A Candle in the Window….

 

“You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night….”

It’s been thirty-two years and the words to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” still resonates with memories when I hear it.  Memories of crazy older “kids” falling in love.  I heard the song this morning as I walked alone around the lake at Lookup.  Physically alone but not ever really alone.  I smiled thinking of the woman I married thirty-two years ago….  “The most interesting woman in the world” to hijack the words of a beer commercial.  My smile became broader as I thought of her.

“Oh, I can’t fight this feeling any longer and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow.  What started out this friendship has grown stronger.  I only wish I had the strength to let it show.”

I had no intention of getting married again.  I had no intention of falling into love again.  The previous memories were too painful…but Providence would intervene.   I had no intention of meeting my bride on top of a football stadium’s press box or later with an inflatable pumpkin perched upon her head.  Serendipity would intervene in the form of a hazel eyed, dark-haired sprite who would torment my thoughts, inappropriate thoughts because she was dating my roommate.  Destiny would intervene when they broke up.

“I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever, I said there is no reason for my fear, ’cause I feel so secure when we’re together….”

We go to family gatherings, get together with friends, the occasional party…I find myself close by…preferring to talk with her than anyone else…close enough to touch and whisper in her ear.  I’m not being snobbish, I would just rather talk to her.

I can’t comprehend her not being around, it’s as if she has been around forever.  “Dear God, please take us together or take me first….”

“And I can’t fight this feeling anymore, I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.  It’s time to bring this ship into the shore and throw away the oars, forever.”

I did fight it…even after she and my roommate broke their ties.  Often my loyalty is misplaced, and I was never going to fall in love again.  We danced around the issue…maybe…maybe I danced around the issue.

We found ourselves at school and athletic functions, enjoying each other’s company.  She actually laughed at my stupid jokes.  I found her captivating, intoxicating and any other ‘ating’ one might think of except ‘dating.’  I couldn’t quite pull the trigger and ask her out…finally she tired of my dance and asked me out.  I’m slow but I’m not stupid.

She is my anchor and I am her storm-tossed, rudderless ship…except when we reverse our roles.

“My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you.  I’ve been running around in circles in my mind.”

We are more like leaves caught in a whirlwind…blown where ever our whims and chance send us.  I remember an early anniversary when we decided to drive to the coast the weekend after our June 29th. wedding celebration.  Our decision was an impulse masquerading as a great idea…a romantic idea.  I’m sure it was her idea.

As we rolled into Georgetown it dawned upon us the weekend after our wedding anniversary was the Fourth of July weekend.  There were no rooms in the inn and we weren’t Mary and Joseph.  Once again happenstance saved us in the form of the Chamber of Commerce.  One bed and breakfast with a room was available.  According to Otto von Bismarck, “A special Providence takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States.”  I don’t know about the drunks and the US but for thirty-two years Providence has taken a liking to two fools in love.

I wish I had met her sooner…had fallen in love with her sooner…but then we weren’t the people we would become.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have been ready to “to crawl upon the floor, come crashing through (her) door.” Perhaps she wouldn’t have been ready to be my “candle in the window.”  No, I’ll keep things as they are.

Linda Gail, I love you and would do it all over again a thousand times.  To my best friend, my lover, my wife…mother of my beautiful, blind puppies, I love you.

Thanks to REO Speedwagon “Can’t Fight This Feeling”

Album: Wheels Are Turnin’

Released: 1984

Songwriter: Kevin Cronin

Recorded: August 1984

 

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

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A Memory

My junior year in high school, Paul Neal’s retirement as principal caused a domino effect as my football and baseball coach, Bennett Gunter was named principal and his assistant coach, Randolph Potts, became head football and baseball coach.  Two more hats to add to an already crowded resume.  He was already the basketball coach, as in girl’s and boys’ basketball coach.  Oh, he taught science and physical education too.

This was fifty years ago when coaching staffs were just a bit smaller than they are now.  We had two football coaches…total.  I coached high school football for twenty-nine years and even our junior varsity staffs had more coaches by then.

Coach Potts passed away this weekend which is causing me to reflect on the strange and wonderful relationships between coaches and their players.  I feel honored to have been on both sides of the equation and honored to have been coached by Coach Potts.

Coaching and the game of football have changed drastically since the late summers of 1966 and 1967. For thirty-three years, through many of those changes, football was an integral part of my life either playing or coaching it.  I had many coaches and mentors who helped teach me a philosophy of coaching.  As I think back, Randy Potts gave me my first building block.

