Feb 23, 2015

....And I Know He Watches Me......

It has been a long cold snap, even in Southern Missouri.  Winter drags on with everything covered in snow and ice.  People's patience wears thin and their tempers grow short.  We all wait for the gradual warming to start, the days to grow longer, and the green to peek through the muddy ground.

It has been a strange time for me.  When I decided to move back down here, I assumed that God would make my path clear.  If He has, I have not been smart enough to catch on.  This has been a waiting time for me, even a questioning time.  We probably should not question God, but whom among us hasn't?  

I tell myself to be calm, give it time, and count my blessings.  Among my blessings are the fact that I am again Lindy here.  When my mother died, it was my greatest and most selfish sorrow that there would be no one left to call me by my childhood nick name of Lindy.  The funny thing about that is the fact that I had forgotten about my father.  Little did I know at that point what the future held in store for us, but within 10 years we would put aside our differences and he would provide me a safe place to live.  A place in the country, with cows across the road and the best neighbors in the world.  Neighbors who call me Lindy to distinguish me from the other Melinda's down here, most of whom are called Mindy.

So I tell myself to take a lesson from the past and to have patience with myself as this new phase of my life works itself into a discernible pattern that I can understand.  I look at all that has happened in the past almost 11 years and imagine what might happen in the coming decade.  But I still pray for signs from God that I am doing the right thing.

The strange thing is, even in this time of uncertainty and confusion, I get these signs.  In my mother's family, there exists the significance of the white feather.  In 1995 we lost my cousin, Jon Michael.  He was just 25 and had never married or had children, so it was a particularly bitter loss for us.  It felt like we had no shred of him left on earth.  Nothing new to ever be discovered about him, no child to remind us, in the future, of the joy he brought to our family.  There would be no seeing his eyes, or his walk develop as a child grew, or hearing his laugh for us, ever again.  We were just devastated by his loss.  There were many things to remember that gave us joy, though.

.........The way he used to pretend to be Johnny Cash, complete with a little guitar, and how he stopped everything onstage at the Browning Centennial to exclaim to his sister "You're spitting in the mike, sis!!"  ..........

The way he used to hold his food in his mouth as a child and then when his parent's chided him to eat, he would say "I'm chewing DAD!" .........

 How funny it was to watch him put his prom date in the car during the years that plantation dresses with hoop skirts were popular.........

The cars he wrecked, and the time he passed out at the grain bins on Main Street of Browning and woke up unscathed, with little memory of how he had ended up there, but a perfect half-circle indentation of the steering wheel in his forehead as proof that he had slept there for many hours.  That indentation took a whole day to fade and left a bruise.  

We carried him pretty high for that for the remainder of his life.  

.......How he loved watching the movie Forest Gump during his long illness and how sick we all got of watching that movie, even though it was good the first 3 times we saw it......... 

It was after his funeral, sitting outside the home he had lived in since the day he was born, that we received a gift delivered from an unexpected and unknowing source.  A gift that would last in our family.  A talisman that continues to show up when we most need it with no explanation as to how it could happen.

We were sitting at the picnic table, outside the house that had been Jon Michael's home for his entire life, my mother, my aunt, (Jon Michael's mother) and me.  A little boy ran over from across the road.  My aunt was not in a mood to receive company that day, and even my usually courteous mother was not up to being nice to a rambunctious, energy filled little boy.  He was just a little boy, like all little boys, full of life and enthusiastic movement.  I wasn't even sure who he was.  I am still unsure to this very day.  It fell to me to smile at the child and say hello.  He seemed not to notice the general dark mood hanging over the picnic table, as boys will do.    He gave us a hearty hello and when he received the sad half-smiles that followed, asked what was wrong, as he started climbing on top of the picnic table.  My aunt shot him a thunderous look, which in his innocence he did not seem to notice, as I explained that we were just sad that day. I saw  no need to explain or announce death to a random stranger/child and truly was just trying to get this over with as quickly as possible.   I watched him make his climb to make sure he didn't slip on his quest to the tabletop.  He planted his small, booted feet on the tabletop and announced " I gotta surprise for ya!!"  I summoned the strength to raise my eyebrows and say "Oh?  What's that?"  I was thinking the sooner we could get this over with, the better.  I remember those exact words going through my mind at that exact moment.

