Why Two Days Changed My Fussbudgetness.

Lucy, from the comic strip Peanuts, was often referred to as a fussbudget. Over the past few years I have become a fussbudget, my heart traipsing around the landscape of complaint, unbelief, and fear. Recently I described it to someone as brooding. I can’t seem to nail down a solid description of my state of mind. Needless to say, my silent grump grump aint helpful to those in my proximity.

Then two days, one right after the other, a couple of weeks ago, shook me out of my inward sourpuss self. May 17th two of my children decided to take a giant leap…out of an airplane. Be honest, what do you think of first when skydiving come to mind? Exactly. What if the chute doesn’t open? I don’t see this thought as pessimistic, but realistic. Planes have wings to keep humans up there in the wild blue yonder, unless some zealot or deranged person uses one as a missile of mass human destruction. My son and daughter fell to earth with hardly a thud, safe, exhilarated, and the determination to do it all over again. (They’re adults, what can I do? I know what I can do… Give them an Applebee’s gift card for their birthday next year. Yes, they jumped on our dime right into their bucket list.)

The next day my longboarding (i.e. big skateboard for riding hills, not do stunts) daughter took two of her brothers to surf a local neighborhood. She was merely 3 to 4 inches off the ground and fell to earth with a thud. She dropped and rolled, but in the dropping she sustained quite a blow to the basil part of her skull. 911 was dialed, and an hour or so later she was in a medically induced coma for a closed head injury. She had a basil fracture, broken cheek bone, but no other broken bones. There was hardly a scratch on her otherwise. Barbara and I were beside ourselves with concern as the first twenty four to thirty six hours were a roller coaster of emotions and worry as the doctors came and left with assessments.

I said short prayers to God.

Not today. No funeral today God. Help!

            Other people said the longer prayers. Lots of people said the longer prayers. Our entire family is grateful for the longer prayers, and all sorts of other support through this reality. Today our daughter is in a state of the art rehab facility called Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids Michigan. Today she is. Today she is the same captivating daughter after her chute didn’t open on that hill. Today she is a self-proclaimed “safety nerd” as she deeply regrets not wearing a helmet. She is not finished healing, but is coming along much faster than predicted.

Thank God.

That is the reason I am writing about these two days. This is why I confess to the world and God my own fractures. Just because we are human, we flake out sometimes. Come on, admit it. God went looking for Adam and Eve in their nakedness. Why would God not look for us? I know this opens up the Pandora’s Box of why many things don’t make sense, all the way from 9/11 to a weak baby chick not surviving. I, for one, need to hop off my little private, arrogant self, and admit I have a lot less control than I thought.

Today, I thank God for those who continue to hold us through prayer, presence, and embraces. Life is mysterious. God is mysterious. So, if you find yourself in a fussbudget frame of mind, that’s okay, no judgement here, but consider the possibility of coming out from hiding. God is looking for you, along with some human humans.

Prayer:

God, thank you for all the loving people in my life. You show up when they show up, whether I admit it or not. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.

 

Mother’s Day Dreamer

I woke up about four a.m.

and looked down the hall

at the fridge, hoping to see

Little Miss Midnight Mouse

eating the cottage cheese

in her blue nightie.

 

There she was, her hunched frame aglow.

She turned around and smiled

her dark chocolate eyes at me

and raised the small curds

like a wine glass.

“Oh honestly!”

 

“Oh honestly what Mom?”

“It’s not time for you yet.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about this place Jerry.”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“You are dreaming again.”

 

“If I am, I don’t want to wake up.”

As Mom began walking toward me,

the fridge light brightened,

and her body was surrounded

with golden shards that dripped

to the creaking floor.

 

“Jerry, remember how you always

prayed Jesus would visit me in my dreams.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, he said it would be okay if

I showed up in one of yours.

That Frosty from Wendy’s right

 

before you fell asleep was my ticket.”

“Comfort food enhanced dream, eh?”

“God has a sense of humor too, Gerald.”

“Mom.” I reached to pat her head.

She stepped back out of reach.

I put my arm down.

 

“You caught me with the leftovers,

and I wanted to be waiting for you

at the dining room table so we could

talk and drink Maxwell House.”

She straightened up

and opened her freckled arms.

 

I fell into her embrace and wept.

She clasped my hand and pulled

me toward the table that had two

mugs steaming, one with lipstick

pasted on the rim.

We were together until my alarm bleeped.

Twelve Step Program. A Christmas Morning Story.

Back then on a dead end street ten children waited. Marilee’s children sat on the steps. A dozen steps split in half by a landing and a window. The morning light weakly slipped through the windows and the lights on the tree succumbed to another Christmas morn.

The children’s buttocks wiggled as they giggled, touched, bumped, and jockeyed for position. They tried to hush their tones, but not totally. Loud whispers, flatuitous verse upon the flat steps, and nudges with “stop touching me” utterances. Just enough noise to rouse the sleeping Santa at the bottom of the stairs to the right. Poor ole Santa fell asleep a few hours before.

A gurgled “not yet!” whiffled itself around the corner…then more sleeping.

So they sat and she snored.

They fidgeted and she took cleansing sighs.

They creaked the steps with flat bottoms buttocks and she swallowed the sugarplum fairy like a hair ball.

Their imaginations would bounce off each other like the little white dot jumped a top the Sing Along with Mitch songs on T.V. They knew underwear, socks, and pajamas lay under the tree, but what toy off “their list?” Which present of the urban sprawl under the tree would be non-essential individualized enjoyment?

The stairs imprisoned them like Babes in Toyland. They dragged their tin cups of impatience on the railing slats as if they were made of iron. Their bodies staggered on risers like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, yet their voices didn’t evoke yuletide inspiration, rather a squawking plea for parole.

Their impatience gripped them. A committee formed on the landing to appoint a scapegoat. Someone had to directly ask the exhausted Merry Marilee if they could descend. They chose Carol. The baby. The spoiled. The cute. The Cindy Lou Who of our who’s who. Surely Santa Mom would be sympathetic to her soft cry for freedom.

Her miniature voice tumbled down the first flight of stairs… “Can we come down yet?”

Silence.

Then a rustling and their fidgeting stopped, and ears perched and leaned. Out from the North Pole staggered an elf in a nightie. Red was her bed head hair as she passed. Her cat’s eye glasses aided her one open eye to the coffee pot. The flick of her cigarette lighter twice meant she was officially awake. The fridge opened and shut, and cupboards knocked a few times. Then she strolled past again to fetch her robe. Some thought they saw a smirk and a sleepy twinkle in her eyes.

Their eyes popped…hands almost clapped…and then nudging, touching, and scooting down the first flight of linoleum steps.

She came out of her den, grabbed a cup of coffee, and sat in her box seat in the living room.

Silence.

“Alright, you can come see…”

They did see. Not her face glowing, but lights, sagged stockings, sleds, stuffed animals, and candy canes hanging from the branches.

They did see. Not the whole picture of her thinking and choosing and remembering sizes.

They did see. Not her exhaustion and sore muscles.

They did see, and now they see from their own box seats. They stopped by her North Pole later on Christmas day to appreciate the memories she created. The collective memories became greater than any doll or set of army men. The gift of joyful ambiance is far above any “thing” given. Each memory is a step on which to sit and wonder, like a child, how she did it.

Again, this year the memories sit under each of our ten trees. All my siblings and I will miss talking to her and stopping by for mincemeat pie on Christmas evening.

I wonder if there is mistletoe in heaven. I hope so. I hope she will be waiting there for us with some hanging over her head as she smirks, then purses her lips.

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2014

Seeded grapes, marbled purple, had to be sliced in half and the seeds removed. I think this was the most labored part of making the fruit salad. The marshmallows were quartered and soaked in the pineapple juice. Dates were added eventually. I miss the fruit salad. There was more to it. I’ll have to ask my sisters and make some this year.

There was always more to Thanksgiving. Our house sat on a hill at the dead end of Grand Avenue, next to Valley One Dorms of Western Michigan University. One Thursday out of fifty two, set aside, set for more. More people around the table with mix matched chairs.

I remember the foreign students and the varied colors of their skin. Their voices were colorful too. They talked, and I tried  hard to unscramble the words to fit in my brain. My Mom had eyes on a middle-eastern student named Afiff (pronounced Ah-feef) one year. His name would come up each Thanksgiving thereafter.

I sure would like to see the little kitchen again. Same size as the bathroom above it. Two vital rooms of a house with ten children. Calls of nature they were…eating and eliminating, and the rooms for each call weren’t big enough. The electric stove with swirled coils on top, when on, reminded me of the Hitchcock movie Vertigo. In the belly of the stove the bird was basted periodically. Inside the belly of the bird, home-made stuffing, incubating.

Cranberry sauce in a can. I recall the sucking sound as it slurped out onto the serving dish while I tried to suppress a childish red faced smirk. I poked at it like it was the plump little white guy in the Pillsbury dough commercials. Cranberry sauce from a can didn’t giggle when you poked it. It jiggled, but didn’t giggle. The burgundy blob was sliced like hard salami. Each slice would flop over like someone sticking out their tongue.

As I sit here plunking the keys I wish there was a way to pluck up each of my siblings and bring them back to Grand Avenue to sit around the table and eat mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. If sentiments could move mountains, I would tilt the ranges so each brother and sister would roll towards the end of Grand Avenue, next to the valley. I would call my Mom and Dad. They would sit at opposite ends of the fully leafed table. We would hold hands and thank God for the gifts we were about to receive and these our guests.

We would see us, be us, the ten of us before we broke out into lives of our own. We could hold our breath again waiting for Mom to spill something down her front to mumble “fiddlesticks” or something more colorful. Dad would toss in dry jokes and his crooked smile. John would fall out of his chair laughing after Marge spewed a mouthful of milk on the buffet table. We would say “pass this” and “please pass that” over and over like a scratched Beatles White Album.

Then space and time pulled us to our destinies. The good God gave us free wills to choose roads on which to travel. Can’t we double back? Why is there so much separation? The physical distances, the emotional disconnects, while dysfunctions thread in and through us. Time has severed the memories, thinned them out. What once was, shall not forever be, for we aren’t who we once were.

Oh so dramatic!

We have reunions now. Every three years we bring our presents to squint at our pasts. At our reunions a song of thanks and reclamation is sung when we gather to eat. “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord.” It’s a song that stirs the tanks of remembrance. It’s a song that brings me close to crying the hand-picked tears of reunion, and separation. Hello and goodbye tears brim and roll down and pinch eternity into a single moment. Sometimes that is all we have, moments of eternity sliced and flopped over. Right now, that is all I desire. To be right where I am, squinting in the now, making eye contact, and thanking God.

 

[My Mom and Dad had ten children. Barb, Ellen, Rob, Pat, Mary and Margaret (twins), John, Jerry, Peter, and Carol.]