I was not totally unfamiliar with the new head coach.  He had been a fixture since my first season as an aspiring player and my position coach those previous years.  I remember a tall man with a blond flat top, a prominent nose, and a cheek stretched wide with a “chaw” of tobacco.  A blue wool baseball cap with a gold IL on the front.  A gray tee shirt over khaki pants, rolled up to show white socks and black coach’s shoes…oh, my god, he was my coaching fashion icon too.

I was a terrible athlete, an even worse football player, and fortunate to play on a team with a small number of players.  It gave me a chance to play and I had the opportunity to display my ineptness on many occasions.  One example stands out more than others and drew the deserved wrath of Coach Potts.  At home against Pageland, I met soon to be South Carolina standout Al Usher on the five-yard line with time running out in the first half.  I brought him down ten yards later in the middle of the end zone.  I’m glad halftime was just seconds away, had Coach Potts had any more time to percolate over my effort he might have killed me.  Instead, I got my ears pinned back, shoulder pads pounded, a spray of tobacco juice and a face full tobacco breath to go with it.  No, he was not happy.  Years later, as I began my own coaching career, I would understand.

The following year, also against Pageland, we played in a miserable, torrential, game long downpour.  We moved the ball up and down the field but managed to only put a touchdown on the scoreboard.  We missed the extra point.  Backed up, late in the game I snapped the ball over my punter’s head for a safety.  Pageland scored after the ensuing free kick and despite missing their extra point try, I was lower than whale poop.  We lost eight to six.  It is the only game score I can recall.

I have clear remembrances of sitting in the visiting dressing room, uniform running in water, afraid to look at any teammate eyeball to eyeball.  I wanted to cry but back then real men never cried.  No one said they blamed me which wasn’t the problem, I blamed me.

Coach Potts ambled over and sat down, creating one of those defining moments in a young man’s life.  He said, “Son, don’t blame yourself.  If we had done the things we were supposed to do, that snap wouldn’t have mattered.  Tomorrow the sun will shine…if it quits raining.”  This time he patted me on the shoulder pads.  It did quit raining.

I referred to the moment as defining because as I began my teaching and coaching career, his statement helped guide me.  A game may hinge on one play but if everyone does their job, no one play should matter.  If it does, it’s everyone’s fault, a team sport.  I had a couple of occasions to pass his statement on to needy players.

Some twenty-five years later I got to tell him what his warmhearted and compassionate comment meant to me.  For some forgotten reason, he was in Greenville and asked if he could stop by my office at Greenville High.  I was in the middle of finding out I was not football head coaching material and he was trying to sell life insurance, but we were able to spend some quality time together.  I didn’t buy any insurance, but I do remember telling him what the effect of his words was and how they helped shape who I was.  Today I am thankful I had that opportunity.

Rest in Peace Coach Potts and thanks. The former player whose error kept us out of the state championship thanks you too.  He just didn’t know it was you.

Don Miller’s author’s site may be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

 

 

In Praise of Corn

 

Most of the people here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge have a love affair with the first tomato sandwich of the season.  That would be the ones they make with homegrown or at least local tomatoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them too.  A Cherokee Purple running with Duke’s Mayonnaise on white bread, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper…no it doesn’t get better than that…unless you are a corn lover.  Now, in all honesty, I am waiting patiently for my Cherokee Purples to start showing color but last summer I ate or drank corn every day it was available.

There is something about the first roastin’ ear of the season…or first half dozen…at least for me.  Dripping in butter, or not.  Seasoned with salt and pepper, or not.  I don’t care, the first corn of the season is truly a reason to celebrate.  I’m celebratin’ today!

I grew up on a farm that grew copious amounts of corn.  Corn for boiling, creaming, soup mix, or chowder.  It was one of the main ingredients in my grandmother’s chicken pot pies or the occasional “cooter stew.”  Her creamed corn is still the best I’ve ever eaten and I miss it.

Dried, it was ground into cornmeal and grits to enjoy when fresh corn wasn’t available.  Cornbread, cheese and butter grits, corn pone, corn dodgers, and hush puppies.  Yellow, white or bicolor, it didn’t matter.