He smiled a sweet smile and raised his little fist in the air.  He shouted "Look at this!" and he threw a white feather up into the air.

Words fail to describe the change  that came over us as that white feather, surely a treasure to this unknown little boy, sailed up and then started it's slow, meandering descent.  He continued to smile as we watched, with goosebumps, the feather eddying on the breeze, just like the feather in the movie that we had all come to despise due to repeated watching........and we knew that Jon Michael was all right, that even in our despair and anger God was with us, and would always be.

Thrilled with his gift, the little boy jumped off the table without injury and ran away to find more treasures, on a quest known only to him.  I know that little boy had no idea he was used as a messenger that day, and could have had no idea the change he made in our lives.  Whoever he was, he will never be forgotten by any of us.  That's the beauty of it, and that is why I know I will survive this period in my life.  I have often wondered when he found that feather.  Had he had for a while?  Did he find it just a minute before?  Did he try to show it to his mother, who didn't take the time to exclaim over it?  Is that why he headed across the street to show it off?  I would love to know the whole story but I seriously doubt that he would remember this incident, even if I could find him.

Last night I went to bed exhausted, questioning God about what he wanted me to do and why it was taking so long for me to know what, why, and how.  Jack interrupted my prayers by rushing into my room and throwing up beside my bed.  GREAT, I thought, and got up and attended to him and the mess and forgot all about my prayers.  I had terrible, scary dreams that got me up at 3:30 am and saw me still awake at my old friend, 4 o'clock in the morning, worrying about fires and demon possession and babies in my future.  It was a strange night, to say the least.  One I could make no sense of whatsoever.

Then the morning came, as it always does.  I slept late and awoke to find this on the floor on my bathroom:

White feathers appear in my life often, and I always know whom they are from.  It cannot be denied that I have now moved to the land of white feathers, with all the chicken and turkey houses down here.  I often drive down roads that are literally lined with white feathers, when the grass is green and a truck has recently passed, and it fills me with joy.  These feathers obviously have an easily understood source, but they fill me with joy anyway.

White feathers that appear in my house, however, are another story.  These I accept as gifts and signs from God himself.  My mother called these, among other things, as God Winks.  A God wink is a little sign, if you are observant enough to notice it, that is a common thing that means something only to you.  A commonplace sign with an uncommon message meant just for you, that no one else would understand or think twice about.  Once you start to notice them, they happen often, everywhere.

In these days of winter, with snow on the ground, and the absence of feather pillows in my house, there can be only one explanation for me on this morning.  Just when I needed it most, there it is.  It makes no earthly difference to anything going on in my life except my attitude toward my circumstances.  It reassures me when nothing else can.  It makes no sense but all the difference in the world, to me.

Sometimes, when we are out of patience and fighting to hold onto our faith, when anger invades our souls, when all our thoughts are about ourselves, we need to trust.  We should stop, breathe, and hold onto our faith.  We need to realize that everything is not about us.  Often, unbeknownst to us, it is our turn to be a messenger for others.  God may be using us to help someone else, in ways we could never know or even guess at.  We may never get to know who, what, why or how.  It doesn't matter.  All that matters is that we pray "Thy will be done", and trust that it is, it will be, somehow, someway, whether we understand it or not.  I continue to wonder what will happen next in the land of Lindy and white feathers, but I'm still willing to wait.  Maybe that's just the lesson I'm supposed to be learning now.  Perhaps patience is the lesson, or perhaps the lesson is just to be still, and know that he is God.  Whatever the lesson is, today I can resign myself to finding out in His time, without fear.  All because of a white feather on my bathroom floor.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Jan 1, 2015

Goin' To The Chapel........

We ended the year in style at a courthouse ceremony that legalized the new daughter we added to our family this year.  Yes, that is right.  Our Rockette finally carries the family name.  We still have a lovely wedding and reception to come, but we got the paperwork part taken care of.

