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

Image https://fineartamerica.com/featured/candles-in-the-window-michael-dohnalek.html

Advertisements

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

Ghosts

I do believe in ghosts.  Why shouldn’t I?  A ghost, by definition, is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  Whether the appearance is a sound, like the creaking of my old house settling, reminding me of someone, now gone, treading on the old pine floors. A fleeting glimpse of some unknown something out of the corner of my eye, just beyond my periphery, triggering a long-forgotten memory.  The way certain shadows fall in the moonlight or an old song that conjures up a ghost from the past.  It’s a ghost even if their spirit resides only in my head.

My favorite quote about ghost was made by NCIS agent Mike Franks, a favorite reoccurring character on the long-running TV program NCIS.  In a conversation with Gibbs about ghosts, Franks allows that ghost were “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.”  Well, there is only one memory in my living space of a naked woman and thankfully she is not a memory.

But there are other memories….

I arose early as is my infernal habit.  Standing in the dark, also an infernal habit, I looked through the broad window beyond my kitchen sink gazing into the bright moonlight dappling the flat between my home and my stream.  There was a huge full moon, rapidly setting just above the tall trees on the ridge above casting long shadows that danced in the open space below.

Just off to the side, away from the direction I was looking, I saw her in the mottled moonlight.  I saw her white and black markings…as I often do.  When I looked directly at her…she was gone.  She has been gone now for thirteen years…roaming somewhere on the hillside above us.  Ghostly in the way she continues to remind us of her, lost but not forgotten at all.  A ghost never to fear, only to remember and smile.

Sassy Marie came to us, not us to her.  She left the same way…on her terms.  Everything about Sassy Marie was to be savored on her terms.  If she wanted to be petted, she came to us.  If we wanted to pet, she ran away, leery of what our motivation might be.  If she wanted to come into the house, which was very rare until late in her life, she came in, with or without invitation.  Sassy Marie invited herself through the back gate of our hearts and stayed for sixteen years…until she decided it was time for her to leave.

She was a black and white, border collie mix, a discarded puppy or a runaway.  For several days she survived on the small lizards or road kill outside of our little piece of heaven.  If I tried to make friends…she ran away, only to return later in the day.  Linda Gail enticed her through the back gate with morsels of food and the then-unnamed Sassy Marie decided to stay.  I probably should tell that story differently.  Sassy Marie enticed Linda Gail to open the gate and give her food is a truer rendering of the story.

Sassy Marie was the most infuriating, contrary, disobliging, lovable, caring, wonderous paradox I have ever encountered…well…next to my bride.  She had the uncanny ability, a type of sixth sense, to know when we were talking about giving her a bath.  She would find a way to disappear into our small, fenced in yard until that bit of foolishness passed.  Put a leash on her?  Not on your life.  She would look at us as if to say, “I was born to be free of the shackles of life…and no I ain’t wearin’ no collar.”

She realized how well she had it.  No way she would ever walk out of an open gate, invited or not.  Even when we had to tear down a part of the fence during renovations she still refused to set foot outside of her kingdom…until she did.  Again, it was her idea…not ours.

We walked an old logging road and prowled over our kingdom.  Every ravine, every stream that cut it was an adventure.  After thirty plus years the adventures are still there.  Sassy Marie would wait patiently for our return, laying at the back gate, next to the torn down sections.  One day she decided to go with us…she decided and enticed Santana the stray, adopted cat to come with us too.  It was an odd caravan.  Santana yelling in cat, “Wait, wait on me,” until she got tired and laid down refusing to go one step further.  Sassy Marie would lead…until she grew tired or aggravated.  We would find ourselves alone and worry when there was no need.  We would return and find her laying at the gate…with Santana close by.

Sassy Marie had grown weary by her sixteenth year…her sixteenth year with us.  She was older, we just didn’t know how much older.  We knew she was not long for our world and so did she.  On the Christmas Day Linda Gail and I were to drive to visit family in Texas, she disappeared.  We got a late start.  We searched high and low, the ridges and the stream beds, as darkness and our feelings fell.  We knew but we hoped and called our house sitters almost hourly.  Sassy Marie had made her decision to leave us on her own terms…just as she joined us.

Flat rocks, cypress cedars, small clumps of daffodils and a birdhouse on a postmark resting places for our special, animal children.  Lovely goats, a one-legged rooster, bunny rabbits, black cats and a slew of puppy dogs rest in special places…around our grounds and in our hearts.

There is no special memorial for Sassy Marie, except in our hearts…and the marbled shadows of the moonlight or the green shaded leaves moved by the wind.  Her spirit moves along the ridges above our house, in the valleys along the stream beds and in the periphery of our vision and our hearts.

Ghost is a selection from Don Miller’s new release “Cornfields…in My Mind.”  It may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CBSV237

SLEEPING PUPPY DOGS

 

I don’t know when God created puppy dogs.  It couldn’t be in the original seven days.  Anything so special would have to have their own special day.  Maybe the eighth day, “and God created puppy dogs.”

I’m watching them sleep.  It’s their sleepy time…something that has increased as they have gotten older.  Twelve their last birthday.  Old in doggy years…even older than me in human years.  They will always be our puppies no matter what age.  Maddie is on her back, paws in motion as she chases her dream rabbit.  Tilly has curled into a not so little ball with a paw warming her nose…as always, her ears are standing at attention.

They amaze me.  Maddie and Tilly are both blind, a problem with the genetics of their litter.  Still, often you would swear they could see…other times they forget they are blind and run into things….  “Oops, knocked your noggin.”  They still know where the persimmon tree is and when a possum is sampling the ripened fruit.  The “girls” lay, patiently waiting, not realizing the possum has exited the tree and has walked away from them.  They bring me little gifts; a mouse, a mole, a snake.  While I appreciate their effort, their time could have been better spent.

Maddie and Tilly have awakened long enough to move outside.  With me following, they zigzag down the narrow path to the rapidly disappearing sunlight.  Stretching out, they allow the beams of the fall sun warm them.  I follow suit and allow the sun and the vision of my puppies to warm me.

At night, Maddie sleeps at the foot of our bed, Tilly beside Linda Gail…until they change…sometimes crawling under the bed to do so.  If there is reincarnation I want to return as one of Linda Gail’s puppies.  Their love for her knows no bounds.  It is infinite…like mine.  When she leaves to run errands, Tilly sometimes heads for the bedroom and lays down beside the bed, waiting until “Mommie” returns.  Maddie will “lay” guard on the front steps…waiting…barking loudly when she returns, somehow knowing the sound Linda Gail’s car makes.  I don’t bark but I am just as happy when she finds her way back to us.

It’s Thanksgiving.  I find it easy to give thanks for the big things.  Linda Gail, the woman of my dreams that has never been a nightmare.  Ashley, and her husband Justin.  The grandbabies, Miller Kate the monkey and Noland the…Noie.  My brother Steve and his wife Rebecca.  Francis, Linda Gail’s stepmother.  The family at home we are going to visit.  Family in Texas, too far to visit this year.  I give thanks for the memories of people no longer able to gather…thanks that they still gather in my mind.  I’m thankful for friends who have stood by me in good times and bad…and thankful there have been more good times than bad.

The big things are easy, I want to give thanks for the little things.  The sunrise through my French doors as I write.  A red-tailed hawk soaring on a thermal, calling to its mate.  Squirrels trying to make their getaway through a chainlink fence with black walnuts from the yard.  Friday coffee with Hawk.  My early morning walks and my return to find Linda Gail puttering in the kitchen.

I give thanks for two puppies, now older and blind…and other puppies no longer with us.  Thanks for the love and smiles you provide.  The warm memories you have bestowed upon us.  We should all take time to think about and give thanks for the big things in our lives.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the little things that provide joy and love with no strings attached…like blind puppy dogs.  I hope everyone has a thankful and joyful Thanksgiving.

In addition to maintaining his blog, Don Miller is a multi-genre author.  If you enjoyed this post, please stop by and follow his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.  Thanks for dropping by.

FOR LAURA…AND ME

 

I’ve tried to write this tribute a thousand times.  In my head, as I put it on paper, the words never come as easily as I would like and never seem to do her justice.  You asked simply, “Tell me about my mother.  I never got to know her.”  Laura, it is a huge task because I never got to know her as well as I would have wished either.  I empathize because I lost my mother at an early age and wish I had time to know my own mother better.  I do know where your question comes from.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, specifically the week of September 10th and I feel led to write about the woman who prevented one suicide and possibly a second, one at the cost of her own life.  I need to write it for both you and for me…maybe more for me.  I remember that terrible morning…and still feel the sense of loss accompanying it.  I can only imagine the loss you feel and the hardships that go with that feeling.

Laura, I have suffered from clinical depression for the past forty years…this year.  In the spring of 1977, I had no idea what was causing my anxiety and despair.  I feared I was just going “crazy.”  Had your mother not interceded in my “craziness” I may never have been diagnosed, or worse, may have followed through with a terrifying, soul-searching debate involving myself and a pistol.  It was she who consoled me, quieted my tears and suggested I go to my doctor.  Suggested is not a strong enough word but the only word I have.  She gave me a fighting chance, one I have not squandered…yet.

I remember her deep laugh and somewhat gravelly voice due in part from too many Virginia Slims.  It was a different time.  A pixie in stature and butterfly in personality, she never-the-less cast a huge shadow over all those she touched…and not because of the awards she had won but because of the person she was.  As a second-year teacher, I was terrified of her until she disarmed my fear with her laugh…and her care for an immature, twenty-four-year-old child.  Your mother was never too busy to give council.  She was a mentor, a friend, and a mother figure.

I remember so many conversations, many involving you.  I remember those first few years of my career, dutifully reporting to the storage room behind the lab that contained her “very cluttered” desk.  Asking questions, trying to understand how electrons could be both a particle and a wave, or how I could have such a good life and feel so depressed.  She, teaching me right before I had to teach a class that could have cared less about quantum mechanics or why all objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass.  Somehow making it all understandable to a history major masquerading as a physical science teacher.  Until the afternoon after I had fallen apart.  The afternoon after my conversation with my pistol.  She cried with me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain what I was feeling…despair, hopelessness, and desperation, not realizing she was living on the other side of suicide until a morning when it was too late.

She was proud of you, that you can be assured.  More importantly, she would be proud of you now.  I remember an impish or elfin little freshman from so long ago…so much the image of her mother I now realize.  Your mother was so very delighted and content to have you close by.  Lugging a huge musical instrument from class to class, from our conversations I realize, as a grown woman, you have been lugging around a huge burden all your life.  In some ways, the same burden your mother carried around, never letting on.

Your mother was a loving person and person who was loved…by students, her teaching peers, and her administrators.  She was respectful to her classes and her classes were respectful of her…not to say she didn’t believe in tough love in some, necessary situations.  She looked for the best in people and I believe she was rarely disappointed.  In many cases, you get exactly what you look for, something we should all remember.  The most important thing you need to remember about your mother is that she loved you and she was proud of you.  I believe she is proud of you now and the sacrifices you have had to make.  You have been a loving and dutiful daughter.  She would also be sad because of those same sacrifices and would tell you to unburden yourself.

Laura, your mother had a very profound effect on not only me but everyone she mentored, and most assuredly those students she encountered.  I am saddened you didn’t get to know her as well as I did as an adult, but I’m also confident she taught you lessons you don’t even know you learned.  I believe the best way to learn about your mother is to consider the “metaphorical” mirror.  If you gaze into it you will see more of her than you realize.  I believe you are a lot like her…in the most positive of ways.

With love, Don.

This is National Suicide Prevention Month.  To learn how you can support suicide prevention, please use the following link:  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and you feel you have no one to talk to please call their life line at 1-800-273-8255

To read more from Don Miller please use the following link to his author’s page:  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

IF I WERE A POET….

I have never wanted to be a poet. I have never liked poetry but today I wish I could write a love sonnet or an ode. I would rhyme about my love, my life, my wife, my Linda Gail.