Corn fed our livestock, even the cobs were ground into a powder mixed with water to serve to our pigs.  The feed bags they were stored in would later become dresses sown from patterns by and for my grandmother, the scraps turned into patchwork quilts.  “Nothing wasted!”

Some might have been allowed to ferment with yeast and barley grain.  Later it would be distilled, stored in light blue gallon Ball mason jars with a few peaches or cherries thrown in for good measure.  Some…if the wrong person asks I’m denying it.

I admit I’ve even eaten it raw, once.  Later, after I recovered, I read an account of the Battle of Camden where it seems the defeat of the Patriot forces might have been aided by the raw corn they consumed along the way.  I guess it is hard to fight with your pants hanging around your ankles.

Well, today is the day.  I got the call from my local “corn monger” and went by and picked up a dozen ears of bicolor.  I used to grow my own until the raccoons discovered it.  Little bastards keep coming back.  They like it about as much as I do.

Um, um, um.  I’m torturing myself and waiting just a bit longer…okay, that’s long enough, my stomach is growling.  Bring enough water to cover the corn to a rolling boil, put in your husked corn, cover and wait until the water has returned to a boil and turn it off.  It is done…don’t you dare overcook it.  Today I will roll it in butter and lightly salt it.

In my best Bugs Bunny voice, “Bon Appétit, you maroons.”

bugs

Image by https://www.eatbydate.com/how-long-to-boil-corn/

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

 

On Father’s Day

As I contemplate my own fatherhood on Father’s Day, awaiting a luncheon with darlin’ daughter, son-in-law, and grandbabies, I can’t help but think about my father.  I don’t have enough memories…I’ve now outlived him by ten years.  He died when I was twenty-six as I was just beginning my own pathway to adulthood, a sometimes twisting, bumpy pathway that he might have been able to smooth and straighten out.

“Foss” was a small man who, at least in my own memories, cast a much larger shadow…a shadow that gets larger as I get older I’m sure.  He was five feet six in his shoes but now seems much taller.

A member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”, he left my mother to be and went off to fight fascism and militarism with MacArthur’s army in the Philippines.  Like everything he did in his life, he did it the best way he could, with a wrench in his hand instead of a rifle, keeping landing craft afloat and moving troops and material to the beachheads.  Not very heroic or as flashy as a Thompson sub-machine gun but just as necessary.

After the war, he made a living the same way, with a wrench, as a loom fixer for Spring Mills, toiling in grease, lint, and heat.  I still have the thirty-year pen he proudly wore on his suit coat lapel.  He and my mother provided a home and everything that was necessary for my good life…not everything I wanted, but everything I needed.  A good life I find myself meandering back toward as I approach my own autumn years.

I’m most proud of the way he treated my mother…yes, they had their battles, she was a red-headed Scot-Irish lass and had the stereotypical temper to go with the hair.  Her explosions were thunderclaps that abated quickly, and Ernest usually absorbed them stoically.  I was always surprised when he didn’t…whether it was reacting to her or something stupid that I had done.  While I never heard him say it, I’m sure he loved her.

Later, when she was diagnosed with ALS, he was there.  Physically and emotionally, he supported her every way he could while attempting to keep body and soul intact.  He didn’t do it alone, but he was there for us all and I’m proud of his efforts.

I shouldn’t make this sound like our relationship was idyllic…there were moments, especially after he remarried.  I have a note he left me, a cherished bit of memorabilia.  It stated simply, “The lawn mower has been in the front yard for a week.  Either use it or put it up.”  He was a man of few words and actions did speak louder than words…although when he sat me down for a “talking to” I would have rather he just hit me and get it over with.

It’s been forty-eight years since he died, literally in the cotton mill he worked in.  I remember the phone call from my brother.  Like most sons, there was much I wish I had told him when I had time…I just didn’t take the time.  I did receive a bit of closure.  In a codeine-fueled battle with pneumonia, he came to me in a dream.  With him sitting at the foot of my bed we talked.  I was able to tell him things I had not.  I was able to tell him I loved him.  The dream was too real to have just been a dream.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Leave Me A Link and I’ll Share Your Page!!

Dream Big, Dream Often

As most of my followers know I am big into helping other bloggers gain more exposure. My goal has been to grow a community of like-minded people and I am part way to my goal.  I am bringing back the open call to leave a link and I’ll share it for you!!

To get a reblog you must do the following:

  1. leave me a link to your page, and
  2. Share this post with your followers.

Each day I’ll randomly select 3 links to reblog.  I’m not sure it gets much simpler.  You can leave as many links as you want and I’ll cycle this post from day-to-day so more people can jump on board.

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Even in the Garden of Eden….

Alert…this is not a religious post just a story about snakes.

I have a fear of snakes.  Not a phobia of snakes.  Just given the choice of petting a kitten or petting a snake I’m going to pick the kitten…every time!  While I don’t have a hatred of snakes I also don’t want to live with them.  We have ninety acres of woodlands, streams, hills, and valleys.  They need to stay out there where they belong.  Just after we moved into our little piece of heaven, we found snakeskins…loooooong snakeskins as in five feet plus and they weren’t out in the woodlands, streams, hills, and valleys.   We found them under the house, in the attic, and behind the cheap paneling cladding our beadboard walls.  The next spring, we would find out where some of those snakeskins came from.

It was a late May day when I first made the acquaintance of one of my black rat snakes.  Laying in the sun, he was not nearly as scared of me as I was of him…or her.  How does one tell?  How many steps do you run when you first see a snake lying next to your foot?  My escape was more of a combination hop and lunge followed by three rapid steps before my mind said, “Shut it down, it was a black snake and nothing poisonous.”  It was a huge reptile, as was its mate. They were a matching pair of near six-footers I saw together several days later.  Both had recently shed their skin and their black skin seemed to glisten in the bright sunshine.  I wish they would stay OUT in the bright sunshine.

Late one afternoon I saw my three puppies sitting outside the back door leading onto our combination back porch washroom which was adjacent to our kitchen.  As I continued past them I told them, “You can sit there and wait but your Mommy (Linda Gail) is not here.”  There was no reaction except for wagging tails and their attention seemed to focus on the back door which rarely closed on its own and was always slightly ajar.  My attention was also drawn to the door when I noticed a foot of rat snake tail peeking out from underneath.  Oh pooh!  I ran around and went in the front door, jogged to the kitchen and found the rat snake occupying the kitchen, back porch, AND steps leading to it…ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  I stepped toward Snakey hoping it would retreat.  It did, right under the dryer.  Crap!  Okay if I rock the dryer maybe I can entice it to move…but it might move right up my britches leg.  If I crawl on top of the dryer maybe, I can shake it enough to make Snakey move…on the dryer is just where Linda found me.  “What are you doing?”  She was not happy or impressed with my answer.  We decided to open the porch door, close the kitchen door and wait it out.  It must have worked…briefly.

Momentary digression…but there is a point coming.

Every time I watch NCIS reruns and the Mike Franks’ character is featured I remember my favorite of many favorite Mike Franks’ quotes,

“But the memories we make.

We fill the spaces we live in with them.

That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live,

the longer I live there

the spaces become filled with memories –

of naked women.”

 

My space is filled with memories, but of only one naked woman.  I was and am truly blessed.  I smiled at the vision of my bride sprinting nude from our old-fashioned bathroom.  Sprinting and yelling, “Snake, Snake, Snake!”  I imagined the snake, a five-foot-plus black rat snake, yelling in my head, “Naked Woman, Naked Woman, Naked Woman,” as it tried to climb the wall behind her.

We had returned late to our old non-air conditioned home.  The late July heat and humidity were still evident when Linda Gail retired to the bathroom to bathe.  Believing the bright overhead incandescent light bulb simply added to the heat, she entered the bathroom in the dark and after beginning to run her water, stripped, reached down and plugged in the small lamp that sat next to the lavatory.  As the light dimly flooded the small bathroom, she found herself staring face to “forked tongue” with a snake that was coiled below the short electrical cord.

Typically, male, my attention was drawn to the vision of a fit, well put together woman with fabulous…EYES, running naked through the house and not on the snake that was trying to escape in the other direction.  There is always a price to go with the vision I was enjoying, the snake had to be removed but first I had to find it.  “Here Snakey, Snakey, Snakey!”

From the book “Through the Front Gate”.   All of Don Miller’s books may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

The Easy Way Out

I first wrote this two years ago but with recent celebrity losses stimulating “discussion”, it bears repeating.  “Suicide is not an easy way out.” My own contemplations of suicide and my battles with clinical depression fuel my emotions, along with the thoughts of three friends and former students who in the last year have opted to take the “easy way out.”

“A brave man once requested me,
to answer questions that are key,
‘Is it to be or not to be,’
and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,
it brings on many changes,
and I can take or leave it if I please…
and you can do the same thing if you please.”
Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. Some say, “It’s taking the easy way out.” When you are sick like me, one may find it may not be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness. I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bedbug.” Also, like a world-class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain the same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know to love me, at least I think…maybe. My wife, my daughter, and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance or am I just going to “wink” out of existence? Both options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, in itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Right now it is a non-functional tractor and lawn mower, but they should not be “life-altering” should they? Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer.

My depression is due to a tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalance in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” rather than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.  We need to dispell the stigma of “I’m crazy as a bedbug” and treat the illness.

These thoughts and my own depression were triggered by a phone call. A friend told me of a suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?” Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.  There are no answers to the “Why” and “What” questions.

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry that someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out…that I won’t have enough clarity of thought to keep me from pulling that trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of it. Before you react, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention. This blog post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million worldwide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky. There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:
National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255
Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or
text ANSWER to 839863
For more statistics copy and paste http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

If you are interested in reading more “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” or other writings by Don Miller, please use the following link:  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Words Matter…even my own

As soon as I hit send I knew I was getting into an argument but I didn’t care.  I should have cared!  I had pointed out to the anonymous poster hiding behind his keyboard that unless he was speaking about an electrical spark, “retard” was a very archaic term that we no longer used to describe people, especially in a school setting.

I also pointed out that the accepted term today was “special” or challenged.  I said this using as neutral emotions as my fingers could muster.  I must have failed.  It probably was the line “if all you can use are terms like ‘the retard’, you probably don’t have a good argument.”  The post he returned to me began in all caps, “ARE YOU SOME KIND OF F****** LIBERAL PC ASSHOLE?”

I thought, “Just disengage you can’t win this one,” but instead my fingers typed “If treating people the way I would like to be treated is liberal then I guess I will plead guilty.”  “Yeah, a f****** libtard teacher just like I thought” was his retort. The train rolled off of the tracks with mine.  “Yeah, a sub-human asshole just like I thought and glad you were never one of my students,” I replied.

As soon as I hit send I wanted to get the comment back.  I was ashamed for giving him a forum to vent his pent-up anger upon.  I could tell from some of his other posts he was angry before he switched on his computer.  Even though I had pointed out earlier in a different post that it seemed the accepted strategy of the times was “when all else fails” express your opinion by calling people names.   I just couldn’t let him get away with the “libtard teacher” comment.  Still, I felt I had just fallen into that “name calling” strategy myself.

It is odd the way my brain works… ‘strangely’ odd.   After my exchange I found myself brooding and following a mental pathway leading to my grandmother’s front porch.  Her hands were moving “ninety miles an hour” as she talked to my Uncle Claude.

Uncle Claude Griffin was one of my granddad’s brothers and a favorite of my Nannie’s.  Short and stocky with a huge birthmark on his cheek, he looked like one of Nannie’s brothers instead of one of my Paw Paw’s tall lanky siblings.  His hands were “flyin’“ as were Nannie’s because they were “signing”.  A few minutes later my mother came up and added another pair of hands “ah flyin.’“

Occasionally they would pause while Claude dug into a shirt pocket, pulling out a pen and a small spiral notebook to write down words and phrases Nannie and mother did not understand or had forgotten due to lack of use.  As his hands flew he made sounds that were unrecognizable as words.  They were what I now characterize as “expressive grunts” and were a form of communication in their own way.  As his excitement increased so did the grunts.  Many times they would simply throw their hands above their heads and laugh.

Claude was a deaf-mute and had been since his birth.  Being too young to ask all of the questions I have now, I wonder how his family had the resources to send him to a school for the deaf and blind and where he went…and how did my mother and grandmother become so adept at signing?

Claude was called a “dummy.”  I don’t know the person I first heard use that term but don’t think that it was a family member.  It wasn’t a derogatory term then, it was just the accepted term of the period…like saying that someone was retarded from an earlier period as opposed to special or challenged.

Special is found at both ends of the spectrum and Claude was certainly special and challenged but he was no dummy.  He could read and write in two languages, sign, and English.  I find it hard to be proficient in my languages, English and “Southern hick”.  My Spanish is also “muy malo.”

Claude worked in the cloth room at Springs Mills in one of the top non-supervisory positions for as long as I knew him and would seem to have been a contributing member of society.  Again he was no dummy.  Claude lived on his own in a small apartment in Fort Mill.  While he did not drive, he seemed to be quite mobile, appearing at my grandmother’s front porch as if out of thin air.  The older me can’t help but wonder if he was lonely in the silence of his small apartment.  I would guess not.

Many years later, after my career path had taken an unexpected detour, I found myself coaching track at Landrum High School.  One of the schools that we competed against was the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, and “Land O’ Goshen!” I found them to be as normal (abnormal?) as any other group of teenagers.

While standing near a group of SCSDB track members cheering on a hearing impaired teammate, one youth of color exclaimed as the starter pistol was fired, “Man, look at that n$%%@r run!”  The youngster next to him said, “Now you know I’m blind and can’t see sh#t and neither can you, so what am I supposed to be looking at!”  Both of them just cackled over their joke along with everyone standing around them…including me.

I doff my hat to kids and adults who overcome their challenges, whether mental or physical.  I have found they desire as we all do, to be treated “just like everyone else” and to be treated fairly.  They don’t want to hide behind their challenges, don’t want a free pass, and like my SCSDB tracksters or my deaf-mute uncle, they can even joke about it.  They are pretty much like everyone else.  Those who rise to meet their challenges tend to be successful and those who don’t aren’t.

I wonder what challenges my poster has not met.  Does it make him feel better about himself using terms like “dummy” or “retard?”  I wonder if terms like “gimp,” “Mongolian idiot” or worse are included in his vocabulary.  I wonder if we are all losing our humanity?  Maybe if I had handled it better…no probably not.

From the book Pathways by Don Miller.  Pathways and others may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If interested in romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://www.wayfair.com/decor-pillows/pdp/barn-owl-primitives-words-matter-textual-art-plaque-owlp1039.html

 

 

“Clearing Off Showers”

 

My beloved and I had what I call a “clearing off shower.”  Like most couples, we’ve had our ups and downs.  Luckily, more ups than downs, many more ups than downs.  Unfortunately, many more ups do not provide a soothing balm for the downs…neither did this “clearing off shower.”

We sometimes have violent thunderstorms rumbling and bouncing around in the hills and hollers of our little piece of heaven in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  A lot of banging and flashing, wind bellowing and sometimes a lot “hunkering down” until they’re over.  When the storm is over the air is so fresh and the sky is so blue…until the air fills with humidity again, thunderheads forming to the northwest and we start the process over again….

My beloved and I are so different…well…in some ways.  I tend to ignore problems in hopes they will go away until they don’t.  She tends to obsess over the same problems I ignore.  She obsessed last night and was still obsessing this morning…and she had obsessed through the night, tossing and turning, allowing the “humidity” to build.

I awoke on the “wrong side of the bed” as did she.  A “clearing off shower” was inevitable.  The thunder rumbled, the lightning flashed, and storms raged far and wide.  The torrential downpour included issues not encompassing the original subject.  “Do you remember three months ago….”  Finally, the storm ebbed, the air was some clearer, the sky bluer…all before eight o’ clock in the morning.

Later as we drove to church she was quiet…unusual?  Sometimes.  I worried the humidity might be building and storm clouds might be gathering.  As luck would have it, the sermon was entitled “The Loving Marriage”, specifically Paul’s views on marriage from Ephesians 5: 22-25. (NIV)

“22: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

My beloved is not a fan of Paul’s views on women or should I say, men’s interpretation of Paul’s views on women.  She believes, and I agree, Paul’s interpretations have led to the misogyny prevalent in certain circles in times past…or today.  When the minister used the term “brazen” describing what a wife shouldn’t be, I tapped her shoulder and leaned in to whisper, “I hope you are paying attention.”  Her genuine smile along with the elbow to the ribs told me that the humidity might have broken.

I didn’t fall in love with or marry a “submissive” woman.  Life might have been easier, but it certainly would not have been as interesting.  I fell in love with a “brazenly” bold woman who is unashamed to be who she is.  I love her for it and would not have her any other way…most of the time.

Returning from a lunch at our little hole in the wall in the mountains, I noticed the increased humidity, the stiffening breeze from the northwest.  Thunder rumbled, echoing in the valleys of the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  As the rain began to fall I gave a small prayer of thanks.  The storm was raging outside, not inside.

Don Miller tells stories.  For more go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM