Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Diary...

Yesterday, several family members descended on my Mom's house for a work day. There was a ton of culling, filtering, sorting, and sibling brotherly love to fight through. It was a day of surprises as it seemed around every corner and in every drawer we found the unexpected. Amazing and hitherto unknown pictures of Mom and Dad popped up repeatedly, some from their early marriage days. If you can believe the pictures, they were crazily in love.

Somehow I ended up in the garage, and I began work on a stack of boxes over there with the leaf rake and rusty shovels. About three boxes into this fun activity, I opened a box, blew decades of dust away, and stared directly into the life of my father's mother. For here lay bunches and bunches of diaries - a mother lode of personal history from the 60's and 70's. Curious guy that I am, I immediately began pulling back the curtain on her innermost thoughts.

So this leads to an important question. Do diary writers write for themselves or for others? Is the diary for their eyes only or for those who find them in dusty boxes years later? Was Granny Fenn hoping that no one would ever read her words but her or was she penning words with an eye towards getting feelings and facts right for someone else's eyes? Hopefully I'll know the answer soon. Pleasure reading rarely gets better than this.

By the way, on a random note, as a teacher I was tormented by the word "diary". Often the word would come up as we looked at civil war resources, and inevitably, the kids would spell it "dairy". This led to hysterical sentences like, "We learned a lot about this Tennessee rebel soldier by examining his dairy." Oh boy, thank goodness for moments like that to give a teacher a break from the torture of endless papers to grade!

Friday, December 26, 2008

3 pretty good parents

Ever think about Jesus' 3 parents? You could do worse, you know.

First, you have his heavenly father, the Heavenly Father. They had such a tight relationship, such love, that when the Father needed a sacrifice big enough to show his love for mankind, he gave up that son. Now I don't want to explore the concept of the Holy Trinity...because it can't be understood this side of heaven. One needs only to listen to Jesus' words on the cross to grasp the love..."Father, why have you forsaken me?" So it goes without saying, parent #1 was special.

Then there is Joseph, the humble carpenter. I see him as a man of quiet class and dignity. Did you know that there are no recorded words of Joseph in the Bible? We all know that he could have become quite the angry man upon learning that his betrothed was pregnant. We know he received instructions in a dream and did what he was told. And strangely, he isn't mentioned in the Scriptures after his 12 year-old's son's little incident at the Temple. But he must have had an incredible influence on his boy. One can almost see him in the workshop, patiently teaching Jesus about tools for wood...and life.

And there is Mom. The one selected to participate in the strangest plan possible, to smuggle the Saviour into the earthly realm against all sensibility. The one who was there to the end. Can her faith be adequately described? Did she wake up from her vision and say, "Naw, that didn't happen"? Nope, she resolutely understood and obeyed. And through her, we've all been blessed. We'll never know the depth and scope of her influence on her boy, but it must have been considerable.

Quite a triumvirate.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Behold, Steve Morris

The plan was, this morning, to roll out of bed fairly early and head to Love Field for some airline photography. After all it's been since early October since I pointed a loaded camera at unsuspecting aircraft. My passion became an afterthought with all that was going on with Mom.

But the bed was just too warm. I did briefly peek out the window at the sky and saw wispy clouds, enough to discourage a guy who likes full sun to shoot planes. So I slithered back between the sheets and edged toward the warm wife. The cold aluminum fuselages would have to wait for another day.

Then, this evening, I find the above photo, taken by the incomparable Steve Morris, a retired British Airways pilot. He has a zoom lens that has to be carted around on a dolly. And, he's a genius. So, when I see that shot, I get the fever again. Makes me want to get out of bed early and get a few sunrise pics. Except, tomorrow is Christmas Day. Rats!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Today provided a much needed injection of warm fuzzies into my system. On Wednesday, I had basically watched Mom die, and it was tough. From 6 AM until she died at 2:30 PM, she had to battle for each breath, her chest heaving, her head thrown back when she inhaled and thrown down as she exhaled. This even with oxygen being administered. So when it was finally over, there was palpable relief in the room that heaven had a new occupant.

I had real trouble sleeping that night, unable to rid my brain of (1) what I had witnessed during the day, and (2) flashbacks of memories of Mom from my childhood. But today, I listened as two ministers who knew my parents well reminisce about them during the graveside service. And I learned things I had not heard before. One minister had decades ago decided to forego a normal preaching job and launch out in an individual mission to save souls on his own. He told me after the service that had it not been for an injection of cash from my folks, the idea would have never gotten off the ground.

We were introduced to a man with a 3rd grade education who was wearing a suit my father had given him. Through the efforts of my parents and others, he became an amazing student of the Bible and is now office manager at Mom's church. Scores of others descended on my siblings and me with similar stories. What a boost! How great is it to find out things that they had done without tooting their horn, just trying to be Jesus to those who needed Him. Things of which we had no knowledge.

So the transition has been made and nothing in our lives will be the same. But this is all good...especially with such an amazing heritage passed on to us kids. What an awesome example they left for us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Born: January 22, 1922
Died: December 17, 2008
Give Dad a big hug for us up there, Mom. We will always love you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

Most days, I feel like I'm stealing money from Dallas County Schools, the folks who write out checks to me from time to time. I drive a new bus, I drive a great route, my female passengers are great most of the time, and I get to tower over most itty-bitty vehicles on the road. A real power trip.

