Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bores and Baptism

Father's day is upon us.  Warm thoughts of daddys are swarming, and neckties are selling at a greater rate than other times of the year.  Giving dad a gift is way harder than giving one to mom.  I mean, who sends flowers or candy to their dad?

 My dad died two years ago.  I wasn't sad that he died.  It was time.  I was washed with joy that he was mine and I was his.  It probably sounds crass, but I don't even miss him.  I don't miss him, because I feel his presence with me every day.  Every day.  Sometimes when I'm planting, or making a decision, or watching a storm or knowing what is right.  Sometimes when I see my messy hair in the mirror or hear a brass band.   Dad is always there, right there beside my mom.  Both of them continue to speak to me and guide me through life. 

Dad grew up with five sisters.  He was the second in line.  Five sisters and his German speaking grandparents on a timber claim in central Nebraska.  The stories are rich and wonderful.  Dad somehow managed to gain the gentle side from all the sisters, but what was required of him was grit, competence and self sustaining fortitude.  He was the only son on a farm that needed men to make it work.  He was the only brother in a world of sisters who needed him to teach them about life. 

So my father grew up a gentle bear, a killer and carer of things and people. 

By the time I came along he had lots of practice.  He had three sons of his own, his own farm, and was still helping out his dad on the "home" farm.  My "dad" memories include frozen winter nights when he would walk into the house with an almost dead calf on his shoulders, the hours of handing him tools while he repaired the tractor, or the wagon rides to the corn fields where we were all given hoes and told to get the weeds and "then we could eat the watermelon."  Thousands of memories which have become my own words and thoughts.  Dad watched storms.  His livelihood depended upon the weather and the decisions he would make related to them.  We would watch them together and he would point out the significance of each cloud and wind.  Now, when weather comes upon us, I feel dad breathing and I see him dancing his grandbabies to sleep.   Each one the most important.  Each the precious gift.   

Dad didn't like church much.  At least that's the message I got as a child.  Mom would say, "daddy is just too busy."  I knew better.  He just didn't like church, but he loved hymns.  Mom would play, and we would all sing.  Dad's eyes would tear up at, "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" and "Amazing Grace."  But he would go to "another place" with, "How Great Thou Art."

But the things church teaches us, like loving your neighbor as yourself, and pretty much all the commandments, except taking the Lord's name in vain, were just naturals to him.  The Lord's name in vain was a tough one, especially while repairing tractors and racing a storm for wet hay.  

Farmers need help sometimes.  Through the years I was protected from the realities of farm reproducing techniques, until one day I asked why Archie was bringing over that very big pig.  I was told some story about how Archie wanted to share his big pig for a while because Archie was nice like that, but the reality was that these two farmers had purchased a male hog, a bore, to share. A little while in Archie's pen, a little while in dad's pen.  Very happy bore.  That's what it was like for Archie and dad.  They shared work loads, they shared the stuff of farming in a way to benefit them both.  They trusted one another and made no big deal about it.  Both were gentle bears.  Both were killers and carers of things and people.  They were each other's other. 

The work never went away.  Farming is like that.  It's always there.  They helped each other through every possible storm a farm could bring a man.  But they both grew old.  And when it was time to resettle to town they found homes across the street from one another.  They continued helped each other colored with a fresh cup of coffee and one another's house each morning.   They were neighbors of the first order.  Storms come in many forms, and the one that almost killed these hearty men, were the storms that took their loves.  First mom and several years later, Betty. 

One day Archie came over for coffee with a serious question on his mind.  Archie had never been a church man either, but he had great concerns.  He wanted to be baptized so that he could, "go where Betty was."  But this gentle bear was afraid.  He just wasn't sure he could do it alone.  He asked my dad to be baptized with him.  Only the two of them know what really went on that day as these two men, who had battled everything life could give them, wondered about their eternity together.  I like to imagine I was there watching the akwardness, and the love, and the reluctance, and the amazing beauty in these men. 

Then, one wonderful day,  two gentle bears, who were killers and carers of things and people, submitted to the unknown and gave in to the magic.  Separately, but together they offered their lives to God.  Does it matter why?  Maybe to support a friend, maybe to guarantee a future with a lost spouse, maybe because it felt right.  Does it matter why?  Not.   

I sang, "How Great Thou Art" at Dad's funeral. That was my gift to him.  No flowers, just a song.    He had already gone to that "other place,"  but I know he was there with me, smiling with open arms for all the grandchildren.

So this Father's day, I think of these amazing men, one my father, one his chosen friend and I thank God for the power they have given me. 

Dad and Archie's story is rich.  Maleness, power, skill, confidence, friendship, practicallity, and acknowledgement of the unknown.  Somewhere, they are together, in some form, spreading  goodness and practicallity to the ones who have arrived.  God brings people together in life and for eternity.  Pay attention to the people He has given you now.  They just might be with you forever. 

Friday, May 18, 2012


What makes something a treasure?  Or a better way to ask is, what makes a treasure?  Implying of course that it doesn't need to be a "something."  I live and breathe other people's treasures.  People come in the shop, some walk around sort of creepy, and eventually they ask..."Do you ever see anything, or hear anything around all this old stuff?"  I stare at them like I don't know what there're getting to and they finally say it.  "Like ghosts or spirits or stuff..."  Many of them proceed to tell me that it's a little creepy, but cool, looking at all this stuff that somebody once thought a treasure. 

See, a treasure doen't have to be expensive.  Doesn't have to be pretty, valuable or even be understood by anyone else.  The only thing that a treasure needs to be one, is the ability to touch you, take you somewhere.  That somewhere doesn't always have to been warm and fuzzy.  One of my treasures, is dried roses from my mother's funeral.  Not warm, not fuzzy, just vivid. 

It's hard to hang on to treasures.  We move, we downsize, we clean out.  We can't keep it all.  That's what antique stores are for.  We're just full of all the treasures that somebody couldn't keep.  I'm rather pragmatic so I don't get all sappy about stuff coming into the store that looks rich in memory.  I feel rather honored.  Honored that I can be the keeper of the treasure until someone walks in, is stricken by  memory or hope and takes a much loved treasure home. 

I love the story of the stuff.  Sometimes when I don't know the story, I make one up.  Recently a bonnet was passed from one treasure keeper to another.  The new owner and I made up the young woman who wore it, made it, crossed the prairie with it, carried her children wearing it, probably even burried one with it neatly bound to her head.  We loved the story we created and became in love with the woman who wore it. Treasures have a way of touching you to others.  That's probably what  the people who ask about ghosts are feeling.  They too love the story, they just don't know they can make them up. 

The Bible has lots to say about treasure.  Bottom line is, don't hang on to any of it too tightly, because you want to keep your heart open for the Great Treasure that lies ahead.  Treasure the love that a thing brings, treasure the friend that it reminds you of, treasure the memory and then make up a story.  I treasure being the keeper of other people's treasures, and sometimes I fantasize that people who have passed are happy knowing their special treasure is being temporarily cared for by me until it's new owner passes by and feels the calling to come in. 

Tea and Memeories

My daughter recently said to me, "I don't know what I would do if I couldn't drink my tea!"  She really loves her tea.  Just any ole tea won't do.  Has to be special leaves, special brews, soy with raw honey, green tea.  She drinks it hot, cold, and all day long.  Sometimes those who love her have to wait.  We wait while she fixes or finds the perfect tea. 

I have lots of tea memeories.  Iced tea was and absolute in the summer on the farm.  Iced tea and Kool Aid.  No sugar in the iced tea.  Salt on the watermelon, but no sugar in the iced tea.  Now in the winter, lots of sugar in the hot tea.  Those were just the tea rules.  We didn't have fancy stuff, but I remember when mom first brought home Lipton tea bags.  We thought we had gotten real modern. 

In the summer, during my childhood, most nights, we had dinner out on the front yard.  The colorful aluminum pitcher was always full of iced tea. And we all had our special color aluminum glass from the set.  We would take the food out to the picnic table and enjoy the summer nights. The farmwork was done for the day.  Hay and been mown, or corn picked.  It smelled like a job well done.   It's a bit of a stretch to say that we had dinner together, because my brothers and I were almost immediately up in the big cottonwood tree, swinging on ropes high enough to kill us quick if we had fallen, and grabbing a bite to eat with each swoop from the top.  My parents sat on the big white wooden chairs looking proud and amazingly enough not yelling things like, "be careful," "don't go too high," or any of the many warnings a parent would surely be thinking.  I've wondered how they kept their restraint.  "Me Tarzan, You Jane" was the game of summer choice.  Funny how thinking about iced tea can bring out those memories. 

I don't drink much tea.  My drink of choice is coffee or water.  But, I'm starting to get into it.  Watching my daughter's delight when it's the perfect brew and hearing her talk of the health benefits in her green tea mixture.  I'm starting to get it.  Part of the joy of a perfect brew is just taking time to enjoy it.  Sipping it slowly, talking about how wonderful it is, breathing in the warm air it creates and letting the body slip, every so slowly, into another moment, maybe a memory, maybe a dream, but a moment that can be savored, if only briefly.  No wonder my daughter just can't imagine a day without her tea. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Today is a dying day

Not to be alarmed, but today is a dying day.   It's one of those days when it just seems okay to give up.  I'm sick.  Ubaldo's sick.  Jed's sick.  The three of us don't make a complete person.  And dying seems kind of nice.  Now, to relieve the people who get alarmed, we're not  on the edge.  It just seems comfortable to give up. 