Should I write a sonnet? I would want to describe her hazel eyes. How they flash green when she is mad, or when she is joking around, or just when. When they flash green I worry…except when I don’t.

If I were a poet I would describe her smile as “impish” …and a little “catawampus.” It is almost a laugh, always welcomed and never seen enough.

She laughs with her whole body, from the tip of her toes to where her aura stops, somewhere near the fringes of the sun.

Scribble out an epic poem? I would chronical our first meeting, our first date, first kiss, first …. I would recount a trip to Charleston when we were not together but seemed as if we should have been.

If I understood iambic pentameter, I would use the rhythm of my heart to describe how I felt when I “SAW” Linda Gail for the first time and knew she was the one, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM.

With no ability to rhyme I would not know of a word that would correspond to Casablanca, the club, site of our first “date” and the movie by the same name.

In fifty years I might be able to compose a “non-sensical” haiku about whether or not “yes” popped out of her mouth before her brain had time to wrap itself around the question I had asked and chide myself for not asking it sooner.

A burlesque poem might describe a tale about a “Santa Claus” in a tuxedo and a drunken chase of a New Orleans’s street car despite knowing another would be by in a few minutes. She just wanted “that one!”

Snuggling all night while watching a Humphrey Bogart Marathon, including the movie Casablanca, on a snowy night with no school the next morning. What is a word that rhymes with snuggle…a romantic word that is?

I wish I could write a happy, tail wagging little doggerel, as humorous and badly written as possible about Bubba, Bogie, Brodie, Sassy Marie, Jackson, Goldie, Matilda Sue and Madeline Rue.

There would have to be many verses to include Little Miss Minny Muffin, Baby Sox, Skitty Skat, Santana and Boomer, all animals adopted by Linda Gail or was it the other way around.

Mostly I desire to wax poetic about thirty-one years of memories and my need to have thirty-one more.

From the love story that became a book, “Through the Front Gate.” Don Miller’s writings accessed, purchased or downloaded at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

FLOPPY PARTS…DEJA VU

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! I wrote a book, my second attempt at writing badly, about the “wringers” men catch their floppy parts in…well, for the sake of truth, the “wringers” I catch my floppy parts in. Note: Present tense, plural.

The book was entitled, “Floppy Parts” and didn’t just deal with interpersonal relations but sometimes those relationships are just as painful as any hard shot to the “nads.” You’d think a man with my advanced level of seasoning would have a clue…but no I don’t. Not even close. If male-female interpersonal relationships were a course, I would be failing badly.

According to a blog I just read it takes, and I quote, “a guy up to three weeks to process and understand what is happening on the emotional level of his life.” Really? I would have thought longer…if ever. Maybe I should just wait and check in later, say a month? No I won’t remember it in a month which brings me to my present wringer.

When she makes me mad, I brood, or as my beloved reminds me, I pout. Yeah, I do. I run my lower lip out and I feel sorry for myself…for a couple of hours, allowing it to percolate, and then I blow up. BOOM! And it’s over. I’m good, got it all out, over with, airs cleared, except it’s not. It’s a false sense of wellbeing. “A dead pig smiling in the sunshine” kind of false wellbeing.
My beloved is going to allow my faux pas to marinade for three weeks or so. She’s going to allow it to eat at her and break down into its most basic and primal fractions…you know…like anger. She doesn’t brood, she plots…SHE GETS EVEN!

Three weeks later she has all the symptoms of a woman with a bee in her bonnet. Later I ask, “Honey, what’s wrong?” Later I will ask again…and again.
“Nothing,” says she, again and again. That is her code for I’m pissed but I’m not going to warn you before “comin’ off yo head!”
Eventually she does, “Do you remember three weeks ago when….” Hell no! I don’t remember what I had for supper yesterday…but she will remind me and it will not be as delicious as whatever I had for supper yesterday even if I had a dog poop sandwich.

Like last night. I’m not going to say what minor thing I did but it sent her to bed mad and I brooded from my d@#$ recliner well into the night. It percolated in my dreams. It interrupted my sleep. I awoke sore, too early, and “IT” was the first thing on my mind. I had a couple of hours of darkness to allow myself to brood.