Then there are days like today. Black ice is a killer. It lurks in secret places and snatches control of buses and cars and especially trucks. I couldn't believe all the parents who seemed to drop off their kids at the bus stops this morning, almost cavalierly assuming I could be trusted. Were I in their shoes, I'd want a full background check, a drug test, and a notorized statement saying that I'd never been to a Texas Rangers game. Trust me, today I felt the full burden of the knowledge that I was carrying 40 or so precious children - children whose parents would be devastated beyond repair if I did something foolish on the I-20 overhead ramp to I-45.

Naturally, I said my prayers. And after more than four hours total time behind the wheel, I parked my yellow-hound and 'bout collapsed on the steering wheel. The tension in my shoulders and neck was palpable. So was the fatigue.

Another day, another dollar. Tomorrow's menu is "freezing fog". Mercy, I can't wait.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rating the carols

It's Friday night and Carole and I are unwinding from a difficult week. She's on her laptop and I'm on mine. Dish Network has a holiday channel playing nothing but Christmas music and the carols are playing softly in the background. Which leads me to a treatise on those carols.

Don't we all have some that instantly transport us back to our youth? You know, back when it was normal to say and use the word "Christmas" on commercials and advertisements. Whenever I hear "Come let us adore Him", I'm instantly zipped back to the 5th grade, where I'm standing in the front hallway of Mt. Auburn Elementary, singing that carol with classmates as students are escorted past us to start the Christmas break.

But when I hear two particular songs, I get the spirit...the Christmas spirit. These make me smell fir trees, see colored lights, and think of presents. One is "The Christmas Song". You know, the one with chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I heard on a local radio station that this song was written on one of the hottest summer days ever in California. Whoever wrote it, seems like it was Mel Torme, was jotting down things that reminded him of cold weather and the holidays. Nat King Cole recorded it and the rest is history.

The other is the ubiquitous "Silent Night". That one gets me in the mood to give and receive. Of course, when we were all younger, the thrill was receiving. Now it's giving. That's one of the great things about having grandkids. You can again relive your childhood excitement as you watch their faces explode in joy as they rip away the wrapping paper. At least, it better happen that way.

On the flip side, one cannot discuss the worst carols without shoving "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to the forefront. What a beating! All that repetition and nonsense! And the very slow, incongruous "five golden rings" right in the middle. Anyone who can listen to this thing all the way through, if they are still alive, needs immediate psychological evaluation. The song is a bucket of ice water thrown on the Christmas spirit. And close behind is one about the little drummer boy. Please. Deliver me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Update on Mom

These are tough days for me and my siblings. Mom has a host of physical problems and some mental ones as well. Physically, she is weak and is frequently short of breath. She doesn't like having the oxygen thingy in her nose and many times takes it out. Then when the staff measures her oxygen blood level, it's in the low 90's rather than the upper 90's. Her heart is bad and she has little appetite. She hasn't gotten out of bed much the last two days due to nausea.

The mental issues really get to us. So much deep confusion about things in the here and now. The other day, she had worked herself into a frenzy over her car and where it was parked. Of course, we sold her car last January. When I finally convinced her of that, she started claiming that it must be a rental car, then. She wanted to know when I was leaving for Denver. Of course, that was news to me. It's so sad to see someone who owned a brilliant mind in her prime now having all those synapses and neurons misfiring.

There's the irony of role-reversal going on. How often did she sit me down in my growing-up years and patiently explain how things were? And now I'm in her chair and she's in mine. I had to have her to care of me then; she has to have us to care for her now.

Some might be offended by my next statement...I'm praying for God to take her soon, peacefully and gracefully. Her time this side of the curtain has been well-spent and honorable. Her body and mind are failing rapidly. It's time for a reunion in heaven with my Dad, her parents, and 3 of her siblings. I think it's really okay to speak that when you're talking about a Christian. We all are going to be so much better off there than here. In her case, I'm willing to trade my immediate grief for her transition to that mansion in the sky.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Time Machine

I just returned from a trip to the attic. The mission was to put a lighted wreath in the window. Mission accomplished, but little did I know I was stepping into a time machine.

Walking past those boxes of stuff we'd stashed up there, I just couldn't keep from checking them out. "Stuff" means spiral notebooks from college, bank statements from the '70's, leftover army gear from my six years in the military, and exquisite couple's photos from college banquets to which I'd been invited in the late '60's. I hated being invited to those things. Girls who otherwise were certifiably attractive would spend hours at the beauty shop getting their hair swirled into a turban shape and stacked like flapjacks atop their craniums. Then, in the style du jour, there would be a curly little strand dangling down in front of each ear, looking for all the world like pigs' tails.

It was almost as if the girls at the banquet were in a contest to see how high they could get their respective beehives. I wondered if all the guys felt as I did, that these weren't the girls we expected. They were aliens, visitors from planet Klimchock who had happened to land in Abilene, Texas for a night of frivolity. I sincerely hope some of them have recently visited their attics and seen the same pictures...and I hope they are aghast at what they see.