Hope In Time Of Trouble
I know there is a God. I have known it my entire life. I am not given to shivers up my spine or dancing in the Spirit…but I know that my Guardian Angel is with me. Now you may say…give me your evidence…and I will say to feel it is to believe it. Church and faith can be two different things. A church may wrong you…it may be a cult…there is a fantastic amount of them out there…but faith is in your soul and nourished by your spirit. You carry faith with you and is readily apparent under challenging times. Love and faith are a bit the same. When someone wrongs you and you wish them well that is Love/Faith in action.
Billy B. lost his Dad. Not to death but to a fondness for another woman. Until that time the Sun rose and set in his Dad as far as Billy B. was concerned. Neva J. was devastated. She cried day and night and repeatedly apologized to Billy B. Billy B. understood that he was now the man of the house and that he must care for his Mom. Billy B. thought of the Bible Story Books that he had read in Dr. Ferrel’s Office. The brilliant drawings and the hopeful text gave him hope that everything was going to be alright. Time is a healer. Billy B. began to read the Bible and found its words comforting. He read that Jesus loved everyone and was no respecter of persons. Billy B. saw that Jesus was often sad over the condition of Jerusalem and the avarice and money changers and strife that had entered the Temple. Billy B. considered that there was no greater vocation than to follow Jesus. He looked at the painting of Jesus overlooking Jerusalem with a sad countenance. The painting spoke to him. Not audibly for again let me say Billy B. was not given to overt emotionalism…but he saw the living Christ as a reality in his life.
Older became Billy B. and somewhat wiser. He learned that although he had spent his life in church…some churches will take advantage of him. He learned that God and Church were not one and the same. A bad church did not affect Billy B.’s Christian Walk. God was not tied or restricted to any church. God lived in the hearts of men and animals and trees and sky and earth. God was much larger than the narrow minds of humanity that sought to control their brothers and sisters. A sense of place is what God gives each of us…not an artificial title in the church that is used to beat the sheep.
Freedom of thought is God’s way. Freedom of action and freedom of speech is his intention for his children. God is not into clones…
Two Books for the Road
On January first I set a reading goal for 2023. This year the number of books to aim toward is 52. Now, before I’d usually set the goal at 40. My …Two Books for the Road
Memorial Day 2023
The day started early for our annual quest to see our deceased family at three different cemeteries. First to Wolf Creek in Eldorado to see Aaron and Jonathon’s grandfather, Earl.
Aaron brought some wonderful peroxide cleaner with him and a scrub brush and we did some cleaning of the monument. It looked much better. Wolf Creek is the prettiest Cemetary that I have seen. With rolling hills and some shady spots, it is peaceful and serene. As we were leaving we noticed quite a number of people gathering for a Memorial Day Ceremony.
Next was Hickory Hill near Rend Lake where Mom is buried. Now she and her sister Guelda’s stones were very dirty and looked much older than the years that they have been deceased. MJ reminded us that Mom and Guelda had purchased their gravestones in the 1980s’ and they were very pleased with the good deal that they had obtained them for. The nearly 40- year -old stones looked their age. Aaron went to work on them and now they look nice.
Hickory Hill is not far from Pheasant Hollow Winery. Lunchtime seemed fortuitous. Between Orange Kiss and Red and Blue, we were set for Memorial Day repast. From the time that Jonathon and I went to the outside food truck that was selling Philly Steak sandwiches and fries until I returned to the Winery…a humongous crowd had gathered seemingly all at once. The line was three abreast out the door and into the parking lot. Our neighboring town of Herrin has what is called Herrinfiesta and the people waiting for wine were participants in a Jeep Poker Run and Pheasant Hollow was on the list. Having spent an hour longer than we had anticipated at the Pheasant…we chose to do the last cemetery in Elkville…soon.
Satisfying and sobering are the feelings I felt as I stood at the final resting place of my stepfather and my mother. I remembered the many laughs and good times that we had together. Mom was an eternal optimist. She was always grinning and laughing and working to ensure that those around her knew that she loved them and that no one was left behind.
Earl loved his grandkids and took every opportunity to show them that he did. When Aaron was no more than a toddler Earl took him to Walmart in Harrisburg and wanted to know which ball that Aaron wanted. Aaron pointed at a regulation basketball…and he came home with it. Earl loved Cracker Barrel and he availed himself of going on every occasion available to him. Jonathon loved the Peanut Butter Pie at the Barrel and Earl delighted in seeing him eat the first piece and asking him if he wanted another…to which Jonathon replied yes with a wide grin.
