Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bailing Wire and Duck Tape

My two oldest boys find themselves in an interesting, and at times awkward tug-o-war. My oldest is 16, has his drivers permit and is working on his license. My fifteen year old also has his permit and is practicing the age old ritual of crossing into being all grown up, driving.
Neither of them can drive alone and their Dad won't let them drive with me. So we have two budding drivers and only one licensed adult. I drive with my boys occasionally because I'm the financially responsible party and I normally have another sighted person along for the help. Its an area of contention for my husband and I, but it helps sometimes to keep the boys both practicing and learning. God keep watch over us all.
I'm torn for the best, and most responsible way to help them when they're so close in age and are limited in their ability to be supervised. I often lose sleep and hair, worrying about what to do.
My friend, who knew me when I could see and drive, laughed at my consternation.
"You were a horrible driver when you could see," he insists. "You can't be any worse blind."
Could I?
I learned to drive, first with my older brother. If you know my older brother, you know he is brilliant, powerful, giving and an excellent father, husband and all around person. He is however,  NOT a great driver.
He drove in his early twenties, in Guatemala. He fit right into their 'take no prisoners' philosophy of speeding through intersections and around corners and break neck speeds and with various forms of livestock clinging to the doors and windows.
Later, he spent a few years in Malaysia doing the same thing, just without the livestock. He is an Indy-racer, Autobahn-wanna-be and he's fearless.
When I was 16, he took me out in our 1975 Dotson B-210 bomber. It was a conglomeration of rust, cracking vinyl, bailing wire and duck tape, but it ran.
It was also a stick shift and I had to learn to use the pedals and the shifter before I could actually drive. After grinding the gears, nearly pitching him through the windshield while I got the hang of the brake, and annoying him into driving with me, he said very little and gritted his teeth a lot.
When he and I finally got to the point that we drove, he clutched the door handle with one hand and the console with the other, praying for the both of us. He put up with me and my driving for a little while until one day a few months later.
I drove, jerkily, down a back road in the little town I'm from. Proud of myself for handling the clutch, gas and brake, all at the same time, I ignored my brothers all too obvious terror. In the little town where we lived, there were three foot wide canals running along some of the back roads. They were empty sometimes and I didn't worry about them. Unknown to me, these had the potential to be death traps. If the car were to plunge into the water, you could be drowned or washed away or both. Oblivious to this aspect of driving, I tootled down the road without a care in the world.
When the road took a sharp turn and I shifted down to decrease my speed, I forgot to steer the car, so absorbed was I in the transmission.
Now picture, My older brother and I finding ourselves hurtling toward one of these canals. He is screaming at me to stop the car. I'm in full out panic and crush the accelerator to the floor and cover my eyes with my arms.
I'm not sure how he did it, but he cranked the wheel, got my foot off the accelerator and pulled us to a dust-covered stop inches before the canal.
I don't remember what he said, how we got home or why he didn't throw me out of the car, but it was over. He never drove with me again.  I'm still surprised he used to agree to ride with me on occasion. Like I said before, he's quite the crazy driver on his own and I'm afraid some of that is my fault. All these years later though, these are some of my favorite times with him and our car. The car was just an old tin can of a thing, but I loved her, drove her into the ground and eventually turned her over to my younger brothers and sisters. Not before I crashed her a few times and used a lot more bailing wire and duck tape to keep her together.
My Dad eventually taught me how to drive and my time in New York honed, or exacerbated my skills, but I'll never forget that little car.
She was ugly, unsafe, and always on the brink of falling apart, but then so was I when I was 16.
My boys fight over and drive our old clunky Saturn and grit their teeth when they have to share. Trust me boys...It's the best time you'll ever have.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

God's Not Dead

 My youngest son has a favorite song he is learning to play on the drums. He found out about it while watching a movie. In the show a  college freshman debates with one of his professor's about whether or not God was a philosophical idea invented by weak minds or if science supported the ideal of
creationists who believe in God. Arguments on both sides were interesting and held merit both for and against the idea of the reality of a higher being.
Perhaps because I've taught him his whole life that God is real, or perhaps because he is 10 and everything is black and white, he listened to the arguments and was convinced God is alive.
Granted, the movie's ending is meant to move watchers to believe God is an actual heavenly being. At 10 years old his thinking and analyzing capabilities are somewhat immature. His faith, on the other hand is light years beyond his tender age.
A few years back he asked me, "Mom how are stars made?"
I gave him my limited information about interstellar actions and the implosions of planets but he was still unsure. We watched a program on Discovery Channel where scientists went through how stars are born due to gravitational pull, implosion and the reality of their 'matter' becoming "space garbage" after such an experience. He looked at me, squeezed my hand and said, "That's where God got  the stuff to make earth."
The program went on to discuss black holes, the undefined reaches of space and galaxies beyond our own, but he was outside playing. It made sense to him and he had all he needed.
Every once in a while he'll ask me some deep, complex question about death, creation or what God looks like.
I do my best to answer him in terms he can relate to and he goes on to blow my mind with his simple factual faith.
He told me the other night he'd dreamed about dying. In his dream he walked across a green field until he stood in front of a very large, tall and smiling man dressed in such bright light he had to squint at him.
"Hello," the man said.
With a quick little wave of his hand he looked at the man and said, "HI God."
The man took his hand and showed him around, Let him play soccer and tousled his hair.
"I felt so good, Mom," he said.
"How did you know that was God," I asked him.
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me before patting my hand. "Oh mom. You just know."
I hope he's right. I plan, pray and work for a time when I stand before that man and call him by name. For the time when he takes my hand, shows me around and like my faithful little boy, I just know.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Someplace You Fall

When I was in my early twenties, a country western music star and his wife sang a song together all about LOVE. It was a beautiful song, made more poignant because they performed it together and you could tell by the way they interacted together, they meant every word. Her voice wasn't great and his was good, but not the best I'd ever heard. He performed a song or two that I liked but this song rang with all sorts of truth for me. When a few years later, this couple  found themselves in a scandal concerning an illegitimate child, I wondered if the silly romantic in me had given it more meaning than necessary. In the midst of scandal, would LOVE be more than just someplace you fall? Could it stand up to the fire and be something they would DO?
It was for them. They worked it out. Forgave each other. Handled the publicity and stayed together. They are still together, still in-love and still Doing what ever it takes to make that love work.
The truth is LOVE isn't just 'something' you do, its everything you DO. Its putting your partner first. Its forming priorities around they're wants and needs. Its walking away from your old life to build a new one. Its listening, not just hearing. Its trusting when you don't trust anyone. Its becoming a better person, for yourself and for the one you love, as well.
Mostly, its letting go of pride, prejudice, power, and the person you used to be. and becoming new. New and better.
When you find yourself falling into that place, brace yourself for the landing. Its a long way down and a tough climb to a better place if you do it correctly. But its worth the ride.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Not How IWas Raised

I had the privilege of growing up next door to my paternal grandparents. Never has any kid been so lucky as to have the people who love you the best and without restraint, in the house just across the back yard. My other set of grandparents lived twenty minutes away and I didn’t realize at the time how fortunate I was to have two sets of grandparents so nearby. I made most of my mistakes with my parents and siblings, but all too often I disappointed or frustrated my grandparents as well. A part of my mind knew this. Yet, my heart did not grasp that same concept.
My grandmother had the kindest eyes, the softest hands and the biggest heart of anyone I knew. She didn’t buy me expensive toys, she simply let me play with her old blocks and dress my dolls in her old doll clothes.
She didn’t take me to McDonald’s for Happy Meals or up the street to Pizza Hut. She simply made the best meatloaf ever and let me choose from her vast array of cold cereal when I was hungry.
My grandfather told my brothers and sisters and I wonderful stories about hiking Three Falls, the legend of Crack Foot and all about what he’d buy when he won Publishers clearing House. I sat through the evening news with him and never understood why he like the weather so much, but I loved being with him.
My fondest memories when I was a kid were centered around my grandparents, their house and their un compromising love.
My children don’t have the same blessing with their grandparents that I did. Both my Dad and Erik’s mom have passed on. My step father is a wonderful grandfather though, and my father-in-law, likewise love my boys. These good men remind me to be patient with young, growing boys. Too love without judgement and to enjoy what I’ve got while I have it.
My mother, the only Grandma my kids know, doesn’t live next door, cook perfect meatloaf or provide a source to whom my kids can escape to find comfort…
She does come to their sports events, make the best funeral potatoes and take care of them with an open heart and endless patience. At times I listen to my boys talk about her and just shake my head. “That’s not how I was raised,” I tell them. “When I was your age she was tough, demanding, and she ruled with an iron fist.”
“Like you, mom?” they ask in all innocence.
“Yeah,” I remind myself. “Just like me.”
Someday, thanks to my mom, my In-laws, my Step Father and My grandparents, I hope to be the Grandma who loves, accepts and nurtures my grand children. And if I’m really good at it my kids will say to their children, “That’s not how she was when I was growing up.”
Then I’ll smile and remind myself, “This is how my Grandparents were. Mission accomplished.”