Serendipity

I had no intention of getting married again.  I had no intention of falling into love again.  The previous memories and missteps were too painful….

Providence would intervene…has intervened for thirty-three years now…and still counting, I hope.  I am sometimes amazed I asked for your hand and am even more amazed you said yes.

I had no intention of meeting my bride on top of a football stadium’s press box or again at Halloween with an inflatable pumpkin perched upon her head.  I wasn’t looking…I was still recovering.  But she refused to be ignored.

Fate will not be denied.  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 step in when they broke up.

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….”

I did fight it…the feeling REO Speedwagon sang about.  A song that tormented me every time it played.  I fought the feeling.  Even after she and my roommate broke their ties.  My loyalty is well defined and sometimes misplaced, and remember, 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 was a teacher and coach too.  She laughed at my stupid jokes…not as much now as she once did…she has heard them all, thirty-three years worth.

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…I wasn’t worthy…I’m still not.  Finally, she tired of my tap dance and asked me out.  I’m slow but I’m not stupid.

A chance to accompany her to a local dive bar to hear an old friend of hers sing the blues?  Sure, why not?  It quickly turned into something else.  I’m the one who has been singing now for thirty-three years…but not the blues.

We go to family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, the occasional party…I would find myself close by…preferring to talk with her more than anyone else…close enough to touch and whisper in her ear.  I’m not being snobbish; I would just rather talk to her.  She has always been the most interesting person in the room.

We are more like leaves caught in a whirlwind…blown wherever our whims and chance send us.  Serendipity again.  She just doesn’t like to plan.  Where is the fun in that?

I remember an early anniversary when we decided to drive to the coast the weekend after our June twenty-ninth 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 the old VW Bug 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 Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.  One bed and breakfast with a room was available and for a price anything is possible.

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 United States but for thirty-three years Providence has taken a liking to two fools in love…still in love.

Sometimes our safe harbor has been storm-tossed and I’m sure it will be again.  But we have each other to hold on to as the waves come crashing in.

I wish I had met her sooner…had fallen in love with her sooner…but then we weren’t the people we would become…I wasn’t.  I had to bleed first before she could apply her soothing anodyne.

Linda Gail, I love you and would do it all over again a thousand times.  My heart breaks at the thought that I might sometime lose you.

To my best friend, my lover, my wife…Ashley’s other mother, Grandmommy Linda to MK and Noie and mother of my beautiful, blind puppies, I love you.  I’m so glad you were crazy enough to say yes.

Call it serendipity, chance, a fluke, good luck, good fortune, fortuity, fortuitousness, happy coincidence, or a special alignment of the stars, you have made my life a wonder and wonderful.  Here’s to thirty-three more.

Lyrics and video Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon.

“What started out this friendship has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show
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
You give my life direction
You make everything so clear
And even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter’s night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might”

 

For more “stuff” go to Don Miller’s author’s page at                 https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

A Life Well Juggled

“If you’re trying to change someone you love, you don’t love them. It’s the oddnesses, the most unique imperfections that you’d miss the most. That’s the stuff you can’t replace. Everything else is easy to come by.”
Crystal Woods

A family visitation, a funeral, a granddaughter’s graduation from pre-school and a ninetieth birthday party for my wife’s stepmother’s sister, all in the space of twenty-four hours.  My wife is up to her chin in all of them it seems…at least in her own mind.  She seems happiest when up to her chin in alligators while juggling the flaming batons of life.  She is happy a lot.

She is the wild mustang unencumbered by a bridle or rider, mane blowing in the wind as she runs hither and yon. Life, for me, is easier when she can run amok like a chicken with her head cut off. After nearly thirty-two years I realize, “She ain’t gonna change” and now I’m not sure I want her to.

She juggles OUR lives, flaming torches or razor-sharp knives be damned. She reminds me of a Lucille Ball skit, having to stuff chocolate into her mouth or blouse. Lucy and Ethyl just trying to keep up with a conveyor belt full of chocolate…hers is the conveyor belt of life.

I see her as the tuxedo-clad dandy spinning plates on sticks on the old Ed Sullivan Show. Running from pole to pole as the plates begin to slow and wobble, spinning them faster, attempting to keep them from falling off.

When all is done, she never quite loses a plate and all the chocolates are lined up neatly in boxes instead of her bra. Life can be difficult and sometimes she gets nicked or burned as she juggles but never enough for her to quit.

She said, “I’m not getting involved in this party! No way, no how!  She has sons, let them….” Translation: “She’s up to her chin alligator poop.” And by association, so am I.

Our home and yard may be wrecks but somehow, we have time to take over the party preparations because “It needs to be done right.”  That might translate into, “It needs to be done my way.” 

In between the funeral and graduation, she runs around arranging tables and chairs…again and again, and, again.  She agrees to pick up ice cream and a cake. She has plenty of time after all. 

Creating flower arrangements, she purchased plants a month ago…and two weeks ago…and yesterday.  Standing back with her head cocked to the side, deciding if it is perfect enough or does putting in a bit of greenery make it more perfect.  If one New Guinea impatient will work, a dozen will be a dozen times more perfect. Two dozen?

It is eight a. m. before the party at three.  She’s headed out to do her magic.  What is magic is how she got all of those plants, containers and pink tissue into one vehicle the size of a Jeep instead of a transfer truck.  Sorcery?

I’m left to care for the puppies, who don’t need my care.  In their youth, they feared thunderstorms and we are getting our gracious plenty.  They are so terrified, they are sacked out around my feet.  One lying on her back, the other curled up with a paw across its nose.  Really terrified.

Still, her orders, “Take care of my puppies.  Give them some love.”  They are the puppies we weren’t going to bring home fourteen years ago, “We’re not getting one, we are just going to look.” She was correct, we didn’t get one…we got two. They are blind and old now. They only have a mind’s eye for their mommy.

It’s a ploy I’ve seen through for years.  She just wants to do the preparations herself. It is just her “thing” and I’m not about to change her “thing”. Telling me to care for the puppies while she is gone is just her way of keeping me involved…without involving me.

In her mind, she is still twenty-five…and in my mind too I guess. She’s not twenty-five but that doesn’t stop her from running from hot spot to hot spot, putting out fires that need to be put out. Sometimes starting wildfires, sometimes adding gasoline, sometimes supplying a match before figuring out how to put out the fire she started.

The thoughts of her running about like “the roof ain’t nailed on tight” causes me to smile.

I wonder how a body as small as hers accommodates such a huge heart. A heart intent on doing good deeds.  A heart blind enough to say “Yes” to a two-time loser when I asked her to marry me.

I’m thankful for all her quirks and downright insanities…if we can just get through the next few hours.

The quote came from Write Like Nobody Is Reading by Crystal Woods.

The image is from https://www.scarlettentertainment.com/page/uk-fire-jugglers

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

Thanks for taking the time to read.

“Thank You For Accepting People as They Are”

 

There was an envelope in my mailbox.  Addressed to my wife I turned it over and saw “Thank you for accepting people as they are.”  Maybe some of you have received this envelope after having contributed to the Special Olympics.  I didn’t directly contribute but my wife has always made sure we contributed and during our teaching years were actively involved…as in she involved me during her days as an elementary physical education instructor and while cosponsoring the high school’s service-learning program.  I am thankful for that.

She has always been the poster child for accepting people at face value.  Accepting people at what they were.  Offering love and discipline but no criticisms as to what they were or where they came from.

I remember visiting her while she taught on occasion.  Smiling, snotty-nosed children of different genders and races rushed gleefully into her class, expecting to receive and returning hugs, refusing to be denied.  Sneezes, mucus, mud be damned.  Terms of endearment flowed from Miss PE, “Sugar or Honey Lamb, Snookems, Babydoll,” etc.  I saw love and acceptance.

Don’t be fooled.  She could get after them pretty good when they failed to get to or remain on their spots, but she distanced the person from the offense.  She accepted people as they were.  I wondered as I looked at the envelope…and fell down Alice’s rabbit hole.

When I saw the phrase on the back of the envelope, I asked myself, “What if we accepted people as they are?”  Gay, different races, transgender, poor, different religions, forget where they came from and accept who they are as opposed to what they are.

We are quick to criticize people who look differently, speak differently, have different religious beliefs than us.  People who don’t love the way we love or eat the same foods that we eat.  We seem to get upset because we must press one for English.  How many seconds of our life does it really cost us?

We create divides by pontificating loudly and listening little, passing judgment on one before delivering our sentences to all.  Our loud language and sharply delivered words can only be interpreted one way by those they are directed toward.

We are quick to label people with all sorts of names, explain that they are bad or different because they are a product of a lax home environment and because we have thrown god from the halls of education.   We don’t like their pink hair, their tattoo or their nose piercing and we look no deeper.  We don’t make the effort to listen to what they might want to tell us…what we might actually learn.

We make no effort to understand their thinking or consider what they might have woke up to or went to bed to.  We don’t seem to care they might have gone to bed hungry and went out into the world the next morning the same way.  Again, we pontificate loudly that it is not our responsibility.

We dismiss many kids as kooks, fruitcakes, freaks, goofballs, wingnuts, mentally ill and the one that knifes me the most…retards.  Honestly, I don’t like the label “special”, but we must have a label of some type.  After all, we are the normal ones with our normal convictions and conventions.  We must have a way to delineate the differences between us and them to make ourselves feel more important, more worthy.

I hurt for our teens.  Teens at best are troubled and all we’ve done is add to their troubles.  Dealing with those raging hormones is bad enough…and now we call them crazy because…well because.  We tell them they’ll never amount to much.  They are lazy and the worst generation ever.  They are the most disrespectful…but I notice it is always the other person’s child.

If you tell a kid enough times that he is a duck, at some time or another he will begin to waddle.  We get what we expect.  If you expect nothing you won’t be disappointed.  I notice we point our fingers but offer little cure…especially if it costs money.

We bully, we attempt to push their little round bodies into little square holes. As they attempt to find themselves, we attempt to make them into the image of ourselves.

I taught forever plus a day and found that the most interesting students, who became the most interesting adults, were the kooks and fruitcakes.  The ones who thought outside of the box, colored outside of the lines and looked at the world sideways and created something beautiful.  They were the leaders who refused to follow tired old lines.  They were the ones who hated to hear “We’ve done it this way for….”

There was a time when we put a premium on free thinkers.  Now it seems we don’t want free thinkers.  They might be left thinkers and that just wouldn’t be right.

We want our mini-mes to toe the party line, drinking deeply from the propaganda Kool-Aid.  It seems we want everyone lined up in rows like dominos, standing at attention, all boringly the same…and like a row of dominos when one tips over, they all tip over.

What if we just accepted people as they are.  Nurtured instead of ridiculed.  What is wrong with nurturing?  You can be nurturing and not be soft.  Put their little seeds in the ground not caring what the seed might be.  Add water and fertilizer, weed the bed occasionally and see what they turn into.   Provide a fertile bed for plants instead of chopping them off at the roots like weeds.

What if we accept people as they are?

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

 

Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

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

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

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

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?  My home and the surrounding land is full of them.

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 or a critter 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 ghosts 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, a 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 backyard 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 post mark 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