Cemeteries remind me of our shared mortality. We are here but a short time and we are gone a long time. Kindness should prevail in our little human experiment. Love is indeed the answer…
The Old Man In The Woods
The brilliant blue sky was dappled with wispy white clouds. It was quiet except for the singing of the birds and the skittering of the squirrels. The little creek was full of rushing water from the recent rains. The sun shone thru the gaps in the forest green. There was a solemnity and a joy in being one with the woods. A sense of almost having missed the point of life and in later life finding it. The news was hopeless…but the woods were hopeful.
The narrow paths were close but comforting. The old man walked on and identified over 100 species of trees and plants. Each time that he found a new one he was happy. Vines curled up into the sky and trees peered at him as he peered back. They seemed to say, ‘Where have you been Old Man…we thought that you had forgotten us?’
The Great Creator was close to the Old Man in the woods. The Old Man had studied him and wondered regarding him and sought him within buildings made of brick and mortar and stone. In the woods, he could see him firsthand. Live and let live. No gossip…just love.
The visitors saw the Old Man. He seemed to be out of place. Content, he was identifying his trees and taking a plethora of photos…and sitting and thinking with a small smile on his face. ‘Who is the Old Man,’ asked the lady? ‘He is here most days taking photos and walking …sometimes slow…and seeming to have not a care in the world,’ said the man. ‘Perhaps he is retired,’ the man continued. ‘He has been searching for the secret,’ said the Old Lady. ‘When he smiles his little wistful smile…you know that he has found it…’
Mel Brooks said it is good to be the king in one of his movies. On a picturesque Saturday before Memorial Day, life seems pleasant and serene. I observed that MJ had a new seersucker garment and decided nothing would be finer than ordering a seersucker shirt for my summer travels and experiences. I had some seersucker shirts many years ago and liked them very much. I even possessed a seersucker sport coat one long ago time. I like saying seersucker…it has a unique ring to it. As I entered Giant City today I noticed what a difference a day makes when it is Memorial Day Weekend. Yesterday the parking lots were either empty or had one or two vehicles in them. At the same time, today they were packed with family picnic revelers and family reunions and those of us who had decided that now is the time to enjoy the out-of-doors.
Decoration Day is what my family referred to Memorial Day as. They purchased flowers and pots to put them in and wreaths to place on or near the Gravestones of their loved ones. Our dearly departed were never far from us. We spoke of them often and laughed about the antics and wondered what they would have said in situations where we found ourselves. Neva J. remembered her brother Dutch. Dutch went missing during the Second World War. Grandma Askew always believed that Dutch would either come home one day or contact her. Dutch was known to disappear for periods of time before the War. Indeed he must have performed his disappearing act during the conflict.
Soda Pop and slow days were the order of the day when Billy B. was young. He slept until noon if he wanted to. Bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches for Brunch when he arose. Pounds Hollow Swim Days with Chet and Brenda and Jane and Neva J. driving the beloved 57′ Chevy. You literally could lay on the beach and watch the sunset. No homework is to be done…no schedule to keep…no book reports being given. Ralphie was not the only one who had a Red Ryder BB Gun. There was target practice at tin cans and once in a while a bird in the oak tree. Billy B. actually hit a little bird and it fell out of the tree and it was dead. He felt so bad that he never shot another.
Hot it is on Memorial Day Weekend…especially when you do not have air conditioning. Memorial Day signified the days of waking up hot and sweaty and remaining so for the entire day and evening and then as they say…wash and repeat. Bicycle time came with Memorial Day. Riding up the gravel road to town and enjoying the warm breeze. No need for the woolen hat of winter or the flannel shirt…just the open road and bugs in your teeth.
We sat and talked about the meaning of life and its brevity. Billy B.’s classmate Neal died suddenly. He was a friendly person who spoke each time that he saw you and never wavered from his wide grin and peaceful manner. Soldiers were dying then…soldiers are dying now. We tell ourselves that we are on that perfect quest for the Peaceable Kingdom. Elvis put out at least a movie a year as did John Wayne. Both were Amerian Icons and people to be emulated and admired.
President Kennedy was assassinated. Our next President sought to fulfill his predecessor’s vision and political agenda…but not on Vietnam…on that subject, he did just the opposite.
African Americans asked to be judged by the content of their character. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Still, we marched to Pretoria…Pretoria…Pretoria…
Bobby Kennedy wanted to help the migrant workers and the poor and he ran for President…and he was assassinated…and yet we marched on hoping to get it right… someday…
The Old Ways
‘Come and get it kiddo…we have liver with fried onions,’ Neva J. proclaimed. ‘You know that it is good for your blood the doctors say,’ she continued. ‘My blood has been feeling fine,’ Billy B. answered. ‘I hear that Gone With The Wind is on at the Orpheum this weekend…I want to hear Rhett Butler tell Scarlett that, ‘Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn,’ Jane laughed. ‘Buckley said damn the other day in class and Mrs. K. washed his mouth out with soap,’ Chet observed. ‘I do not usually condone curse words and no one should ever take the Lord’s name in vain…but I do enjoy watching Gone With The Wind,’ Neva J. said with a lilting laugh. ‘You know Mr. Dillard has the most mannerly sons I have ever encountered,’ Neva J. said. ‘Yesterday Billy B. and I went to his home to pay our insurance premium and one of his boys answered the door…he called me mam and thank me for dropping off the payment,’ Neva J. continued. ‘Did you know that their father has a chair that aids him in standing…he had polio as a child,’ Jane said.