It is my extreme pleasure to welcome our Rockette formally into our family.  
This woman just blows me away.   There is nothing that she cannot handle.  She worked all day on her "wedding day", came home, got ready herself, got our Charli-girl ready, remembered the ring, and the paperwork, out the door we went.  Into the bitter cold, on to the waiting, running and warm vehicle we went, when Turkey, the sweetest if most exasperating dog in the world, shot out the front door also.  The Rockette had the baby, the paperwork, the ring, and I was following loaded down with purses, diaper bag and coats, cussing Turkey all the way.  Turkey decided to jump into the vehicle but resist my serious attempts to capture and/or throttle him.  The Rockette assured me this was fine.  Not only did she stop everything she was doing and patiently, without even a bad word or wrinkle of her beautiful brow, capture the escapee and loving deposit him back into the house, but she did it all without being late to her own wedding.

I would have left that dog to fend for himself on the mean streets of Kansas City, Kansas until I decided to come home, but not our Rockette.  I knew she was good but I didn't even know how good.  Now I knew.  I think she must be an angel in disguise!

After that she zipped us through the kind of traffic that gives me hives like a pro.  All I had to to was ride in the back with my beloved Charli-girl.  I tried not to look at the traffic, or think about it either.  Instead I comforted myself with the thought that if I ever do become senile or get dementia that the Rockette would take good care of me.  Whether I know it or now, I know that she will take the best possible care of me without ever losing her temper and she won't forget any of the details.  I can truly trust this woman's judgement and rest easy knowing that if I forget some of the details, she is on the case.

Once at the courthouse, being the last to arrive, we had to go through a metal detector and have everything scanned.  I was about ready to sit down and cry by then, but she set a good example and I just followed along.  I marveled at who the adult was here, because it was not me.

A short ceremony followed, with just a few tears being shed, even by me, because this was such a happy occasion.  An occasion that we have waited for and were blessed to attend.  We got a few pictures afterwards, during which Charli tried to eat the wedding bouquet and learned that flowers are not for eating.

Due to the time, the courthouse was shutting down so we had to make our way to a particular door.  I never knew which one, I just followed the crowd.  We had to split into two elevators, and though our elevator was supposed to go to floor 1, a whole bunch of us ended up on floor 8, and had to try again once we realized our mistake.  If you must be lost, always do it with a crowd.  Safety truly is in numbers.

Eventually we all got to the door we were supposed to out and then all that remained was to try and find our cars in the bitter cold.  The Rockette did this also, owing to the fact that The Rock Star (and herself) have been sick for several weeks.  The Rockette deemed the Rock Star too sick to go find the car and faithfully brought it around while we waited in the warm foyer with our Charli girl secured in her car seat under some blankets.

We went to dinner, all of us strung out along a long table.  The Beautiful Redhead and Magic Man showed up along with some friends of the couple's from work.  I looked down at our two families, now joined as one, and thanked God that this couple had found each other and brought us all together for the rest of our lives.  Babies were passed around, everyone was smiling and visiting with each other.  My own Beautiful Redhead's laughter pealed out at one point, filling my heart and eyes with wonder and gratitude that we were all there in the moment.  Also thinking ahead to the day when we would once again be joined for her own wedding day.  I assume it will be the Magic Man she marries that day.  If not, a whole lot of hearts will be broken wide open because we love him too.

If any doubt remained that our two families were compatible, they were put to rest in a hurry when a rude, and quite possibly drunken woman yelled at my own Rock Star to "shut the damn door" while we were carrying stuff out after dinner.  The Rock Star is by nature a pretty mellow fellow, and he tends to get upset rarely but memorably like his mother.  Add to that the slow burn that may smolder for decades but never be forgotten, which he gets from his father, and you have a formidable enemy that looks so good and seems so nice you would have a hard time believing it until it happens to you.  3 of us followed him to the car, listening to the Rock Star rehearse what he was going to say to that woman all the way to the car, back through the restaurant and back to the room we had dined in, I was readying myself for true battle.  Not to worry though, I should have known The Rockette herself was handling that with panache in the time we were gone.  By that time the rude woman's date-or husband-or whatever, had told her she was embarrassing him, to which she indicated that she didn't give a damn about that either.   That poor man was doing all he could to make himself invisible.  All I wanted to say was "Have another drink, honey!", because I learned years ago that alcohol does not usually complement your basic personality or endear you to those who are not inebriated also.  The most you can hope for, I have learned, is that they pass out quickly.  Hence the phrase "Have another drink!"  And be quick about it!  Could I interest you in some grain alcohol?  Because we don't have all night!  The entertainment they provide, I must point out, cannot be replicated or topped by much that I have ever seen.  :D  

At any rate, I believe she rued the day she had let her mouth get away from her as 20 people bore down on her and quite effectively brought peace and order to that restaurant once again.  It was actually one of the funniest things I have ever been lucky enough to witness and I can report truthfully that our families are truly united, for better or for worse.  We rose as one, with even the babies paying attention.  We are in this together, come what may!  The enemy was vanquished in short order. 

