Tag Archives: family

Not Just Goofball Funny

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Thirty years and counting…

Yesterday was a special occasion as Sweet Pea and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  I remarked on social media that when my parents had their 30th anniversary, they seemed like such…ADULTS.  And they did.

I have rarely felt like an adult during the course of our marriage, and I mean that in a positive way.  Jeff, my wonderful husband, has the best sense of humor of any human I’ve ever met, so that has made our time together way more fun than I think most people are blessed to enjoy.  I remember once, when Jeff and I had been going out for a few months, coming home from a date and sitting down with Mama in the living room for a glass of tea.  Jeff had spent a decent amount of time with my family by this point, and Mama said, “You seem to laugh a lot with him.”

She was right, of course.  But it took her saying it to make me realize how different being with him was from the other fellows I had dated.  I had only had a couple of “boyfriends” prior to Jeff, and those relationships were not marked by laughter as much as by angst, jealousy and my need to assert my freedom as they tried to assert their control over me.  This thing with Jeff…this was definitely different.  Laughing with him led to loving him, a kind of love I never imagined and still marvel over.

Even after 30 years of marriage and 4 years of dating/engagement prior to that, Jeff can still explode with some kind of off-the-wall remark that makes me laugh so hard I cry, or pee my pants, or both.  And since he is the funniest human I’ve ever met, it gives me a special kind of joy when I can make HIM laugh.  Has our life together always been a barrel of monkeys?  Of course not.  Have we dealt with issues, tragedies, losses, illnesses and all the other not-fun stuff life is made of?  Definitely.  Has our ability to laugh made the not-fun stuff a little more bearable?  YES.

I know I come with a lot of baggage and I am no picnic to live with.  I can be stubborn, overly emotional, petty and selfish.  Sweet Pea has his hands pretty full with me.

Here’s the thing.  A good sense of humor speaks to all the other qualities that make my husband special and wonderful.  I think–and this is just me, I realize—that someone who’s genuinely funny also possesses strength, intelligence, compassion, generosity and warmth.  I think those qualities are prerequisites for real wit, real funny-ness.  Not just goofball funny, but loving-smart-strong-warm-funny.  I give thanks for a partner who embodies such attributes.

And as we begin another year of life together, I pray that I can be for him a fraction of the wonderful things he is for me…smart, strong and warm. Loving and kind and generous.  And not just Goofball Funny.

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June 21, 1986.

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June 21, 2016.

 

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When I Was Six…

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The world looked different…

 

When I was six

Richard Nixon was President

and all the grownups on the news

were talking about a place called

Viet Nam

If I wanted to mail a letter

a stamp cost 6 cents

but I was only just learning to read and write

 

When I was six

Courtesy and Sense both seemed

more common

We were raised to say “Please” and “Thank you”,

“Ma’am” and “Sir”

 

When I was six

I sang all the time

just because it gave me joy

All the kinfolks I loved

were still alive

Talking to Jesus was

the easiest thing in the world

and my little-girl prayers were simple

 

When I was six

Summer vacation meant Myrtle Beach

and I always threw up

going over Saluda Mountain

Mamaw’s house at night seemed like

the quietest place in the world

and if Mama took us to Aunt Ruby’s

for a glass of tea

that meant there’d be time to play

 

When I was six

The world outside was not innocent

Then, as now,

people were doing

unspeakable things

to other people

But it seemed like those things happened

less often

When I was six

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(My first grade picture from Giffin Elementary School, in one of many dresses Aunt Ruby made for me.)

 

 

Best Friends

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Too many kinds to count…

This week many people observed National Best Friends Day.  I think it’s a nice idea to recognize the value of friendship and to appreciate the people who add such richness to our lives.  It got me thinking about the many “best friends” I have enjoyed over the years…and why I can’t really say that I have ONE best friend.

There were the earliest friendships I enjoyed with my brother and cousins, before school started and we met all those other kids in our age group.  Even though I am not as closely in touch with my cousins as I’d like to be, they are in my heart always, and I would give any of them anything I could offer if they were in need and I could help.  We share memories, blood and decades of love.

Then came the school friends, those people outside my family circle, the ones I met and learned how much we had in common.  Those moments of discovering that we liked or disliked the same foods, or shared a favorite song or hobby, were the youthful foundations upon which some of my longest-time friendships were built.  I am still in touch with some of my grade-and-high-school friends on social media, and seeing how their lives have progressed to this point is both fun and rewarding.

The church and college friends began my deepest connections, ties that bind us across years and miles to this day.  My college graduating class has a milestone reunion coming up this fall at homecoming, and I look forward to seeing many of my classmates there to reminisce about our times in the dorm and the music building.  My roommates especially helped me bridge the transition between living at home with my parents and making a new home with my husband.  I crave in my heart to see Janet and Dana, and soon.  It has been WAY too long since the three of us have been together.

These days I am still making college friends through my connections as the Chapter Mother for Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity at Carson-Newman University.  Getting to know these young student musicians and to encourage them has been my joy for almost 10 years now, and I hope to continue in this capacity for many years to come.  My musician friends come in all ages, shapes and sizes, with specialties ranging from voice and instruments to conducting and composing.  These friendships help me to continue growing as a musician and as a human.

I’m grateful that almost every job I’ve held has yielded one or two lasting friendships as well, and since I’ve worked in predominantly male environments, I refer to some of these fellows as my “work husbands”.  At my first TV job, there was only one other woman in my department, a top-notch board operator named Linda.  We referred to ourselves as The Gyno Mafia!  I have a dream team of current and former coworkers I would surround myself with if I ever had the chance to build my own company.  The combination of professional excellence and wacky humor makes work a lot more fun, and shared goals (and grievances!)  give us much to share.

So many other “best friends” come to mind.  Mama and The Aunts who wait for me in Heaven.  My precious husband, who, after nearly 30 years of marriage, is still my favorite person to spend time with.  And our beloved, goofy dogs, Ernie The Wonder Beagle (in Heaven) and Our Boy Roy, who has been part of our family for almost 9 years now.

So, who is my “best friend”, really?  They all are!  And if I spent the rest of my life counting the reasons I love them, I would never finish.

 

A Ray Of Light

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Saying goodbye…

Our church family has suffered a great blow with the death of our beloved friend and brother, Ray.  After a devastating motorcycle crash 4 weeks ago, he finally succumbed to the many injuries he sustained.  The light among us has been dimmed with his passing.

I admit that I didn’t know Ray very well, but I found him to be a big, bright (and sometimes loud!) presence, always multitasking, skidding into church at the last minute.  On any given Sunday he could be found singing in the choir (both services), serving as communion assistant or crucifer, lector or acolyte, or any combination of those tasks.  He also rang in the handbell choir.  His absence has been felt acutely in each of those roles, and filling his shoes will be no easy task.

He was a huge University of Tennessee sports fan, usually wearing UT apparel to church.  The man’s wardrobe was saturated in Vol orange.  He loved river sports and had a group of motorcycle riding friends (who were with him the day he crashed, summoning help immediately for their friend and brother).  He also served with the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard, having retired from military service.  It seemed to me that everything Ray did, he did wholeheartedly, full-force.  He lived his life out loud, shining a beacon of light into his world.

What I will remember most, I think, is his voice.  He had a booming bass voice, and he LOVED to sing.  Occasionally for the sake of balance, he would be asked to “tone it down a little”.  His whole face lit up when he sang, and that light radiated to everyone around him.  Sometimes he would close his eyes as he sang, communing intimately with God through the music.  I’d love to be able to sing to the Lord with such abandon.  And when he served as lector, his reading of the day’s Bible passage was always authoritative, glowing with expression and inflection.

His last Sunday with us, he sang in the choir and served as lector for both services.  I’m grateful to have that memory of him, using that booming voice of his to proclaim the word of God in song and Scripture.  It will echo in my ears and heart for the rest of my life.  I am also grateful that his struggle is over, even though, for those of us left behind, our path of grief of just beginning.  But it is not a totally dark path, as even his name, Ray, casts light upon it.

Pie Jesu, Domine, dona eis requiem, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Blessed Jesus, Lord God, grant them rest, and light perpetual shine upon them.

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Lost And Found

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And great rejoicing…

I usually wear a ring on my right thumb, and the ring I wear there is usually one that belonged to Mama.  More specifically, there are a couple of her old rings that I take turns wearing on that thumb.  Unfortunately, I often fidget with my ring, rolling it up and down my thumb, and sometimes it slips off entirely.  Several months ago this happened at work, and the ring got lost.

I heard it drop to the floor and roll briefly…then I heard it drop a second time.  The environment I work in has elevated floors to allow for electrical cables to pass underneath, between layers of flooring which are several inches apart.  And in a number of spots there are small access holes for those cables to plug in to the machines we use in our daily work.

When I heard my Mama’s ring drop that second time, my stomach dropped with it.  I scrounged around on the floor on my hands and knees, with a flashlight, scouring every inch of floor in that little room, hoping to find my lost ring.  I even dug into the tiny access hole as far as my hand would reach (which wasn’t very far at all), shining my flashlight into that minuscule space.  No luck.

I gave up hope that it would ever surface again.  I even bought a “replacement” for it on eBay, an ersatz ring that resembled the lost one.  But I knew it was just a poor substitute for the original.  The thing is, it was not a valuable ring in terms of money, really.  Its real value was that it was Mama’s.

We’ve all had similar experiences, haven’t we?  We’ve somehow managed to lose something that we treasured, whether it had any real monetary value or not.  And even if we were able to find another item that looked like the lost one, it was never the same.

Fortunately, my story has a happy ending.  The area in which I lost that ring is currently under demolition/construction as part of a major rebuild happening in my department.  When I learned that the area was going to be demolished I spoke with my managers and told them I had lost a ring in that room, and asked them to alert the construction crew in case it turned up.  One day last week as I ate lunch, one of the construction fellows found me and asked if I was the lady who lost a ring in that room, and I responded that I was.  He held up a slim gold band and asked, “Is this it?”

And my heart soared!  What was lost had been found, and with tears in my eyes I said, “Yes, that’s it!  Thank you so much!  It’s not really worth much, but it was my Mama’s and I am so glad to have it back.”

It reminds me of the Bible stories where something, or someone, is lost for a time and then found and restored to its/his/her right place.  In each story there is great rejoicing when what was lost is found.  I’m grateful to have Mama’s ring back…and it seems fitting that it should be restored to me during Lent, a time when I contemplate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, a love that restores me to God, no matter how lost I feel.

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Happy Leap Day

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Why it’s special to me…

My whole life I was blessed to have not one, but TWO, Uncle Johns.  Uncle John Flanigan married my precious Aunt Ruby, about whom I have written numerous times.  Uncle John Bryant married my larger-than-life Aunt Martha, about whom I have also shared memories here.  Uncle John Bryant was unique in several ways, not the least of which was his birthday, February 29, 1928.  Just as Mama’s July 4 birthday and Aunt Martha’s May 5 “Cinco de Martha” birthday seemed to foreshadow their personalities and idiosyncrasies, so did Uncle John’s Leap Day birthday.  He was without a doubt one of the most fun people in our family.

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The above picture was made in 1971, with him and Aunt Martha all dressed up fancy for either an Eastern Star event or, more likely, a Lion’s Club function.  He was a longtime member/officer/President of his club in Knoxville, an organization which devotes itself to helping people with impaired vision and blindness.  One of the ties in my ugly necktie collection has a lion embroidered on it, and I think it might have been his.  The above picture also shows him the way I always think of him, goofing off and cutting up.

He and Aunt Martha were a huge influence on me as I grew up, especially in my love for dogs.  They never had human children, choosing instead to be dog parents, and the first dogs I ever remember getting to know belonged to them.  Very early in their marriage they raised a Fox Terrier named Trixie, but the only dogs I remember are Chihuahuas.  Susie was the first I remember, followed by Buffy and then Ginger.  (Chihuahuas and other small breeds have long life spans, so Aunt Martha and Uncle John’s dogs were with them for a long time, with the exception of Tina, of whom I have no pictures and Aunt Martha always swore that the vet killed.)

 

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His way of showing affection was teasing.  For much of my childhood before Granny died, he and Aunt Martha would come over almost every Friday night, Susie, or later Buffy, in tow, wrapped in a little red flannel blanket (which I now own and sometimes put in Roy’s dog bed).  He was a big barrel of a man, about 6 feet, 4 inches in height and carrying all his weight around his waist.  He’d come ambling into the house laughing and saying, “What are you up to, Rastus?”  (I’m not sure where the name Rastus came from.  The only thing similar I’ve ever heard is the name Erastus in the Bible.)  His odd sense of humor became more finely honed once he went to work for the funeral home.  Those fellows developed an unusual sense of humor in response, I think, to the sadness they saw so much of the time, as well as to the frequent overnight shifts they worked.

Around Christmas every year, Aunt Martha would get her promotional funeral home calendars, share some with the kinfolks, and then mark her copy every three days for the nights Uncle John would be staying over at the mortuary on call.  Often, when his overnight fell on a Friday, I’d go and spend the night with her and the dog.  Sometimes those Friday overnights were when Mama, Aunt Ruby, “Mamaw” Allred and I would pile into the car and head up there for a late-into-the-night quilting party.  He was a bit superstitious about Friday the 13th, and when his overnights were on that date, Aunt Martha sometimes would call him and, in her best scary voice, remind him, “It’s Friday…the 13th!!!!!”

Sadly, I lost both of my Uncle Johns within about 6 months of each other.  Uncle John Bryant was semi-retired, and had gone in to work at the funeral home one chilly day in January, 1992, when he had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to Baptist Hospital, lasting for another 8 days but never to awaken.  Not long before he went into the hospital I remember telling a friend at my job how cool it was that in 1992 Uncle John would get to have another “real” birthday.  He spent that one and all the ones since in Heaven.  I spent his next to last night with him in the hospital, and he began what I now understand was the active dying stage while I was with him.  All I knew then was that the nurse said I should call Aunt Martha and have her come as soon as she could, but he held on for many hours after that.  I was not present for his death and that bothered me for a long time.  Now I know it just wasn’t meant for me to be there, and that’s OK.  I’ll see him again someday.

He loved the Tennessee Vols and the Lion’s Club.  He loved going to the 1982 World’s Fair and seeing all the sights there.  He loved to joke about retiring and opening up a hot dog stand outside Neyland Stadium and becoming a millionaire.  He loved to joke, period.  He loved the succession of little dogs that were part of his and Aunt Martha’s family, and they both passed that love of dogs down to me.  He loved Aunt Martha and her kinfolks.  And he loved me.

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Flight

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There are many ways to fly…

Last week Jeff and I were in Orlando for our nephew’s wedding.  Usually when we take trips we drive, but since Orlando is a longer distance than we often travel, we opted to fly this time.  We are not the most seasoned travelers, and the process of flying in a plane is still something of an adventure, to me at least.  An adventure…and a mystery.

Our whole week there became for me a metaphor about the ways we travel through life, and the ways life travels around us.  Time really does fly.  The nephew who got married, Aaron, was about 3 years old when Jeff and I got married, and now he is a grown man, a doctor, marrying a wife of his own and well-established in his chosen field.

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His older brother and best man, Clark, is Nephew Number One, older by about 3 and 1/2 years than Aaron, successful in his career and life, with a beautiful wife and 2 adorable little boys of his own.  When Jeff and I got married, Clark was told that he could go on our honeymoon with us.  He was a little peeved when he found out he was not going to the beach after all!

How is it possible that these little squirts are all grown up?!  But they are.  And next June, Lord willing and knock wood, Jeff and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  Time flies.

While we were in Orlando, we took a little drive over to see Kennedy Space Center.  Talk about the mystery and wonders of flight!  Jeff and I marveled at the sights, exhibits and history there.  He said it may be his favorite day ever as a grown-up.  It was awe-inspiring to see and learn about the history of space travel, and humbling to imagine the courage of the pioneers who took those first brave flights into the unknown reaches of space.

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Back down to Earth, we enjoyed lovely views of lake and sky from our resort condo balcony.  It struck me every day, sometimes from hour to hour, how big and puffy the clouds were there.  I suppose it has something to do with the location and proximity to water, but the cloud formations were unusually beautiful, varying throughout the day.  I spent a good deal of time on our balcony reading one of my favorite little books, “Intra Muros” by Rebecca Ruter Springer.  It describes the author’s vision of Heaven during an extended illness.  The fluffy clouds and Springer’s words made me think of Heaven and the reunions we will enjoy there, in the presence of God and those we love who have gone before us.

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Anyone who knows me (or follows this blog!) knows that I collect feathers.  On our way into the visitor complex at Kennedy Space Center, I found one and tucked it safely inside my purse.  What a treat to remember our trip by.  On our way out of the complex, I found a second one, white and fluffy, much like the clouds I so enjoyed watching during our time away.  How poignant that, after flying on a jet to Aaron’s wedding where he and his new wife will take wing into the future, on our way to see the history of mankind’s efforts to fly into space, God should send me feathers to remind me that He created the birds of the air, giving them the ability to fly, before He ever created Man in His own image.

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Gracious Lord, thank You for your many gifts of Flight—flight of birds and humans to places far away, the flight of time, our flight through life and into the future, and eventually into Heaven.