‘I have got to practice my cursive writing more…you know the old saying…reading, writing and arithmetic, Billy B. said with a concerned look on his face. ‘Gas has gone up…I paid 32 cents a gallon this morning and Ethyl is 35 cents. It won’t be long before I will not be able to fill up the 57′ on a five dollar bill,’ bemoaned Neva J. ‘I suppose we will be alright as long as we can afford bologna, said Billy B. ‘Hot dogs are my favorite…right out of the package…cold and good,’ Chet grinned a Cheshire Cat grin. ‘It will be good to return to my summer job at Western Auto…Mr. Slim says that he will raise my pay a dime an hour…imagine 60 cents an hour…I will be rich,’ Billy B. exulted!
‘I just do not like thongs as my primary footwear in the summer…I have trouble getting them to stay on my feet,’ said Jane. ‘On seventh street, all the kids go barefoot all summer but I tried it and do not like the feeling…the rocks hurt,’ Chet said. ‘My shoes make my feet sweat…I think that they look like leather…but they are not leather,’ Billy B. moaned.
Well, the badminton net is strung and I have some new birdies…did everyone bring their rackets,’ Neva J. asked? ‘Will there be Cokes and Sweet Tea,’ Jane asked? ‘Do not forget Oscar Meyer…and do not scare them with the fire for the hamburgers,’ Chet smiled.
‘Cousin Gene has been drafted…probably headed to Vietnam,’ Neva J. said with a sigh. ‘Six U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday,’ Chet said with a stone-faced expression. ‘Why are we fighting in Vietnam…I know three people who have been killed and many more who are not the same when they return to the States,’ Jane said. Mr. Feazel said the other day in class that we should negotiate a peace treaty and withdraw…he is a minister,’ Billy B. said. ‘Many boys are moving to Canada to avoid the draft…I do not blame them,’ Neva J. mused with tears in her eyes. ‘You know all I have heard is that we must do what our President tells us to do and if he says to go to another country and fight and die…then it is our duty…but I can not shake the nagging question in my mind…what if he is wrong,’ Chet asked?
‘Well, Monday is the big S. Day,’ said Neva J. ‘Monday is Memorial Day…what is the S. for,’ Jane asked? ‘Swim Day…Pounds Hollow will be open once again and we are all going there to celebrate. Billy B. had thought for a few seconds that Neva J. was referring to her dedicated schedule of restroom focus. She had a condition whereby she believed that she could not void her bowels without laxatives and mineral oil and in the early years prune juice. Have you ever tried prune juice…it is an acquired taste. However…I digress. ‘I will be the first one in the water,’ Billy B. proclaimed! ‘I will bring the scuba gear that I received for Christmas,’ Chet said. ‘Do you really have scuba gear,’ Daryl asked? Well, some people call it snorkeling…but I refer to it as scuba,’ Chet answered.
The Hollow was as lovely as ever. It was a warm Memorial Day. In Little Egypt, the summer months are June July, and August. Memorial Day had June’s Heat. ‘I will carry the umbrella,’ Billy B. announced. ‘Hey, guys…I have snorkels for each of us and we will go out into the deep water that is beyond the rope…as usual, there is no lifeguard,’ Chet proclaimed. ‘First things first…let us have some hot dogs and Charles Chips and a Dixie Cup of Merlot,’ Neva J. laughed.
‘I love this deep water…it seems like another world when we swim so far out,’ Jane said. ‘Did you see the old gravestones down deep in the water,’ Chet asked with a serious look on his face? ‘Yes…it was surreal because it had Neva J.’s name on one and her sister Guelda on the other,’ Billy B. replied. ‘I recalled as I stared at them that Aaron and Jonathon and MJ and I visited the Headstones at Hickory Hill Cemetery Memorial Day and that we took some cleaner along to wash the grime off of them,’ Billy B. said with a quizzical stare. ‘Neva J. is on the beach under an umbrella with a Dixie Cup full of Merlot,’ Daryl said with some force. ‘Yes…but not forever,’ Billy B. said…
The voices we hear in the media are usually strident and opinionated. If you did not know better you would think that we all have evolved into creatures with bull horns attached to our mouths. It seems we have all become a bit of a niche person. You know the type of person who talks with God on a personal and business-like basis and may have been your friend until you parted ways…politically… Since you do not agree with their chosen politician you do not agree with them. Thus instead of our former understanding of disagreeing but not becoming disagreeable, we have decided to demonize the unenlightened.