It certainly ended the year 2014 on a memorable note.  That's all I've got to say about that!  I daresay no one who was there will ever forget it.  One marriage starting out strong, one possible marriage limping along.....if that "lady" was on a first date I doubt there will be a second.  Just saying.

Somehow I just know the wedding and reception will fall a little short on memorable episodes.  At least, that is my hope.  I suppose it is always best not to rule anything out.

So bring on 2015!  Here is to the first of many happy years with the new and formidable Mr. and Mrs. Clark, with all our love, good wishes and unquestionable support.  I just have the best feeling about this one.

It's about time you two had another dance on your old mom.  Love you both forever.

Dec 27, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again........

The title of this post comes from this song that has haunted me the last few years.

I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age, but doesn't everybody?  Why?  Because the older you get, the more things change.  Change is good, overall, but sometimes it hurts.

Moving back to my other home, my heart fills every time I look around.  The red dirt, the bluffs, the trees, all these are familiar from my childhood and have not changed.  This makes me feel like I have indeed come home.  And yet, some things have changed, and while I know in my head that everything must, it breaks my heart.

My uncle Melvin and I recently took a trip to the cemetery to visit Nana's grave.  Once at the cemetery, we took our trip through town.  The town is Southwest City, Missouri, and Nana lived all the way through town right before the tri-state cornerstone.  She didn't live there her whole life, but that was the house all her grandchildren remember the best.  It was the house where we all came every Sunday for dinner.  It was the house where our parent's traveled to spend weekends when we were small.  I can remember waking up on the living room floor with all my cousins, where our parents had deposited us like so many burritos wrapped in our individual blankets.  

The house was down a winding road, and walking up to get the mail was a big trip for little legs to make.  I was never old enough to go, and sometimes my cousins got to ride the horse to get the mail.  I was never old enough for that either, and by the time I was old enough there wasn't a horse to ride.  Nana lived on a farm, and I can remember going with her milk the cow.  I would watch her pour off the cream, separate out the butter milk, and pour the milk over oatmeal for our breakfast.  Gathering eggs did not just mean from the chickens in the coop.  Nana had banties and guineas as well, which involved roaming the fields to find the eggs.  I wasn't old enough for that either, denied because I would step on the nests.  She had rabbits that she raised for meat, and geese that I don't know why she raised but remember as being very mean.  Nana always had bruises on her thighs from those geese, and I can remember seeing her reach out and wring their necks nonchalantly when they were headed for one of us little ones.

She sold the place years ago, and a family bought it but the house later burned.  In all these years we had looked in vain from the highway above trying to see what was left, but were always foiled by the leaves during the summer.

This time the leaves were gone, and we could see that nothing much remained.  My uncle Melvin pulled up the cattle guard at the top of the hill and asked me if I thought anyone would care if we drove down there.  I said I doubted it, but was secretly thrilled that he was going to do it, as I and my cousins had often hovered there too afraid to go on down for fear of trespassing.  We started the drive and I cannot tell you how it felt to once again travel down that winding gravel drive.  It truly did feel like coming home again. 

We drove slowly, commenting on the new barn that didn't used to be there and all the things that did used to be there but no longer were.  We were prepared for everything to be gone, but were surprised that the car port remained.

As the truck stopped right in front of the old carport, I said "How many hours have we all spent sitting right here drinking tea?" and the tears started flowing.  I got out, and through tear filled eyes, made my way across the cattle guard that I could remember being old enough to walk across for the very first time.  This was the cattle guard that my cousin Billy lost his play holster in and all us kids looked for it down there for years but never did find.  Funny the things you remember.  
We started just calling out memories.  How bad a driver Chief (Nana's second husband) was. How there used to be clothes lines strung between the posts. Nana had a dryer but did not prefer to use it.   How no one ever used the front door or porch even though it was on the front of the house.  The little wooden box with paper and pencil to leave a note and a clock to position on the front for when they had stopped by.  The spot where she butchered her chickens.  The old tractor seats welded onto posts with circular bottoms that she had instead of lawn chairs.  The hooks that had faithfully held the porch swing, still there but empty. The water tank for the horses that used to also be a home to goldfish.   The time Chief wanted to try Melvin's new motorcycle and ended up driving it straight into the trash barrel and crashing it. This turned the tears into laughter.  We have laughed about that for at least 25 years and probably will till we die.  Where the rabbit cages used to be.  We wiped tears and laughed and swore there never used to be a tree in a certain spot.  I looked at the hill where the hollyhocks used to grow and asked if it didn't used to be steeper.  Melvin said no, and I had to trust his memory more than my own.

This one was taken standing in the car port and looking East toward the highway.  In the summer the fence row up there is covered with honeysuckle.  The fence remains but all the gates made out of wagon wheels are all gone.  There used to be irises along the fence in front and no doubt they will bloom again this spring, perhaps unaware that they alone remain the same.  Whatever was left of the house has been cleaned up really well.  You would never know, could never fathom, the house that used to be there.  There was no cellar but there was a basement full of canned goodness from Nana's garden, shining like jewels when the sun hit them.  I could still see Chief in that field baling hay in the little square bales.  The tractor frequently broke down and how he could cuss when that happened!   It was more common to see him working on the tractor in that field than it was to see the bales rolling off like they were supposed to.  Something about twine and how you couldn't find parts anymore...........I guess that tractor was probably an antique even then.

These graduated cement blocks surrounded the outside of the shed on the back of the carport.  Rabbit cages used to line them on the yard side.  I remember being warned not to climb on them from my mother's fear that I would fall.  I did it anyway and did not fall, but never when my mother was there.  They seem much smaller now, with the lowest set being about shin high on me now.  That was the glory of Nana's.  We were often there together, us cousins, while our parents were gone or just inside and not paying attention.  I do not remember ever getting in trouble there, although we surely did.  I do remember a round picnic table, covered with contact paper, that my older cousins put me on once and spun me around until I threw up.  I was so sick I could hardly tell our parents that I had wanted them to do that to me.  It was even better than a merry-go-round!  What I remember is us getting called in to eat and myself making it as far as the screen door before I erped up everything that was in my stomach.  The adults asked what had happened and I told them but they interpreted my story as a mean trick the older boys had pulled on me.  It wasn't that way at all.  I asked for it.  I only remember my panic that my cousins would think I had sold them out and my mom almost getting me all the way into the bathroom before I could make it clear that it wasn't their fault.  That is the only time that I can remember anyone even coming close to getting in trouble at Nana's.

You can't go home again, I know.  And yet.  We were home.  We were together.  Nothing of this earth remains the same, but our memories make another kind of home.  As long as we are here together, nothing can ever take our memories.  I thank God that I have this time to be home, here, again.  With my family that I have been so far away from for so long, I will make new memories.  They will never overshadow my old ones, though.  This is hald of my foundation, my roots, and my future, all tied up together.  Nothing can ever take that away from any of us.  No fire, no rebuilding, no tornado, no storm.

Nana's legacy is us, not a house or a farm or even a carport where you might pull up only to find her in her underwear pulling clothes off the clothesline to put on.  In Lori's last days, she said to me "Let's go to Nana's", and I was surprised that she remembered.  She was a little miffed that I was surprised.  Lori said of course she remembered Nana's, because she was so welcoming and that being there was so relaxing.  All true, and I can only hope that each of us continues her tradition.  We are so very blessed to be part of this family, and need to do better to get together and remember her, and ourselves, the way we should.  We can not forget who we are, where we came from, or what is really important in life.  Nana runs through all of that, and all of us.  We will find our home in each other forever, and where ever location we might be in, a part of us will always be right there on that farm.  Sitting outside on the car port, drinking sweet tea, waiting for Nana to call us in to dinner.