Decision time. Okay, I’m good. I’m going to take the high road, take her morning coffee, and absorb my beating like a man…whenever it comes. Today, next week, a month from now, the year 2020.

What did you just say? You’re sorry? It was all your fault? What kind of black magic is this? Did space aliens kidnap my beloved during the night? I know what you are doing. You are going to keep me walking on egg shells until I forget about it and then, and only then, you will alight upon me like bottle flies on cow poop. But what if she is telling the truth, something she always does…Oh God, my floppies are in the wringer again.

Don Miller writes “memories.” If you enjoyed this short essay, more may be purchased or downloaded at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

BEAUTIFUL BLIND PUPPIES

Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue just celebrated their twelfth birthdays. They’re not really puppies but will always be OUR PUPPIES. They’re sisters, from a litter holding fourteen little gray and black mottled, squirmy, thieves. That’s right thieves, right down to the “permanent” bandit mask across Maddie’s face. Every day, they continue to steal a little bit of my heart.

It’s early morning and I am watching the eastern sky lighten…I’m also watching Tilly navigate the yard. Tilly doesn’t have a bandit mask but she steals my heart anyway. She comes and sits with me in the early morning as I try to put thoughts and words together on this electronic version of paper. I find it comforting to see her or her sister laying in the recliner next to me, sleeping so very non-canine like, on their backs, feet stuck up in the air. Sometimes they scare me, so deeply asleep I must wake them just to make sure….

Tilly is awake and moving, nose to the ground. Every morning, I watch…just in case. She pauses and then circles around a large clump of periwinkle. She has picked up the scent of the bunny living there. After searching, she continues her voyage of exploration, circumnavigating the yard. At the wood pile, she stops to greet the ground squirrel living behind it. Maddie is upstairs with her mommy but will eventually make the same trip. I’ll watch, just in case.

It’s been over two years since Tilly began to go blind. It was rapid, something about dog years. Her sister followed a year later and they are both now sightless. A genetic defect will claim every one of their litter mates. I wonder if they see when they dream? The question makes me hurt and tear up. They seem to have taken their blindness much better than their mommy and daddy.

They make me smile…knowing they remember. Barking at the squirrel, no longer in the hemlock tree or sitting near the persimmon tree waiting for the possum that is somewhere else to come down. Tilly recently brought me a mole, so proud she wanted to share. While I feel sorry for the mole I’m glad it’s not the possum she used to bring me and yet happy she can still find something to bring.

They make me sad…knowing they can’t see. Maddie reminds me daily when she comes over to the recliner I’m not sitting in to get her belly rubbed. She will paw even though I’m not there. I miss them trying to herd squirrels, birds and each other.

It’s taken some adjustment. Old feed bags filled with newspaper used as buffers against hard and sharp objects. Special care not to block learned pathways. New commands like, “Watch your nose, watch your nose” or “Step, step, steps” have been learned, and yet I am amazed to see Tilly scale a rock wall, just like she did when she could see, and then later come down the same wall.

They still play their blue heeler games. Games only they understand. They are playing now, nose to nose, nipping at each other’s muzzles…somehow knowing where the other one is and able to pull up just short. Friendly growls to remind them it’s just a game…and to remind us about the better things in life.

Those in the know told us we shouldn’t get litter mates. They were incorrect. Despite the recent trials and tribulations, it has been worth it. Maddie and Tilly are happy and in much better health than much younger dogs. Mommy has seen to that. No doubt I’m happier and in much better health because of her too…and my beautiful blind puppies.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

MAGIC ON A CHINA PLATE

Triggered, appropriately, by a comment about an oyster po’boy, I was taken back to a time when I discovered I had fallen in love with food. I mean really in love. I’m so in love with food, I usually begin planning my next meal while I’m eating the one I am presently eating…sometimes two or three meals in advance. The seduction occurred sometime after I had my tonsils removed in 1956. I don’t understand how my tonsils were related to my taste buds but considering the sixty-year war I have fought with my weight, there must have been some sort of bond. I am presently winning one of the many battles I have fought in my war on weight but I realize I am just a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice-cream from falling off the wagon…or into a food truck.

