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.

 

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.]

Just A Poultry Encounter Finale, Part 3. Happy Turkey Day!

About Thomm’s dream…
“Of course.” He sat up in the car seat. “I think what influenced the dream was the feeling of hopelessness, or rather, I could almost feel meaning and purpose drain out of me as I hitched rides away from home. So, as I dozed off or dozed on or rode the horizon of R.E.M., I had this dream. My Uncle was in it. He was plucked, stuffed, and golden brown on a platter right next to the cranberry sauce! I gasped in horror! Actually in my native tongue it would have been an annunciated “blullullla”. The table was long and the people were plenty with their heads bowed and hands folded in their lap…except for some of the children staring at my uncle like he was Turkish Delight. Then I realized even though uncle Thommy was missing feet, talons and all, his spindle neck and bald head were attached AND ALIVE! He cricked his neck and looked me right in my eye, my right eye, and began to speak.

“Thom Thom, oh how I’ve missed you! How you’ve grown. You have a nice beard there. I’ve been worried about you. I know there is reason to run, at least it seems the reasonable response to the recent events in your life. But I am here to offer another possibility, so don’t start molting like you’ve seen the ghost of Thankgiving’s Past. This is only a dream, but the scene is a reality that many of us have the privilege to enter. For many of us it is our manifest destiny.”

“Destiny! Destiny? Butter basted, extra crispy, stuffed with who knows what, and taken from the free range to the range oven…just what kind of destiny is that?”

“I know how you feel.”

“Do you now!?”

“Yes I do, because you are looking at last Thanksgiving at the Hubble’s house. For a brief moment I laid in the middle of a family taking time to reconnect at an annual meal. Meal time for American’s used to be the time of day, every day, for communication and communion. Eye to eye contact, body language, common courtesy, and a physical reminder of belonging. Now those special times are reduced to a few times a year.

When I was your age, an older, wiser, Tom took me aside and gave me ‘the talk.’ The talk I never made the opportunity to give to you. I procrastinated, and I kept seeing the chicken scratch writing on the wall but….” His voice trailed off. “I’m so sorry I didn’t prepare you for this. I hope you will find a way beyond this and forgive me.” He then shook his snood and said, “This is my chance, and as weird as it might be to listen to a succulent, organically raised bird speak to you from the dead, I will not pass this up.”
*
His head and neck then disappeared and a translucent uncle Thommy floated above the Hubble family table. He hovered over grandpa’s comb over, Lauren’s pigtails, Kelsey’s cornrows, and grandma’s poofy grey arrangement. He saw the horn of plenty and the expanded double leaf table full of entres’, and there in the middle his body. The center piece wasn’t the candied yams or the mashed potatoes. It wasn’t the salad, cranberry sauce, or the green bean casserole. It wasn’t the cherry, mintz or pumpkin pie. It was the body of a bird raised free.

“Oh Thomm Thomm“, he began, “Take a good look. This family is bowing and thanking God for the gifts they are about to receive and I was one of them. I was the one in the middle to be carved and given to each. This is why I was raised. Look at them. Before they sat for prayer I was able to float around the house and listen in on conversations. They have their dysfunctions and differences. They have their favorites. They have their spoiled last borne. See that little one over there. Her name is Emmy and she took special care of me when I was just fluff. Thank goodness she lost track of who I was!

It would be arrogant to tell you that they gather just because of me. No, it’s their God given desire for connection and the God-image in them. This holiday is just one reason they make efforts to come together. It’s a human thing, we wouldn’t understand. They pray to One bigger than their collective experiences. We fulfill God’s design for us. We feed, but more than that, our species in America feed thankful bodies, thankful hearts. Your destiny is at hand. You could be in the middle of all sorts of possibilities. Redeeming moments, forgiving moments, loving moments, joyful moments, meaningful moments, all basted in the juices of thankfulness.”

“It was then I woke up and looked east and rousted my roosting. Time to head home I said to myself. It is my time to walk through the door of destiny. No more running. I figured if I got back soon enough I could be a part of someone’s thankful day this year.”

I was without a word. Did a turkey really go there? Nobody’s going to believe this. I don’t believe this. I’m on my way to Berrien Springs. I’m a turkey taxi. There’s a turkey in my baby’s car seat who just gave me a lesson in religion, philosophy, manifest destiny, and the difference between free range and PPP turkey farming. What passed through by lips was “thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for caring and carrying for that matter!” he responded. “It felt good to process the story to you. It was like getting the stuffing scooped out of me. I feel lighter.”

“Hey, I know this is sudden, but why don’t you come to my house for dinner! I mean, I have a couple of punk mass produced turkeys in the back I can give away to two families in Mattawan. You’ve got to be thirty pounds dressed. You are what I was looking for earlier…a nice, fat, Thomm Thomm! We both laughed. If you’ve never heard a turkey laugh before you’ve never split a gizzard.

“I would be honored to be front and center at your house on your Thankful Day. Blullulla!”

And Monday Follows Sunday

“Stop following me.”

“I’m sorry, but I look up to you. You are my role model.”

“Really? How so?”

“You show me time and again how to slow down and look up, even when Tuesday through Saturday  seems to drag behind me like a ball and chain.”

“Well, I suppose it makes sense. The word “sun” is in my name. What’s not to look up to, eh?”

“Exactly.”