It has been said that we read less than ever. When I was a lad my mom read two or three books per month and did not have a high school diploma. Now politicians tell us to throw out those books that do not agree with our religious/political ideology. These politicians have no purpose in their restriction on literature than their own political expediency.
We worry and fret and wring our hands together as the rich in our country get richer and the poor sit outside the gate of the city seeking a morsel of bread. But, someone has to be the wicker man…someone has to be the culprit and the goat and the one who has caused our economic woes…so we blame the poor among us and the visitor to our shores and the destitute and the homeless.
We become bored easily. Plenty to eat and warm in the winter and cool in the summer and a house on the hill that is protected from the rising sea…we look out of our gated community to determine who are the ringleaders of the insurrection…when all we need to do is to look in the mirror…
People are scurrying about it like it is almost Memorial Day. At Giant City today the mower guys were out two by two and waving and grinning at the old man on his seeking tour of new plant and tree species. I recalled the many cold days and several with snow and some ice that I had spent in the same woods just a few short weeks ago. Life is never dull…it is constantly changing. I was pointing my iPhone at some ground growth and the species finder said snake and so I peered to see if I could see it…and then decided if the iPhone saw the snake I had better trust its sight which I am certain is better than mine.
HBO Max has been transformed into Max as of today. There have been commercials heralding this transformation for weeks. I have yet to examine the changes but on their advertised face they sound much the same.
I reflected on the many times that I have been in groups… or work for another person and they benevolently endeavored to keep me in my place. You know what I mean by the Superior and Inferior Mystique. I have even experienced this dynamic in churches. I have never believed that I was anyone’s Superior or Inferior. What a bizarre concept that is rooted in a profound inferiority complex.
I often wondered when I was younger how old people morphed into looking like old people. Now I see the dark magic working on me. I rather like looking old…most days. In some circles, you get a modicum more respect. At times young people want to help you with your groceries. I get a price reduction for my haircut and sometimes the young lady does not charge me at all for a beard trim. Years ago a barber told me that in my computer notes regarding what type of haircut I was to receive it said that I was a very nice person. I try to keep my nice reputation intact when I receive my haircut.
As a youth I attended a church that had a lot of old congregants…like I am now. MJ and I would do the grocery shopping for some of them. On one occasion we brought back some Vlasic Dill Pickles to Connie. Now Connie had specifically requested Claussen Dill Pickles but we could not find them. When she saw what we had done there was nothing to do but for MJ and I to return to the Market and find the Claussen Dills that were kept next to the meat. Now I fear that senior church members do not receive the same attention.
I just finished my favorite Stephen King novel of all time, Fairy Tale. I was captivated. I customarily do my reading through Audio Books as it allows me to multitask. I simply could not stop listening to this wonderful and intricate yarn. Let me just say that after reading this masterpiece I can understand how alternate or parallel universes may exist. It also mirrored my love for dogs.
You Did Your Best
Expectations are high in our world. You can not have too much education we are told. If you want to get ahead just working one full-time job is a prescription of ‘Idel hands are the devil’s workshop.’ With promotion you can obtain the elusive prestige that you have been instructed is essential to being evaluated as a success. Often we are a square peg being jammed into a round hole.
The modern standard of excellence that we are striving to obtain is elusive. No one feels this more than women. Having both the stress of a job and a family and the societal expectations that they can do both with flare is a bit preposterous. Women are admonished that they must excel in their chosen careers while at the same time raising exemplary children…as well as being witty and adroit and always prepared for the next challenge. I wonder how we macho males would feel if women were leering at us while expecting excellence in our work product and home life and to be the fulfillment of adolescent fantasies?
Idols we seek to pattern ourselves after. Having grown up on John Wayne westerns we look for Jesus who must have watched them too and fashioned himself after the Duke’s example. We seek approval and validation from people who are like us. Shoot them up movies and cops and robbers and hard drinking at the bar to fulfill our idol of manliness and male achievement. Men want to cry but have been taught not to. Men need someone to listen to their deepest fears and challenges but that does not fit the template.
Everyone is not like you. We did not all hale from your neck of the woods. Perhaps you enjoy wearing red trousers with a smart bowler hat placed jauntily upon your head. Indeed you may march to the tune of your own drummer and speak your convictions to an audience of blank stares…be proud of who you are!
Judge, too closely we do. We assume that people are doing one thing or another with malice in their hearts when in reality they are feeling their way along the dark and windy road of life. We seek to diagnose the maladies that are in our neighbors…while we seek autonomy in our actions and purposes. We stumble often and at times fall. It is not about the stumbles and falls…it is about getting back up again and putting one foot in front of the other as we walk our life road.