I associate food with love. It’s my grandmother’s fault. She was never the most demonstrative person when showing affection unless it was with a plate of peanut butter cookies…or a split cathead biscuit dripping in butter and King Golden Syrup. I guess several cathead biscuits dripping…served on a chipped china plate with a jelly glass filled with milk on the side. I’m sure she had saved S & G Green Stamps for the china…or purchased them individually through the weekly grocery store offers. I never asked if she ever collected a complete set. I remember the different scenes in blue I exposed as I mopped up the extra syrup and butter with another biscuit. There is no greater demonstration of love than a biscuit dripping butter and syrup. Magic, pure magic.

Food was usually placed in front of me along with some form of praise, “Donnie you’ve been a good boy, here have a cookie or five.” “Donnie, you did such a good job sorting my buttons, you want a biscuit?” No, she did not withhold food if I was naughty. If that had been the case I probably wouldn’t have my weight problem unless looking like a bag of bones fleeing famine is a weight problem.

I don’t look like a bag of bones because shortly after my tonsils went to tonsil heaven I fell in love with a hog…whose spirit had gone to hog heaven. The hog’s earthly body had been buried but not in a grave. The porker had been slow cooked in the ground all night long before being pulled, shredded or chopped…I really don’t remember which, I just remember the taste…the taste of magic…the taste of love. Served with a mustard sauce, slaw, bread and butter pickles and barbeque hash over white rice. It was magic on a paper plate instead of china.

A decade or so later I would find myself being seduced as an immature Newberry College freshman. Tempted by heaven in a brown paper bag. The “Dopey Burger.” Dopey ran a hole in the wall hamburger joint named The Tomahawk Café across the road from Cromer Hall. He had a real name but everyone just called him Dopey and the café, Dopey’s. Names didn’t matter because it was about the burger. A burger featuring a huge handmade patty on a soft and sensual sesame seed bun, mayonnaise spread copiously on both sides edge to edge. With a sweet onion slice I really didn’t need the lettuce and tomato on the burger but felt it looked naked without it. Despite its covering, I fondled it anyway. I understand why porn addicts have issues breaking their porn habit. I remember taking the burger out of its wax paper wrapper, exposing it to the world, it’s very scent playing to my basest instinct, gluttony. Mayonnaise and grease leaking out, covering my fingers…dripping down my chin…staining the paper napkins on my desk…I was addicted to the “Dopey Burger” and to make things worse, Dopey offered to run a tab. “I can’t graduate until I pay how much?

I so love food; even my more traditional romantic remembrances tend to have a food component accompanying the memory. A honeymoon dinner at the Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Magical the way it rolls off the tongue. The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Due to an empty dining room, we had our own personal waiter who resembled Santa Claus in a tuxedo. Does Santa wait tables in the off season? He did have on a red cummerbund. It went well with his white beard and gloves. I remember Linda Gail’s floral dress and her beautiful face smiling at me from across her…plate, the polished paneled walls, the soft music playing in the background, a Bloody Mary with a pickled okra pod for garnish and THE BLACKENED RED FISH TO DIE AND GO TO HELL FOR. I also remember the Oysters Rockefeller. Who knew spinach could taste so scrumptious surrounding an oyster and dripping in an herb, breadcrumb, and butter sauce. The evening was memorable due in part to the food. Love Linda Gail, love food! Loved the drunken chase after a street car later, but we should wait for the street car story. Oh my!

To quote author Rick Bragg, “I know magic when I taste it.” He and I must be related, I do too and it doesn’t have to be far from home. My latest magical moment was a fried catfish taco at a new restaurant in nearby Travelers Rest.
Whether it’s fried chicken and catfish at a hole in the wall soul food spot in Georgetown, crab bisque at a Cajun establishment in Hendersonville, Dutch Fork barbeque in Batesburg or shrimp and grits almost anywhere, it really requires only one thing to make it magic, love. Love for good food and the good woman I’m sharing it with…it doesn’t even have to be served on china.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf