.  Not this exact situation, but one to cause concern.  Quite a few times I must admit.  No, I do not fear men in general. But life, society, has taught me to be on guard and aware of men that are in close proximity. And yes, I am okay. I will be okay. I was thoroughly scared and realized a few things.  Some men do not know how to relate to or talk to women without making them nervous.  While other men are still chivalrous and will defend a woman whether they are asked to or not.  And my husband is the best sounding board and encouraging lover of my heart.

Why am I sharing this? I will not avoid places like the mall or parking garages.  I will still shop by myself.  I will also talk about he importance of being aware of your surrounding, what is in your hands and who is near you.  I also want to encourage men to be the second man. Be the man that listens, observes, and makes women feel safe in your presence. Be the man that intervenes before being asked to. Be the man that makes women know that you are willing to help without even saying a word.  Those men are the men I rely on daily. Those are the men I turn to when I need help. And those are the men that enable women to know that there is good in our society everywhere we look.

To the second man:  I thank you for being that man.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Sky is the Limit


The Sky is the Limit
Short Story Picture Prompt for 
Writers Unite! 

Sifting through the pictures I have collected over the years, a few always stand out to me.  There is a picture of my sister and I with our dog posing in our summer jumpsuits.  Or the one of all of my grandmothers and cousins sitting in my front yard of my childhood home. While sorting the stacks of pictures I have held onto, I found a forgotten few from the year I was 14. The one I enjoy the most is of me in the forefront and my fellow teammates walking across the platform as we graduated from NASA's Space Academy.  At 14, I felt I had my entire life ahead of me, and everything that I wanted was mine for the taking.  Also at 14, I realized that I would never work for NASA.

Space Academy was a wonderful experience and I felt I was able to learn so much from the instructors and other students.  I enjoyed our missions and serving as a Mission Control Specialist and a Weather Analyst. I treasured the friendships I had made with kids from all across the country.  I also learned a few important lessons that summer.

Since the age of 6, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I quickly answered- an Astronaut. The idea of being in space and exploring planets, areas, and masses that had been untouched beforehand, fascinated me. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about space exploration and the NASA program.  I read books and magazines and requested more information from the school librarian and the librarian in town.  They were both happy to oblige and loved that they were encouraging me in my journey to be a future Astronaut.

Not once did someone say- Kelli, you may want to choose another path. Not once did someone say- Kelli, so few people actually ever get to go into space.  And not once did someone tell me that I should- consider being a teacher, a nurse, a lawyer or weather reporter.  And I am so thankful that they did not.

For me, it took saving money, working hard, and actually going to Space Academy to realize that I would never be an Astronaut.  While there I was bombarded with knowledge I couldn't begin to wrap my mind around. Students were so incredibly intelligent, I found it difficult to follow along in conversations or to contribute.  I also heard about the activities that some of the students were involved in. Robotics Club, Science Exploration summer camps, Science Discovery,  Rocket Building, NASA Extension Courses, Electronics Creation, and the list goes on and on.  I hadn't participated in anything the other students had. I took voice lessons, traveled with choirs around the 5 state area and enjoyed acting in plays.  I discovered that some of these kids had 5-8 years of science related activities and summer camps already under their belts. I enjoyed Bible Camp each summer and hanging out with my friends and riding my bike.

Discovering that I may not be the most qualified student at Space Academy, didn't discourage me from working hard and participating fully in all of the activities while I was there.  I loved every moment.  I came to accept that there were other things I could do in life, I just wasn't sure what they were as I had been telling people that I was going to be an Astronaut for 8 years.

As my dad and I returned from Huntsville, Alabama to my home in Minnesota, we had many hours ahead of us to talk in the truck.  I told my dad about the instructors, the amazing things that I had learned and activities that I liked. I told him I had a fabulous time and that I really appreciated how hard he had worked to get me there. I also told him that I realized that being an Astronaut wasn't actually a practical job for me when I was an adult. That I was so thankful for the opportunity but that I would have to figure out something else to do for a living.

My dad smiled and glance over as he drove in the dark, "Kelli, I am glad you got to do this, too.  Now you can concentrate on doing something bigger and better. I know you will figure it out. You have time and nothing to worry about.  The sky is the limit. Continue working hard and start researching other fields you might be interested in.  I know you will find something that you love."

I was so confused. What was bigger and better than being an Astronaut?

After returning home, I didn't dwell on the fact that I was no longer considering working for NASA someday. I chose to dwell on what my dad said.  The sky is the limit.  To me, that meant I could be anything I wanted to be.  If I believed for 8 years that I could be Astronaut,  I quite possibly could work towards being something even greater.

I majored in vocal music performance in college.  I went on to travel and sing until my heart was content. I became a Bank Officer, Lender, and Investment Rep.  All three jobs I adored.  I then realized I had accomplished all of my professional goals by the age of 27.  I didn't know what I would continue doing for the rest of my life.  I became a Bank and Insurance Consultant which was very rewarding.  16 years ago after having children I started my own company and became a Professional Organizer. I love my work and discovering new methods of organization that help my clients reclaim their home and their lives. I now also work as Blogger and Writer.

I have loved every single one of these jobs and positions.  I also think that it was possible for me to explore, make changes and try many new things over the past 30 years because of the kindness and encouragement of my parents. Not only did they not tell me what I couldn't be or do,  they told me numerous times that I could do anything that I wanted to and that the sky was the limit.

Words matter.  Encouragement is important.  Parents who guide their children rather than dictate the course can make all the difference. And parents who loved me and trusted me enough to let me figure it all out on my own inspired me to believe I can do the same with my own children.

Looking back at the pictures of my time at Space Academy, I do not dwell on what never became, or on what would be considered by most as an unobtainable goal. I fondly remember the words from father as the jumping off point of discovering what I really wanted to do in life.  And for that, I am forever grateful.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Mad Mom Skills

I just witnessed the single best parenting tactic ever at the library.

Young son with a public use stuffed animal really eager to show his mom and interact with her while she is trying to fix something on her account with the librarian.

Mom: Wow, that is really close to my face. I have bad coffee breath. You better move that leopard far away or he might pass out. (The little boy and the stuffed animal run far away.)

Second young son doing the same with a stuffed bird of questionable origin.

Mom: Yes, that bird is scary. You better put him back on the puppet stand before you scare the librarian. (He smiles at the librarian and returns the sketchy stuffed bird to the stand.)

Third tiny daughter whining about not getting her way and wanting to check out 6391 books and movies.

Mom: Sweetie, I don't have strong enough arms to carry all those and you always complain about carrying anything. I think my arms can carry 5 books and two movies today. That is all. Anything else and you will have to carry it. (Little girl promptly counts out 5 books and chooses two movies)

I am in awe. Where was the genius mom when my kids were young and were on the fritz every other minute whenever we were in a public setting? Because I think we all could stand to learn a few things from this mom who possesses some unheard of skills.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

I Know That Poem You Wrote Was About Me

I have had a great summer. Our family took three vacations and had so much fun in the Smoky Mountains in June, at Grandma's cabin in July and at Madden's Resort with family (27 of us!) in August. The sun and beautiful weather enabled us to spend a lot of time outside at the boardwalk, in the pool and at the local golf courses and driving ranges. I can hardly believe that summer is coming to an end.  My daughter starts school on Monday and my son starts school the day after Labor Day.  We still have plans to go to The Minnesota State Fair in the next week. A perfect way to close out the season.

I am also pleased as my 9th Anthology Book was released this summer, and two of my first four books were released in July and August. I have been busy editing and writing and working with Organization clients.

With publishing two books, I felt a little exposed. I am a non fiction writer and write about my life, past experiences, interactions with other people and my family.  I know that some of my real life family and friends will read what I have written.  I have never sugar coated anything or shied away from any topic. And if something nags at me long enough, I usually end up giving in and writing about it.  But with that, sometimes interesting conversations ensue.

I received a private Facebook message from an old friend.  They had read my book called I Regret Nothing. The text was simple.  They said hello, congratulated me on the book and asked if a specific poem was about them.  They knew it was. And I guess I wrote it in hopes that they would read it.  I panicked.  Even though it is a great piece and I meant every word of it, I still felt so weird being asked about it.

I responded with a simple thank you and that I write about my life.  I hope they weren't offended and that I never meant to step over the line. I became worried when I didn't receive a response after that. Two days later, another message. "I wasn't offended, more so honored. Thank you for writing it."  A return heart emoji was all the response that was needed. 💞

I will continue writing about the people, places and things that I love. I will write about what I miss and what I desire in life. I will write about what hurts and what makes me smile.  I will also probably write a story or two that I may need to mention when they are being published.  I may even write more stories that beg for a private message or two to be sent.






Friday, August 23, 2019

18


The text came late at night.  I was up much later than I should have been.  I have a tendency to do that in the dog days of summer. I stay up late trying to get so many things done.  My eyes usually betray me and all those projects that involve a laptop or even email are left for the next day.  I am always the last to go to bed, and find I can just relax a bit in the late evening hours. No one needs anything, no wants a meal or a snack, and surely everyone can fend for themselves at night.

My phone vibrated on the couch and I pressed pause on the remote.

Friend:  I know you aren't asleep yet.  This day has been so hard. I feel like I have failed at everything.  I feel like I am drowning.

Me: I am sorry this day was so hard.  Tell me what was good about the day.

Friend:  Good?  I just told you how hard it was and that I feel crappy. 

Me:  I know. And I am sorry. But tell me one good thing.

Friend: I see what you are doing there Kelli. You are trying to make me cheer up a bit and not wallow in my misery.

Me: Maybe. But also, I am trying to make sure you know that it is okay that not every day is a good day.  But there is something good in every day. 

Friend: Shut up. I love you, but shut up.

Me: I can't. I love you my friend and I want you to know that you are not alone. You can talk to me about all that went wrong, once you tell me about one good thing from today.

Friend: I had an amazing cup of coffee I made at home.  Almost too good.  It makes me worry that I will never be able to duplicate it.

Me: So your one good thing has caused you to worry?

Friend: Why are you so difficult?

Me:  Still waiting to hear one good thing. One good thing that doesn't come with worry.

Friend:  I got a lot done at work today because my door was closed.

Me: Good. Why was your door closed?

Friend: I can't tell you that. Because that was why my day was so challenging.

Me:  First, remember tomorrow at work that you got a ton done today.  That today was hard and challenging and you struggled but still you got a lot done.  Does that mean that tomorrow will be a bit easier because you got so much work done today?

Friend: Yes!  I got so much done today, I will probably even be able to leave a couple hours early.

Me: Oh my. Look at you. Already identifying what good can be found in tomorrow. And it is only today.  So the one good thing you experienced today will affect you tomorrow and cause good to happen again?  Amazing.

Friend: I know we are texting, but I can sense your snark. Knock it off. 

Me:  Good, because I was laying it on pretty thick.

Friend: Did you just attempt a Tommy Boy reference out of context?

Me: Yes. Did it make you laugh?

Friend: Yes.  Of course it did.

Me: So you are saying that you laughed which could also count as something good that happened today.

Friend: You wear me out.

Me:  Oh! And there is another good thing!  You said you were having trouble sleeping. If I have worn you out, maybe you will sleep better tonight.

Friend: I can't with you. I can't even with you.
I just...

Me: Can't?

Friend:  Go to bed.

Me: Don't tell me what to do. You are not the boss of me.

Friend: Don't text me tomorrow.  I have to work on making it a good day no matter what because I don't want to have the same text conversation again.  Because like I said, I can't with you.

Me: Sleep. 

Friend: Night!


I wish I could say that I always know the right thing to say.  To be honest, I rarely do.  But I can do a few simple things.  I can listen.  I can also admit defeat. I can pray for others. And I can encourage.  Yes, we all fail, we all feel at times as if we are drowning. But we don't feel like that every day. And I for one, am going to forever identify at least one good thing from each day.  At least one.  Because there is always one.

Today-
The Lord gave me another day
There was air to breathe
My back didn't hurt right away
My kids were still both in their rooms
Coffee was spot on
The sun was shinning
I didn't have to go to work
I got to work from home
I spoke to my best friend for an hour
I enjoyed a Chai Tea Latte at Red Bench
Dinner in the Instant Pot was great
My kids didn't ask for something else to eat
I sent three important emails
I packed school supplies for my son
I played cards with my husband
I cleared 9 things out of the kitchen cupboards
The air conditioning is back on
My dryer now works

18 good things about today. 18. And I wasn't even trying.




Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Going Back


Michael winced at the pain in his shoulder. It had started hurting by about the fifth time he put the oar in the water.  How was he going to make it home? Michael let the small boat float a bit as he took another drink from his water bottle and used the handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow and neck. Irritated that the water levels had dropped, he wasn't able to drop the motor into the water.  Using an oars would be the only way he would be able to return.


The morning he set out for home, he swore under his breath as he approached the dock.  He didn't have a plan, he wasn't prepared for the elements. Michael knew that the phone call from the Sheriff was important, but he still wished he hadn't answered the phone. His father had taken ill and hadn't been to town in months. The road was almost impassable. First, washed out by floods and then so many huge holes that formed when the water receded.  The Sheriff tried to check on him but couldn't get his boat through the muck. He returned with a smaller boat a second time. With the water levels so low at this time of year, the Sheriff wondered if Old Man Lemond's boat may have been stuck in the mud and he couldn't reach out to anyone for help. The second time the Sheriff reached the narrow end of the channel,  Old Man Lemond greeted him with a single shot from his old shot gun. No words were exchanged. That single shot was a warning to stay away.


Ms. Zimern tried calling every few days, but the phone stopped going to voicemail and now just continued to ring.  Ms. Zimern was actually the one that alerted Sheriff Wallin to the fact that Lemond was ill in the first place. She was also the one that made sure the Sheriff knew he hadn't been into town for a couple months for his staples of bread, frozen meals and powdered milk and plenty of canned goods.


Ms. Zimern was always incredibly friendly when she called Sheriff Wallin. Quiet and kind, that was Ms. Zimern.  Michael was 9 when his mother died, and Ms Zimern had been called in to help care for Michael and his little sister, Nicolette. She had never married and found that caring for other people's children brought her so much joy and filled the void.  When she started cooking for their family, she also found herself then putting the children to bed at night and anticipating Lemond's return home from the long shifts he worked at the factory in town.


Ms. Zimern cared for Lemond much more than she would ever admit.  She once had dreams that they would marry one day and raise Michael and little Nicolette together.  Such dreams never came true as Lemond held onto to a liquor bottle much tighter than any relationship he had ever had. Lemond grew cold and distant and as his children grew, the need for Ms. Zimern became less. When Michael turned 16,  she visited once a week to clean their home and to cook meals for the next few days which included plenty for leftovers.


When Michael turned 17, Ms. Zimern said it was too much for her and couldn't return.  Lemond had gotten drunk, came home in soiled clothing and tried to take advantage of her.  In that moment, any dream she had about possible love and companionship dissolved right in front of her eyes.


Michael left home at the age of 20. He had stayed at home two extra years just so he could keep a watchful eye on his little sister.  When Nicolette graduated from High School, she ran out of the front door of the old cabin at the end of the narrow channel and never looked back.  She and Michael excelled in their Freshman year at a small community college and once he saw that Nicolette was going to be just fine on her own, he knew it was time to start his own life. He dropped out of the school that they both attended and decided he wanted to pursue art while going to night school.


Michael's artwork was dark. Mostly paintings of trees, grass and water, the vines were what grasped most people's attention.  They often were reaching out for people, strangling them and sometimes even pulling people into the deep. Night school enabled Michael to experiment with other mediums. Sculpture, clay, drawing, but he always went back to painting.  He was at rest when a paint brush was in his hand. 


Michael came to the realization that that all he ever painted were scenes from his home.  Where everything was green, muddy and wet. He felt a release when he painted. A calm would wash over him and he knew he could continue on.  Michael took jobs here and there, washing dishes, cleaning barns, helping with cattle and horses, but only to pay his rent and put food on the table. He was fortunate to sell a few pieces and then scored a showing at the local art gallery.  Every wall was bare by the end of the show. Commissions started pouring in and life became a bit easier.  


Michael began creating art full time and found a great space for a studio with an apartment above.  He called Nicolette each week to check in with her. He started sending her money each month so that she wouldn't have to worry about anything.  She was grateful that her brother helped her pay off student loans and pay her rent. 


When he left home with Nicolette in tow, he knew that his dad would just fall further and further into oblivion.  Michael tried calling home a few times, Christmas, his dad's birthday, but was always greeted with a snarl, "Who is this? Why are you calling?"  The conversations always went downhill from there since his dad was probably double fisting bottles just to get through another day. 


Michael knew going to see his father now that he was ill, wasn't going to be easy. If he fired a shot in the air at the Sheriff, chances are it would also happen to him.  Michael also knew that he would need to announce himself as he slowly approached the property at the end of the channel. 


Toiling over the fact that this might be the last time he saw he father, Michael realized his chest ached just as much as his shoulder.  This was stress, he kept telling himself. ~You are fine.  Just check on him, tell him who to call when he needs help, say goodbye, and go. That is all you have to do.~


As he neared the property at the end of the channel, he observed that the water was no more than about 3 feet deep. No wonder the Sheriff couldn't get his boat down there the first time.  Michael shouted, "Dad! Dad, it is me, Michael! Dad, I am here to see you!" 


There was no response. Michael announced himself again and his father never emerged from the small house.  Slowly floating up to the rickety old dock, Michael reached out to grab the first metal post. He proceeded to throw a rope around the post and stepped out of the boat.  Fearful that the dock wouldn't hold his weight, he gingerly stepped on one board at a time until he reached solid ground. 


Discovering that front door was secured, he walked around back to see if that door had been left unlocked.  It was unlocked just as it always had been when he and Nicolette lived there. His dad intentionally left it open for when they returned from school.  Michael knocked as he entered. Old Man Lemond was seated at the kitchen table bent over resting with his head on his arms. There were dishes and trash here and there and Michael knew that his dad must be passed out from the liquor that had already been consumed that morning.


Michael hesitated as he prepared to place his hand on his dad's arm.  That is when he saw the handwritten letter on the table and the discarded pen.


Dear Michael and Nicolette,


I am sure by now you know that I am sick.  Liver Cancer. The doc said maybe a few more weeks.  I don't know. Each day gets more difficult. I hurt a lot and the pills he gave me don't seem to help.  I am lonely and it is time for me to go. 


I love you guys.  I am sorry. For everything.  Your mother and I loved you both. I am sorry I was never the dad you needed.  That I couldn't be the dad you deserved.  


My pension is now managed at the bank in town.  They also have an account that will pay for my final expenses.  Burn this house. It isn't worth much.  
The boat is at the bottom of the channel. The truck wouldn't start. I couldn't walk to town. I didn't have the energy. I didn't call anyone to come get me. Who would I call?


Tell Ms. Zimern I am sorry.  Tell her. Don't forget.


Thank you for... 


Michael quickly flipped over the single sheet of paper to see what else it said. That was it. Nothing more. His dad must have passed out as he was writing it.  He stuffed the paper in his pocket and reached forward to wake his dad.


Old Man Lemond wasn't to be woken. Michael checked his neck for a pulse and placed his hand his front of nose to check if he was breathing. He has passed away probably within the last 12 hours Micheal thought. He sat down next to his dad and just sat in the quiet for a few minutes.  No tears, no emotion. Just an acceptance of what had happened in the hours before he arrived. 


Michael reached for his cell phone to call Sheriff Mallin. He told him his father had passed recently while writing a letter.  And that they could probably get out to the house if they brought a 4x4. Sheriff Mallin was stern and serious, but never offered an apology to him that Old Man Lemond had passed. 


Michael went to clear out a few things from the bedroom. His parent's wedding picture, his mom's dairies from the bedside table where they were always kept and the Family Bible from the coffee table.  He took his grandma's silverware from the hutch and both the high school graduation pictures which hung in the hallway. That was it. Nothing else of worth, nothing else that was treasured. He found a duffel bag in the bedroom closet and placed each item in there.  


As Michael prepared to leave the house for the last time,  he paused and went back to the kitchen. He pretended for just a moment that his dad was sleeping. He reached and touched his hand and saw that he was still wearing his wedding ring. Old Man Lemond had never recovered from losing his wife. Michael bent over and kissed his dad on the top of his head. 


At the end of the dock,  Michael sat down after placing the duffel bag of belongings in the boat. He removed his shoes and let his feet dangle in the water. When he got back to town, he would see if he could hire Ms. Zimern to clear out the home and then would place the property up for sale. Someone would like this land for hunting and fishing. But this land wasn't a property he ever planned to go back to. 


The Sheriff and Coroner arrived within a half hour and removed their hats.  They took pictures and notes, made a few phone calls and then told Michael it was okay for him to leave.  Michael then told him that he would be in town for a few more days and that he would plan on having his dad's remains cremated and buried and that he would take care of the arrangements with the local funeral home.  No service was necessary. Sheriff Mallin clasped Michael on the arm and nodded at him. Michael then returned to the dock and the boat which had carried him home.


Michael sat in the boat rowing slowly and knew that there was no going back. He would not return again. 


That evening, he called Nicolette. A brief call, only to explain what had happened.  No tears, or consolation needed. Just an exchange of information. He then called Ms. Zimern. He shared the news. He asked her if he could hire her to clear out the house, and she immediately said yes. She went on to explain that she somehow knew that this would be the final way that she helped both he and Nicolette. She said she would indeed clear out the possessions and either leave or sell the furniture.  He explained she could keep any cash she made. 


"Ms. Zimern, my dad wrote a letter to my sister and I that I found on the kitchen table.  He asked me to tell you that he was sorry."


There was a long silence before Michael heard a stifled sniffle.  "Thank you Michael for telling me that."


Michael returned to his home, to art and the life that he created and loved. He hung three picture frames in his hallway.  His parent's wedding picture and Nicolette and Michael on their graduation days. The Family Bible and their mother's diaries were kept in the duffel bag under his bed. 


Michael was thankful for the last letter that his dad had written.  He was thankful for an apology and thankful for a bit of closure. Micheal wanted to try something new. He felt inspired. No more darkness, no more vines and water and despair.  Michael was going to focus all of his efforts on the sky, landscapes and nature. Scenes filled with light, with promise. Paintings filled with hope for the future. 



Honor

Honor By: Kelli J Gavin  When my grandmother passed, I felt defeated and utterly broken. She was the last of my grandparents left...