I had a very good friend in my other life who said, "you spend the first half of your life gathering things and the second half getting rid of them."   Well, we are in the second half.  Stuff doesn't have much value to us.  Unless we can sell it on ebay or in the shop.  We've become a bit mercenary.  

We spend lots of time watching TV.  People are dying all over the place on TV.  Bad guys, good guys, guys in the way...just lots of dying.  Lots of times when I watch the fantasy stuff I think about us, how we would make a good movie.  You know, good folks struggling to have some kind of a life.  Some kind, no matter how majestic, just some kind that gives us pride. 

One of my customers at the shop is a very stong Christian and she has said, "It always amazes me that even though we believe that it will be better on the other side, we're not in a hurry to get there." I like that.  Dying days don't come very often.  Days when it's just too hard to live, but it's a comfort to know that it's okay not to be in a hurry. 

It's also a real comfort to know that a dying day isn't bad.  For those of us who have a belief in another life, well, what can be so bad about that.  For years I've met them at the shop.  They are on their dying day, but they somehow come out to either share with me or try to sell.  They are on their dying day.  They are desparate and unconnected with anything that gives them comfort.  Dying days can be recognized.  

Tonight Jed is so sick that he doesn't know whether he wants me to cool him or warm him, cover him or free him.  He is just sick.  And me, well, I've had this miserable cough that comes from the bottom of the basement for several days, and there is just no energy to care what he wants. 

Today I made plans for us to travel to Utah and meet our two new great grand sons.  We will do that in two weeks, so there will be no dying going on until after then.  They are beautiful boys and need to meet their wild and crazy great grandparents. 

So, dying days aren't really days to die.  They're days to remember why not to.  We have fish to catch in Colorado, stories to tell in Utah, things to set straight in Nebraska, and who knows where else to touch with our truth.  Dying days are not so bad.  Gives a grip to the living. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Saloon Singer or Secretary

Music was always a part of my life.  Not a lot to do on the farm when it gets dark, so our family sang.  "Daddy sang bass, momma sang tenor..."  Then when I got in high school, my brother bought a guitar.  After lots of practice the two of us and a friend became Nebraska's version of Peter, Paul and Mary.  We sang for anybody that wanted music.  We loved it.  Being on stage filled our bucket.  We  found our place in the world, on stage, harmonizing, making people happy.

One Spring, while in college, I read a flier.  Auditions were being held for a Dance Hall Girl in a Wild West Saloon at a tourist "Old Town."   My heart leaped.  "That's for me!"  I imagined red can cans and leg kicking for the joy of the vacationer. Perfect Summer job!  Some might think it a fate worse than death, but me, I still smile and visualize that old wooden stage and the applause in the smokey room, the laughter, the songs. 

I was offered the job.  I was ecstatic.  The job was offered me because they were looking for someone who could be raspy and gravely with their voice, sort of growl while you sing.  That was suppose to be sexy and be most authentic.  Dance hall girls were a bit rough, you know.  Well I could do that.  I was in.  The perfect summer job was mine. 

But I had a boyfriend.  His summer job was on the other side of the state and he wanted me there.  Now, I was young, about 19, and  I was in love.  He wanted me there.  It was the 60's.  A young girl went with her man.  So I gave up my dream to follow another.  I went through an employment agency to find a job and lied about how I so wanted to be a receptionist/secretary.  All summer long while I struggled to type and be pleasant on the phone, I dreamed of leg kicking and red can cans.

 It took me lots of years to realize that the boyfriend, whom I married and had a very respectable life with, didn't love the saloon girl.  He loved  the sectretary.  The one who behaved well and organized his world.  Sectretary I was not.  It was a struggle to be organized, to type, to take memos.  It was not free.  I was not free.  I worked very hard at being who he wanted me to be, but the dance hall girl was always there screaming, "let me out." 

So now, some 40 years later, I still dream about that old wooden stage, the laughter and the freedom.  I turned my back on freedom.  I imprisoned myself into a life that I had to work at rather that love.    Now, I tell people to follow their dream.  If you want to be a secretary, go for it and be the best secretary that you can be.  You will be happy.  But, if you want to throw your skirts from side to side, kick you legs high and sing with your raspy voice, then do that.  Do that, and whatever or whoever is waiting for you will be there when you're finished.  You will be more complete. 

See, I believe that God made us perfect.  If we're made to be a secretary we will know it.  If we're made to dance and sing in a saloon we will know that too.  We spend lots of time doing things that don't make us feel free.  We all recognize freedom.  Our whole selves are elevated.  And, when you meet someone who loves the person that you know is inside, pay attention to them.  They just might be a life time partener.